Camille Bell: Why is there a bias against COBOL developers?

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Camille Bell: Why is there a bias against COBOL developers?

COBOL isn’t new and cutting edge. Most developers want to work in what’s new and cutting edge and think those who work in languages like COBOL are old fashioned. Prior to Dave Nicolette‘s open source COBOL unit testing tools, Cobol Unit; it was nearly impossible to practice TDD, and other agile technical practices, because the only unit test tools available were from IBM, which charges a lot of money.

Companies aren’t willing to spend money on tools to make life better for COBOL developers, because “they got along fine without the tools, so why should we spend a lot of money, besides we are converting everything to language X next year”.

The above conversion doesn’t tend to happen at anywhere near the pace companies expect, because while COBOL is pretty readable in small amounts, understanding a large COBOL code base isn’t easy and most companies that have COBOL have huge code bases (I coached a company that had 9 million lines of COBOL, not long ago).

Management doesn’t usually want to look at how challenging their COBOL code base is. Many IT mangers can’t code in any language and those that can are usually too young to have ever written COBOL. For the tiny number of managers, who wrote COBOL, for almost all, it was back at a time COBOL code bases were much smaller and simpler.

Additionally COBOL programmers are not paid the salaries that Android, IOS and other in demand skilled developers are paid. Most US COBOL developers are in fact older, though I have met some recently out of college. Because of Y2K a lot of developers in India learned COBOL. Because of all this COBOL developers don’t tend to mix much with other developers, so there is little appreciation or understanding between COBOL developers and non COBOL developers.

What isn’t understood isn’t respected

About Camille Bell

Camille loves to build software, working software, useful software, and teams. Her breath of knowledge from her real experience working with numerous organizations and thought leaders. Camille is active in user societies, open source projects, and a regular participant in conferences and advanced training. Ask her about conversation with Grace Hopper. Camille brings back what she’s learned to improve her products and share with her teams. She holds a BS and MS in Computer Science and currently resides in Maryland.

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