Programmers Find There Is Life after Y2K

Now that the millennium is upon us, local Year 2000 programmers face the inevitable question -- where to go next after Year 2000?

Some industry analysts say that Year 2000 will end their career as programmers, while others believe that it is a stepping stone to even better IT jobs.

Interviews with IS managers and chief information officers (CIOs) of different companies revealed that Year 2000 is not really the end of a Cobol programmer's career but a stepping stone to more lucrative jobs in the IT industry.

Most of the CIOs and IT heads told Computerworld Philippines that Year 2000 programmers need not worry because the experience they got from the remediation efforts have given them the skills and exposure to further their careers.

"Year 2000 won't be a career killer,'' said Ruel D. Magat, IT manager of National Bookstore. "It's more to the advantage of the programmers because they were exposed to different systems and conducted tests in different scenarios.

In terms of experience, they have gained a lot.''Herman Dee, EDP head of Philippines First Insurance Company Inc., and Marife Barroso, MIS manager at TNT International, also agreed that Year 2000 is a good stepping stone for programmers, provided that they update their existing knowledge with new object-based programming technologies and other trends.

"I think the Year 2000 programmers will eventually find new jobs since now that the Year 2000 projects are done, companies will plan on using the new technologies, especially Internet-based ones," added Leonardo Sangalang Jr., senior vice president of AB Capital and Investment Corporation.

"The Year 2000 project has given our programmers better opportunities to enhance their existing skills. Being able to remediate Year 2000 is a big achievement for them," said Rhomilda Baylon, assistant vice president for the IT division of Jollibee Food Corporation. "Since they are able to prove their skills and capability against Year 2000, they will be trusted in coming IT projects."

Aside from advance training and self-study on new trends, a Year 2000 programmer's career success will also depend on the dictates of the industry itself.

"Year 2000 is neither a career-killer nor a stepping stone. The programmer's potential will be dictated by the industry. Year 2000 is just one of the projects," Ernie Alipio, data manager of SMITS Inc., pointed out. "If they performed well in this project, then it would be a feather in their cap for other IT projects to come."

Abel Nosce, business systems development director of Sara Lee Philippines, also held the same view.

"Industry requirements will force programmers to know where to go in their career. After Year 2000, the industry might shift them to another kind of technology, so their future is not over, (especially) if they showed good performance in the remediation projects in which they were involved."

Virgilio Flordeliza, CIO of Meralco, said that it really depends on each specific case.

"For some programmers, Year 2000 might be a stepping stone, because they were able to have a job when a lot of people were jobless in other fields of expertise. But for others who have focused too much on Year 2000, they may no longer be needed after the remediation."

Computerworld Philippines also found out most of the companies mentioned did not hire extra Year 2000 programmers, preferring to deal with the millennium bug through their in-house IT manpower.

"We didn't hire additional programmers for Year 2000. We've internally developed programs for our company to be Year 2000-ready," Nosce said. The same goes with SMITS Inc. with Alipio saying that all their remediation was done in-house and through the help of a program manager from IBM.

Elena Van Tooren, director for management information services of ACNielsen Pulse, explained that her company's Year 2000 efforts were absorbed by various members of its IT department and by an interdepartmental task force with membership across the organization. "So I can say we gained expertise and have become comfortable in the use of current programming technology," she added.

Other companies did not hire extra Year 2000 programmers either. But they outsourced the remediation and testing efforts, thereby providing their internal staff with the right exposure and the skills learned from consultants and other Year 2000 experts.

"We hire people with good skills through contractual jobs. But we also do internal training. As we hire outside consultants, our own people acquire the knowledge. The next time we need those specific skills for the next projects, then we already have a capable staff to do them," explained Jollibee's Baylon.

Vice president for IT Tomas D. Paulino of the Investments and Capital Corporation of the Philippines (ICCP) Group said the Year 2000 experience was an eye-opener, providing a good exercise for programmers to practice and sharpen their skills.

"It has also been an excellent reminder to all IT professionals and practitioners that all IT work from the design, the programming and the implementation should always be done with more caution against potential future problems," Paulino added.

Ceverino Tolentino Jr., first vice president and head of the information technology group of Union Bank, said his company's lean IT staff is now focusing on coming IT projects and will be given the training and career enhancements they need to move them forward. "They really have nothing to worry after Year 2000 because work is always there for them."

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