Author Topic: Career Opportunity: COBOL Programming Based - Thoughts?  (Read 4013 times)

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Offline bmilcs

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Career Opportunity: COBOL Programming Based - Thoughts?
« on: Sat, 10 February 2018, 14:40:24 »
Hi Geekhack,

I'm looking for career advice. To start, I'm 31, and have always been a major geek. Starting as young as grade school, I've had a passion for both PC's and creativity. I dove into Visual Basic at  10 years old, creating mischievous but harmless programs for booting people offline, etc. Later, I got into HTML and Adobe Photoshop, etc., creating web sites for local bands and so on.

Sadly, I wasted nearly a decade on a self destructive path. I was saved by my now wife and two children. I have a stable job working in a field that's here to stay; I work 100% from home and create my own schedule. It's based on production and I've been able to do very well... much more so than I would at any entry level tech position.

Someone close to me mentioned that her company is hiring; she has been a programmer for decades and makes a very nice salary. Being able to turn my passion into an income thrills me.

However, it's COBOL based. A quick google search and I'm appropriately frightened. It's a dying language, one that would not allow me to transition into another job if and when Murphy comes to pay me a visit.

Would putting blood, sweat, and tears into a COBOL based career be a mistake?

I've overshared a great deal of personal info here so I'm going to stop while I'm ahead.

Thanks!

  

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Offline JP

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Re: Career Opportunity: COBOL Programming Based - Thoughts?
« Reply #1 on: Sat, 10 February 2018, 15:16:12 »
Cobol seems to be a niche in certain industries. So as long as businesses depend on it you should do fairly well I would guess. It works and old doesn't necessarily mean bad. Maybe Cobol would be nice to know for businesses that might be migrating away from Cobol since there is a brain drain with more and more of these programmers retiring, thus rendering some systems less maintainable. It depends on what you want to do. Sure there will be a learning curve for a while but eventually you will have a boring and stable job / career. Eventually you could even be a consultant. Perhaps you might even pick up some domain specific knowledge of how a specific business works which might lend itself well to future roles outside of a specific IT skill set. If this doesn't sound like a good fit, on the opposite spectrum is web development which is always changing and requires you to constantly learn new skills, such as the unending alphabet soup of JavaScript libraries and frameworks.
« Last Edit: Sat, 10 February 2018, 17:00:20 by JP »
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Offline bmilcs

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Re: Career Opportunity: COBOL Programming Based - Thoughts?
« Reply #2 on: Sat, 10 February 2018, 15:47:35 »
Cobol seems to a niche in certain industries so as long as businesses depend on it so you should do fairly well I would guess. It works and old doesn't necessarily mean bad. Maybe Cobol would be nice to know for businesses that might be migrating away from Cobol since there is a brain drain with more and more of these programmers retiring, thus rendering some systems less maintainable. It depends on what you want to do. Sure there will be a learning curve for a while but eventually you will have a boring and stable job / career. Eventually you could even be a consultant. Perhaps you might even pick up some domain specific knowledge of how a specific business works which might lend itself well to future roles outside of a specific IT skill set. If this doesn't like a good fit, on the opposite spectrum is web development which is always changing and requires you to constantly learn new skills, such as the unending alphabet soup of JavaScript libraries and frameworks.

Thanks for your feedback. I honestly would love to go down this rabbit hole. The other lingering concern I have is the commute, considering my wife and I share a paid off car as we save for a down payment on our first home.

This was very casually mentioned to me by a family member, so who knows if it'll pan out.
  

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Offline whiskerBox

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Re: Career Opportunity: COBOL Programming Based - Thoughts?
« Reply #3 on: Sat, 10 February 2018, 16:21:22 »
I say go for it! Just being able to put on a resume that you worked in a professional software environment will open up other doors down the road to do something that you might be more interested in like web development, project management, etc etc.

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Offline bmilcs

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Re: Career Opportunity: COBOL Programming Based - Thoughts?
« Reply #4 on: Sat, 10 February 2018, 18:15:35 »
I say go for it! Just being able to put on a resume that you worked in a professional software environment will open up other doors down the road to do something that you might be more interested in like web development, project management, etc etc.

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:)

I enjoy the encouragement. I will see where it leads.
  

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Offline UsualSuspectXXX

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Re: Career Opportunity: COBOL Programming Based - Thoughts?
« Reply #5 on: Sat, 10 February 2018, 19:56:22 »
cobol may be a dying language but there are A LOT of companies out there relying on their cobol servers. As JP mentioned, there are a lot of ways to parlay out of that language into other business. Also, being in a software development position is enough to put on your resume. It is largely understood that someone who is proficient with language will be able to easily pick up any other. It is more about knowing design paradigms and methodologies than it is about knowing a specific language.

Offline hoggy

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Re: Career Opportunity: COBOL Programming Based - Thoughts?
« Reply #6 on: Sun, 11 February 2018, 00:06:33 »
I'd say go for it.  Cobol might be a bit of a niche, but having that specialism can be a good thing.  Would you hire a lawyer who didn't specialise?

It doesn't have to be permanent.  By the time you're ready to consider moving on, they'll be new programming languages to look at.
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Offline atectatifern

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Re: Career Opportunity: COBOL Programming Based - Thoughts?
« Reply #7 on: Sun, 11 February 2018, 00:21:23 »
Do it. In addition to so much COBOL still being in use, programming skills aren't unique to a particular language. Sequence, selection, and iteration don't change. And being gainfully employed doesn't prevent you from tinking with current languages and frameworks. Best of luck to you!

Offline Leslieann

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Re: Career Opportunity: COBOL Programming Based - Thoughts?
« Reply #8 on: Sun, 11 February 2018, 00:56:03 »
Agree with the others, it's a dying but very lucrative and niche language that can be rolled into other things easily enough.

As for wasting those years... In another industry they might have been wasted. In the IT industry, that was your entire career start to finish. Most people your age either moved to management or left IT entirely after being used and abused 5 times too many. I think spending it building a family was a better choice than chasing stocks in a company that wouldn't be there in 5 years.
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Offline tp4tissue

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Re: Career Opportunity: COBOL Programming Based - Thoughts?
« Reply #9 on: Sun, 11 February 2018, 04:15:04 »
I wouldn't recommend too much niche in programming.

Because let's say the company does update.. and leaves cobol.


Yes, you're still employable because of your niche,  but it may be farther away, another city, even another state..


For a YOUNG single person, that might be OK,   but for someone with a family, where children require stable rooted environments ..   Having to chase an Employment niche may not be so ideal.

Offline davkol

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Re: Career Opportunity: COBOL Programming Based - Thoughts?
« Reply #10 on: Sun, 11 February 2018, 04:44:27 »
Is it a good personality fit though? This kind of thing isn't for everyone.

Does working in finance or large enterprises make sense to you personally?
Are you okay with maintaining an ancient, inelegant code base?
Would getting help from technical documentation, corporate vendors or a rather small community suit you? (as opposed to throwing questions at Stack Overflow or forums)
What is the work/life balance in that market and the specific job?
Do you think you'd be able to keep in touch with mainstream software development or whatever else relevant might interest you outside the job?

I've had to make a similar decision and those are some of the questions that popped up.

Offline Leslieann

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Re: Career Opportunity: COBOL Programming Based - Thoughts?
« Reply #11 on: Sun, 11 February 2018, 17:54:56 »
I wouldn't recommend too much niche in programming.

Because let's say the company does update.. and leaves cobol.


Yes, you're still employable because of your niche,  but it may be farther away, another city, even another state..
Hence it being a niche.
A company is more likely to go under than leave Cobol (or both), the expenses and disruption are too great.
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Offline tp4tissue

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Re: Career Opportunity: COBOL Programming Based - Thoughts?
« Reply #12 on: Sun, 11 February 2018, 20:27:09 »
I wouldn't recommend too much niche in programming.

Because let's say the company does update.. and leaves cobol.


Yes, you're still employable because of your niche,  but it may be farther away, another city, even another state..
Hence it being a niche.
A company is more likely to go under than leave Cobol (or both), the expenses and disruption are too great.

Overall, if  bmilic's -replicant offsprings- are especially good looking, Then moving around may be innocuous because the litter will always have high relative Wealth in the Playground Economy, forming relationships / new friendships easily

But, if the litter is average in appearance,  then it might be more difficult if they had to rebuild social-bridges all the time.

Offline typo

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Re: Career Opportunity: COBOL Programming Based - Thoughts?
« Reply #13 on: Sat, 17 February 2018, 22:13:51 »
The only reason are still on cobol is cheap. when they eventually hit a brick wall done. had this happen but like 30 years ago when it should have. went to cp/m or something then. I started machines that took up a floor 100t of ac and tubes. then punch cards. I would not call all that a niche now. I would call it dead in the industry. they stuck it out to save if you stay on to xfer to windows etc. good luck with that headache. how coders get burned out. either way you will be switching jobs at some point somehow. even within the same company. it will royally suck though. probably looking elsewhere then and if not versed in c#,java,html, api's etc you are now learning again. or cutting grass. sorry for bad news :)

Offline JP

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Re: Career Opportunity: COBOL Programming Based - Thoughts?
« Reply #14 on: Sun, 18 February 2018, 10:23:28 »
I'd say also try and pick up .Net and SQL skills if you get the chance.

An interesting read about Cobol.
https://freedomafterthesharks.com/2016/06/27/exactly-what-is-cobol-and-why-is-cobol-still-a-widely-used-language-in-it/

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Offline typo

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Re: Career Opportunity: COBOL Programming Based - Thoughts?
« Reply #15 on: Sun, 18 February 2018, 22:00:23 »
Forgot .net and sql. So many scripts the more you know often but not always the more you are worth. a programmer analyst with all certifications and all that knowledge at a big tech company can make 7 figures in management. something to look forward to. low 6 figures is not hard. we are not talking about help desk here. like the difference between a cna and specialist MD. one thing I would not get stuck in a startup promising you more to help them. it could be gold but hardly ever is. stick with big companies. like more than 6,000 employees and real HR dept. Cobol is like already a dead end. At some point that company will have to switch and it will be an it nightmare. just my opinion but I have been doing this since before computing was invented.

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Offline Leslieann

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Re: Career Opportunity: COBOL Programming Based - Thoughts?
« Reply #16 on: Mon, 19 February 2018, 06:01:11 »
I'd be cautious of .net, MS has already tried to kill it off once, they only failed due to community anger over the move. Community anger only goes so far with them.
SQL isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
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Offline JP

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Re: Career Opportunity: COBOL Programming Based - Thoughts?
« Reply #17 on: Mon, 19 February 2018, 11:01:56 »
I'd be cautious of .net, MS has already tried to kill it off once, they only failed due to community anger over the move. Community anger only goes so far with them.
SQL isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

Yeah it's hard to say for certain with Microsoft. If anything .Net seems more popular than ever. I want focus my efforts there. With .Net Core becoming more mature and Blazor now being an official Microsoft .Net and WebAssembly project I think there is a lot to look forward to.
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Offline MGMorden

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Re: Career Opportunity: COBOL Programming Based - Thoughts?
« Reply #18 on: Mon, 19 February 2018, 21:33:52 »
COBOL isn't exactly dead end.  There's very little completley new development going on in COBOL, but there's a TON of old code still out there chugging along.  We still have a COBOL application at work that we employ 2 programmers to maintain that has been working for nearly 35 years now. 

As a "relatively" young coder you're also a rarity as much of the COBOL work force is now aging into retirement.  If you want to make a career out of it I'm sure there will be enough work for you.  You just will have to understand that it's only certain companies that will have openings and you may have to move for them (my office-neighbor is one of our COBOL programmers and he's always got head-hunters calling him with offers out of state).

Of course, if you want to you can always pickup another language too.  I have a feeling C# will be here quite a while, as will Java.  PHP is aging a bit but still is commonly used for web development.  If you want to be more modern try Ruby but I will say that from trying it I can't stand it (then again I'm now 37 myself and no longer excited to learn newer languages anymore :)).
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Offline itzdarkoutthere

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Re: Career Opportunity: COBOL Programming Based - Thoughts?
« Reply #19 on: Mon, 19 February 2018, 23:17:15 »
Sounds to me like you enjoy the creative bit of programming. If you go into COBOL, chances are you won't be creating anything, just maintaining and supporting old, boring systems. You'll probably work a lot of weekends and do a lot more help desk type support than actual programming. There are definitely fun, creative programming jobs to be had at large corporations, but you're probably not going to find one in COBOL.
Your younger years sound a lot like mine did. My first job out of college was working on an aging technology and I hated every minute of it. Now I'm a senior Kotlin/Java developer, I work at a very large corporation, our department uses the extreme programming methodology, we have a ton of fun, make awesome stuff, and I truly love my job.
You might have to start at the bottom, but my suggestion would be to enroll in a software development boot camp, start working on some side projects of your own, and look for a job in a modern language at a company that is doing true agile or xp development. If you're even moderately good, and put in the time to build your skills, you will move up fast.

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Offline seva1385

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Re: Career Opportunity: COBOL Programming Based - Thoughts?
« Reply #20 on: Mon, 26 March 2018, 19:52:03 »
Now I'm a senior Kotlin/Java developer

Out of curiosity, what Kotlin is used for? I thought it's IntelliJ internal language nobody else is using... or are you at IntelliJ?

Other than that, I second your opinion.  I was taught Fortran decades ago, and I honestly don't understand how coding in it may bring any intellectual satisfaction, compared to the handful of modern languages I am now fluent in. 
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Offline pr0ximity

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Re: Career Opportunity: COBOL Programming Based - Thoughts?
« Reply #21 on: Mon, 26 March 2018, 22:25:10 »
Now I'm a senior Kotlin/Java developer

Out of curiosity, what Kotlin is used for? I thought it's IntelliJ internal language nobody else is using... or are you at IntelliJ?

Other than that, I second your opinion.  I was taught Fortran decades ago, and I honestly don't understand how coding in it may bring any intellectual satisfaction, compared to the handful of modern languages I am now fluent in.

Kotlin is growing rather quickly, for what it's worth. A fresh coat of paint on Java.

As for COBOL: great if you want a job, but it's not a great entry into the wider world of software development. I've worked in COBOL shops, it's not exciting, but people who aren't passionate about programming do very well with it as a basic 9-5.

Offline itzdarkoutthere

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Re: Career Opportunity: COBOL Programming Based - Thoughts?
« Reply #22 on: Mon, 26 March 2018, 23:56:01 »
Now I'm a senior Kotlin/Java developer

Out of curiosity, what Kotlin is used for? I thought it's IntelliJ internal language nobody else is using... or are you at IntelliJ?

Other than that, I second your opinion.  I was taught Fortran decades ago, and I honestly don't understand how coding in it may bring any intellectual satisfaction, compared to the handful of modern languages I am now fluent in.
It's a direct replacement for Java. Compiles directly to jvm bytecode the same as Java does. It has a lot of beautiful idioms, makes development easier through things like top level declarations and enforces some (arguably beneficial) things like immutability. It's hard to explain all the things I love about it in a quick text post. My biggest push for it, coming from a large corporation, is the good programming techniques it forces on the developer. Some people would argue that a good developer shouldn't needed the language to force these things, but coming from a large organization, I know that most developers have not learned these concepts.
I'm currently using Kotlin at my company to build microservices. Also, intellij is a pretty great ide, as far as full featured ides go.

/e it also can be compiled to JavaScript, and many native binaries like osx. These are relatively new features that I don't have much experience with.

I'd say learning any programming language qualifies as an intellectual pursuit, but I don't have any interest in learning a language like COBOL or Fortran that isn't really going to benefit me professionally. Sure, I could add it to my resume, but I don't want to maintain relics.


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« Last Edit: Tue, 27 March 2018, 00:12:58 by itzdarkoutthere »

Offline itzdarkoutthere

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Re: Career Opportunity: COBOL Programming Based - Thoughts?
« Reply #23 on: Tue, 27 March 2018, 00:04:59 »
Now I'm a senior Kotlin/Java developer

Out of curiosity, what Kotlin is used for? I thought it's IntelliJ internal language nobody else is using... or are you at IntelliJ?

Other than that, I second your opinion.  I was taught Fortran decades ago, and I honestly don't understand how coding in it may bring any intellectual satisfaction, compared to the handful of modern languages I am now fluent in.

Kotlin is growing rather quickly, for what it's worth. A fresh coat of paint on Java.

As for COBOL: great if you want a job, but it's not a great entry into the wider world of software development. I've worked in COBOL shops, it's not exciting, but people who aren't passionate about programming do very well with it as a basic 9-5.
I'd say that Kotlin is slightly more than a fresh paint of coat, but I may be a tad bit biased considering I've been using it exclusively for nearly a year now.
Definitely agree with your opinion on COBOL. I get the feeling that is not what OP is looking for. I ended up in a similar boat writing pseudo JavaScript at my first job. Thankfully, I'm in a better place now

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