Mainframe Job Blues…….Mainframe programmer

I’m a mainframe programmer. I was really lucky to get the position, because I don’t have a college degree. I did have some experience with programming – I am self-taught in a couple of languages – but I don’t have a degree to hang on the wall. I got the position because the head of one of the programming groups knew I had an interest in programming, and because I knew something about the OS his group programmed for (I was a computer operator prior to getting the promotion).

As I said, prior to my promotion I had learned a couple of computer languages. I love learning, and I liked the problem-solving that was associated with programming. It seemed to me to be a very creative process, like writing.

I don’t feel that way about programming any more. It no longer feels like a creative process. So-called ‘maintenance programming’ is like a huge creativity-sucking black hole in my life. Mostly what programmers in the business world do is maintenance programming, meaning you have to find and fix the bugs in someone else’s bloated, ugly, inefficient, undocumented code. I hate maintenance programming. It’s not what I expected at all.

After a day of maintenance programming, I feel like I’ve done anything at all. I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything, and I don’t feel like I’ve been productive.

I work hard at what I do. I only get paid about $12.50/hour. I didn’t get a pay raise with the promotion, you see. That’s a bit frustrating at times because I work alongside people that get paid 2-3 times what I do. They do have degrees, however, so there’s a good reason they get paid more.

My boss drives me nuts sometimes. He’s a good guy, but he’s an awful boss. He makes a lot of snap decisions that I just know will cause problems down the line. Sometimes I can argue him around, but when he’s in a mood all I can do is grimace, complete the project to his specifications, and wonder when I’ll need to do it all over again.

I should mention that I don’t spend as much time staring at the computer screen as you might think. Before being promoted I thought programmers stared bug-eyed at the computer screen 40 hours a day and did nothing else. Some days I do just that (and come home with a headache and dry, sore eyes) but my average day is broken up by meetings and phone calls, and I do most of my pre-programming thinking with good old pen and paper.

To anyone that is reading this and thinking about going into programming, I’d suggest going the whole way and getting the degree. Don’t try the short cut like I did. Also, if you plan to go into business programming, take an accounting class.