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Making Old Skills Do New Work

Michael Anderson was connecting with an old resource when he called today. It was the NewsWire and me that he phoned up on a Sunday afternoon, running down his leads to keep working among the new IT generation. Anderson started up his support consultancy J3K Solutions in 2007, shortly after the Spring Independent School District started pulling back on its 3000 plans.

His experience in IT goes back into the 1980s, hands-on work at Compaq and then designs more complex for an oil and energy corporation in his native Houston region. He's pulled disk drive units from AutoRAID 12H assemblies and written display code in COBOL. Of late, it feels to him like much of the IT world has moved in other directions.

He's moved there too. Almost ten years ago, while J3K was helping with migrations and homesteading, he told our readers in an article that looking into newer technology was the only way to preserve any career that spans the era from COBOL display code to mobile UX work. While it seemed easy to say "get better trained on Microsoft solutions," it was obvious even then that Microsoft was only part of a smarter future.

"I honestly would not count on Microsoft owning the majority of the market twenty years from now," said Anderson. "Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Learn how virtualization improves the efficiency and availability of IT resources and applications. Run multiple operating systems and learn new concepts, look into cloud computing and open source."

He's also making the transition into new technology with old skills: the ability to service businesses with professional systems analysis, applying lessons learned in the 1990s to engagements of today. It can be a challenge, prowling the likes of Upwork.com to find customer engagements. It takes a pro, though, to reach out and make a call to connect. Social media is so certified as a means to link up that it makes even LinkedIn look long in the tooth.

In a world where everything seems to have changed, having the pluck to connect is an old skill that can be employed to learn new tricks.

Before cloud servers were everywhere, Anderson advised us all to look into platform-independent technologies. He has also preserved his MPE maintenance skills for a single HP 3000 client, nearly a decade after that advice. A Series 969 supports a logistics firm in the Houston area and the server's health still puts Anderson on the front line.

The migration business has run its course for 3000 users, he says, and we'd agree. The logistics company that continues to rely on its 3000 might not be migrating code when it changes its IT strategy. Data is the migration passenger now, something that needs less specialized tools than a million-line code transfer.

In the same way that I get asked how many 3000s are in service today, we get calls about where job opportunities might exist for MPE specialists. Sometimes the calls begin the way they did today: Are you still open for business? Until there's no more electricity to power the web servers and no time to keep up contacts, we'll be hosting what we know here. My old skills of editing and writing now do new work on novels, memoirs, and author coaching. I still know how to answer a phone on a Sunday and try to connect a former RUG vice chair like Anderson with someone who needs his expertise -- and his moxie.