Right now, wrong future

Flashback to the days when this now-longtime IT pilot fish is about to graduate from college -- and, naturally, he's in serious job-search mode.

"I was working part-time in a programming job for a small consulting firm," says fish. "It looked like I'd be getting a full-time offer, but I wasn't confident of their future -- I had seen some of their financials."

Which puts the company in fish's fallback spot -- his "until something better comes along" option.

So he interviews with a company across town that sounds a lot more interesting. It provides banking software and computing services to small banks and credit unions, through terminals at the banks connected to the company's PDP-11 computers.

That means the job will include assembly language programming on the PDP-11, and fish really likes that idea.

"The first programming class I took, in junior high, included assembler," fish says. "I got a kick out of the control that was possible, and handling interrupts as well as details hidden by most higher-level languages. I was the only student who got the Advanced Assembler final exam extra credit question completely correct."

Better still, the company makes him a very attractive compensation offer. But then fish asks about the company's future technology plans -- like migrating to the PDP-11's successor, the VAX, which has already been on the market for most of a decade.

Turns out there are no such plans -- because of the architectural differences, rewriting the custom software would not be trivial.

And fish realizes that while the job would be fun for a while, it's a dead end. The company's business would decline due to outdated technology, and he'd be unemployable due to outdated skills.

"I turned them down," says fish. "I ended up with another consulting firm that promised to get me on mainframe projects -- a strong growth area at the time. The pay was lower than the banking outfit, but it matched the offer from the firm where I was working part-time, and it offered a solid growth plan.

"I do not regret those decisions."

Sharky doesn't want you to regret telling your true tale of IT life, so I file off the identifying marks when you send it to me at sharky@computerworld.com. You can also comment on today's tale at Sharky's Google+ community, and read thousands of great old tales in the Sharkives.

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