Jasons new employer was a small company that had its own manufacturing and distribution packages written in COBOL, which they sold and supported, so Jason started in COBOL.
My first challenge was my first big program. I had the coding down pat, but the business processes were all new to me. The big program I remember writing was a general ledger program, and I remember struggling with the concepts a lot. All I had learned in school was how to do the coding. But I did pick up the business concepts quickly. I remember going back about six months later, looking at some of my programs, and thinking how inefficient my coding was. I had learned more in six months of working than I had in nine months of school.
In programming school I hadnt learned general ledger concepts or any other business processes. I dont know of any technical school that teaches you these business functions. My advice for people who want to go into programming is, take business courses. Whether you learn these business concepts in high school or college, theyre far more important in your programming career than any math course. I do almost no math at work. The only thing math courses did for me was to sharpen my thinking skills.
The business concepts Id have found most useful to know when I started my job are accounting, work-in-process, bill-of-materials, inventory, receiving, and shipping. You dont have to learn these concepts in school, or even on the job. You can get simple books on them. You can also learn them on your PC with a generic software package that a small company would use for accounting or warehousing. Just ask around to find a popular package that youd find on the shelves of a retail computer store like CompUSA, and learn as much as you can. It will be more beneficial than anything else.
Jason left that company after a year. I knew I could make a bigger salary if I moved around, because I knew people who were with the same company for a long time and their salaries hadnt grown as much as those of people I knew who were moving around. I caught on and switched jobs a couple of times in the next few years. My first jump gave me a 38 percent increase. When I left my second job I got a 48 percent increase. There is probably no other career in which someone who has not gone to college can advance so quickly in a couple of years .
My second job was in an apparel company in Trenton. They were coding in RPG. I had taken it in school, but I had no job experience with the language. The company gave me a shot, since I did have experience with the business concepts they were using. When I was in school I didnt like RPG. I thought COBOL was the way to go. But after I worked with RPG, I realized that it was a lot easier to code. It seemed more efficient, and definitely made for faster coding.
The company was small, with only one other person in the IT department. But this gave me a great chance to learn. I just got an RPG book and went at it. I was with this company for about a year before I made my second move, to my third job.
This may not have been such a great idea, since my first two jobs were in the manufacturing and distribution environment and this job was with a payroll company. But the money was excellent , so I gave it a shot. After I was there for about six months, the company decided it was going to shift its focus to Internet applications. This led them to lay off most of their RPG staff and focus on Java. This was not the norm in business back then; it probably never would have happened in a manufacturing or distribution environment. As a matter of fact, a few months later, this payroll company was looking for RPG people to replace some of the programmers who had quit after the layoff , but RPG people were hard to find.
Some of the payroll companys programmers got wind of the layoff-before it happened, and that very same day there was a recruiter out in the parking lot trying to hire consultants .
I got laid off at the end of October. I didnt bother opening a newspaper. I just called the agency that had gotten me the job with the payroll company. In two weeks I had three offers, two in writing and one verbal. Three offers in two weeks!