A COBOL Programmer’s Unique Story

All of my friends who have younger siblings who are going to college or high school – my number one piece of advice is: You should learn how to program.” This is a famous quote by Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook.

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Photo Courtesy of Pixabay
The Discovery

I wish I would have had that advice presented to me when I finished high school. In the end, I did learn how to program, but my journey was very roundabout. I spent many years in University, getting a 3-year Psychology Degree and a 4-year Commerce Degree. With all that education behind me, I was still having trouble finding direction. As a result, I read an amazing, self-help book for job seekers called What Color is your Parachute? Surprisingly, the exercises in the book pointed me toward a career in programming, mostly based on my interest in the one programming course I had taken at University.

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The Becoming

Given a new path toward programming, I decided to go the quickest route and get a programming Diploma. I used my University courses to get exemptions in the non-programming courses and finished a two-year Computer Programmer Diploma in a year. I loved it. Luckily, I was able to get a job as an entry-level COBOL programmer shortly after I graduated, which has led to a rewarding 25-year career as a Programmer-Analyst and IT Specialist.

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Photo Courtesy of Dreamstime
The Next Step

The natural continuation of this lifelong journey is to write about it. To answer some questions that can only come from experience. What is it like to be a woman in technology? What has it been like to work with newer technologies at the same time as older ones? What is it like to be in the computer field with multiple generations of people?  There is so much to write about–so many topics to explore, drawing on my many years of experience. All the facets of the past have come together to create my story, which is, I hope, unique enough to share.

What’s your story? Where are you on your own journey? Are you still becoming, or are you considering your next step?

Who is the Online COBOL Audience?

When you want to get to know someone in person, how do you generally accomplish that? Initially, you probably try to learn their characteristics, then you determine how to talk to them. The process is similar for online connections. First, you want to get to know their demographics and their psychological traits (psychographics), then you find ways to communicate with them.

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Assuming that the majority of the online COBOL-related audience are COBOL programmers, their average age would be 55. Also, in an Evans Data Corporation survey, 27.5% of software developers in the world are women. Thus, the demographic of an online COBOL audience is probably men around age 55. Based on this demographic, some psychographic information about this group is that they are conservative, upper-middle-class, and are followers. In addition, according to the survey mentioned, one-fifth of men software developers have a personal interest in the technologies they are using. Consequently, one in five of COBOL listeners have a personal interest in COBOL technologies.

Now that we have identified some characteristics of COBOL online listeners, one of the ways to find out how to communicate with this audience on social media is to search on Twitter. In this case, a Twitter search on #cobol came back with several related people to follow. Similarly, a search on COBOL in Google Trends resulted in 23 related queries and 19 related topics to investigate. In terms of Facebook communities, related groups and pages included a COBOL Programmers group with 16,000 members and a COBOL page with 3200 members.

A screenshot of a COBOL search in Facebook

It is important to remember not to initiate a conversation too quickly in an unfamiliar COBOL online community. Some are primarily for job postings and others are used to sell online courses. Become a listener.  Get to know the demographics and psychographics of the group you are interested in before you start communicating.

What is your online style? Are you mainly a listener? Which online communities do you enjoy following?