Nice work if you can get it

Working hard or hardly working?

Would you believe I did essentially the same thing for over 20 years? I got out of college eager to start writing database programs, and apprenticed myself to a guy who worked with Clipper. I eventually got a real job with an engineering company in Houston, and spent four years writing Clipper programs for the pipeline industry. Then I moved to Dallas in 1992, and (except for the part where I moved to Wyoming to work out of a home office) here I stay today. I started off writing more Clipper programs, now for the apartment management business. I switched hats a few times, but the whole time it has been Clipper programming and technical support for Clipper programs for about 18 years at RealPage, Inc. which started out with 10 employees and one product in 1988 and now has over 1000 employees and offices around the world (although I remain the sole occupant of the "Rocky Mountain Regional Headquarters").

Now, you might be thinking that there must not be a lot of future in maintaining programs that are 20 years old, and you'd be right. In fact, as we phased out the last of our DOS products, a number of my colleagues over me in the food chain were equally worried that I might be out of a job soon. So they had me come to Dallas to discuss moving me over to our newfangled web-based product line.

To make a long story short (too late!) I upgraded my programming skills in 2009 from Clipper to Visual Basic (, met with a bunch of new bosses who decided they like me, and moved back from the support department over to the programming department where I started. Boy, a lot has changed. You have to share your toys with the other children now, and it's all .net this and .asp that and I'm still getting used to Team Foundation but they say it's important. Just about the time I mastered VB, last year they announced that VB only works with Microsoft Internet Explorer so we're moving everything to a more universally compatible flavor of JavaScript. I'm on a team whose job it is to translate all the VB stuff into Java, JavaScript, and jQuery. Anyway the main thing is that I still have a job so hopefully I won't have to update my resume for at least another 20 years.

Amazingly enough, of the original 10 people with the small company when I started, four (including myself) are still here 20 years later plus another three or four who joined a year or two afterwards. Most of them have gone on to management positions, but I hope I never even get offered that kind of a job - I'm about as effective a leader as Ralph Wiggum. Like I have always told my assorted bosses: I love what I do, I do it well, and I always want to keep doing it. Where is the shame in wanting to keep doing what you do well and what serves the interests of the company? Learning new programming languages and techniques is ALWAYS important, as long as I still get to hack around in the source code.