Brother, Can You Spare a Job

July 15, 2003

I started working as a programmer in 1983 after getting a degree in computer science. In the 20 years since then I have worked as a mainframe programmer, client-server application developer, SQL Database Administrator, Object Modeler, Business Reorganization Analyst, distributed application architect, OO developer, web application developer, and consultant. I have coded, designed and developed applications in COBOL, Nomad 4, Easytrieve, CICS, IMS, Powerbuilder, Forte TOOL, Java, HTML, and Jakarta Struts. I have used file systems ranging from ISAM and IMS to VSAM and then DB2 and SQL Server, and even OODBMS. I've used code generators and CASE tools; hand coded web pages and developed using WYSIWYG IDEs.

I have been fortunate enough to "retrain" myself at timely intervals and ride the current wave, whatever it might have been at the time. Now I am faced with entering the job market once again, and for the first time it appears there isn't a new skill I can acquire that will make me more marketable. Whether it is the movement of technical jobs offshore, or the slowing of the economy, I am finding fewer jobs, and getting fewer responses than ever before. More jobs are now looking for master's degrees or advanced certifications than ever before.

My twenty years of technical experience is counting for very little in today's technology marketplace. Hard skills are no longer in vogue. Soft, or people skills are more important than ever before. I am having to reframe my resume to highlight my leadership and people skills over my technical knowledge and ability.

The golden age of technology for technology's sake maybe ending. The importance of the human computer interface is rising, and a new era of human centric technology is about to be ushered in to our lives. I have always been excited about technology, and I am more excited than ever about discovering new ways to bring the benefits of technology to more people.

For years I described myself as a programmer regardless of my current title; today I am starting to think of myself as a technologist. I am someone who can walk the geek walk and talk the geek talk. But I am also someone who can relate to people and their needs and desires. If the technical programming jobs are moving to low cost development centers overseas then I'll move to architecture and design functions where understanding the work place society or consumer society in addition to the reality and limitations of software is important.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.