[thelist] Teach Old Programmer New Tricks

Simon MacDonald simonmacdonald at uk2.net
Thu Jan 27 17:45:13 CST 2011

Hmmm, I'm sixty (nearly) and I used to write Cobol and PL1 and ALGOL. Having
said that I've been in the IT business for nearly 40 years. I used to be a
systems analyst too, I've been a project manager, programme manager, lead
enterprise architect, written code for 35 years, used pcs since the first
one, and used html and built web sites since the web started. I increased my
knowledge in incremental steps over those years.

I mentor young people in learning web skills. These young folk are pc savvy
and generally sharp as knives.

I've run telecommute teams - I would not have a newby on one as they need
close team support, to help the learning process. I think he would struggle
if he does not have some basic skills, and compared to the young PC literate

I guess html would not be a problem, but CSS is harder than you initially
think, and JS/Ajax and PHP are a looong way from COBOL ( even tho' you
haven't got to hand punch 80 column cards).

So what am I saying - well I think he has a big mountain to climb. I would
not want to discourage him, but maybe he can get an unpaid intern job.
Trouble is there are all these sharp you folk biting at his feet.

AS we all know it's a VERY competitive world out there and I'm not sure he
could acquire the skills fast enough.

Not sure what the answer is but I admire his guts. Maybe he needs a project
to work on and maybe some private mentoring - maybe you, Fred, could give a
piece of non-critical work to see if he can handle it and give him some
insight to the current reality?

Not sure that helps, but my pennies worth.

-----Original Message-----
From: thelist-bounces at lists.evolt.org
[mailto:thelist-bounces at lists.evolt.org] On Behalf Of Fred Jones
Sent: 27 January 2011 9:21 PM
To: thelist at lists.evolt.org
Subject: [thelist] Teach Old Programmer New Tricks

I have a friend (yes, surprising, I know, but wait it gets better) who
used to be a programmer and "systems analyst" (whatever that is/was)
and says he worked in Cobol, PS1 and ADSL Those second two I never
even heard of. He anyway has been out of computer work for 20 years or
more (he's pushing 60 man). Now he is looking to get into it because
his other "career" has fizzled out. I told him I could advise him
regarding web work, but my advise would probably be to forget about

He would have to learn HTML and CSS for starters. Then PHP (at least
that's what I use) and maybe JS. Then he asked about getting an
internship or a junior position, but telecommute. He wants to know how
much such a starting rung job would pay per hour.

This guy calls me sometimes to ask questions about how to deal with
his PC, like why is it so slow or how do I figure out why my hard disk
is so full and how do I remove things. So while maybe he once knew
Cobol, he's nobody's genius with a PC. Far from it.

But he thinks it could work.

Any other thoughts before I tell him it doesn't sound to me like it makes


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