Monday, August 24, 2009

Back to school - 2009!

Those of you who know me understand that I am crazy. This of you who don’t, well, let me just say that I have five kids. ‘nuff said. But this year is especially momentous in the Pavlak household as each of the five kids is in a different school! Five schools, 2 districts various bus schedules a well organized Mom and a Dad who is just trying to keep up. It is exciting and challenging and rewarding and exhausting. But I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Ironically, education was not such a big deal for my family when we were growing up yet my 3 siblings and I managed to figure out how to get college degrees. So let’s talk a little about education.

I got a call last night from an old friend. This friend, let’s call him Jack, was an IBM midrange programmer. I say IBM midrange programmer so as to not provoke the wrath of Trevor who might insist on correcting me . Jack is no Spring chicken. In fact, his kids are about grown and gone. But Jack has another similar aspect as to many in the IBM midrange space. Jack is out of work…since January. Jack’s only crime, specializing in the IBM midrange space. Well, that might be a bit dramatic, but you get my point.

So Jack called me up to let me know he was really jazzed about something. He was playing with Drupal on his home computer in the XAMPP stack and was in the process of migrating the stack to his new laptop. He was stunned to see the power and features in this open Source CMS and couldn’t wait to tell me about his new career path. He mentioned that getting laid off might have been the best thing to ever happen to him as he can now focus on the future. And he plans for that future to include PHP.

The reality is that I continue to hear about friends and associates getting laid off. Many times it has very little to do with the technology currently employed whether it be IBM midrange, Microsoft, open source or something else. Often the reason I am hearing is related to profitability and productivity. No one wants to admit they are not being productive. I mean, even an RPG III programmer who enhances an accounting report and turns it into a DSO for the CFO has just improved productivity. But we all need to be aware of where the bus is heading and start making plans to be on it. Retirement may be a fantasy for many in my generation as 401-k get decimated and Pension funds continue to evolve and dry up.

I am a big fan of PHP, no duh! But regardless of which technology you choose I challenge you to explore something new. The good news is that once you learn PHP you now have skills that are 100% transportable to any other platform. That is a benefit for both you and your management because new platforms are popping up all over. And some you can’t even identify like SaaS or cloud based technologies. These days the hardware and OS are becoming less and less important. Understanding the application technology allows you to plug in and communicate. Web Services is just plain huge.

So, I salute my firend Jack and wish him good luck on his new endeavor. Oh yea, I have heard of a lot of opportunities for IBM midrange folks with PHP experience. Hmmm…wonder why that is?