Thursday, September 27, 2018

UWIT Meeting Today Featured IBM's Watson

Upstate Women in Technology presents, “IBM’s Watson and Social Programs in the Cognitive Era”, presented by Richelle Mathieu.  Richelle shared some of the innovative cognitive solutions her team at Watson Health built to transform the way social programs help the citizens they serve.

UWIT is held monthly at City Range on Haywood Road.  Networking starts at 11:30 and lunch is served at 12:00.  Please register online  for future gatherings at   Walks-ins welcomed with cash or check payment of $20.  Contact Jill Rose at 864-908-0105 or for more information. 

Monday, September 24, 2018

Wanted: Coders Who Can Cobol

TEN YEARS before man walked on the moon, a group of software engineers created the Common Business-Oriented Language—better know as Cobol— to standardize business computer programming.
Not long after, in the early 1960s, Bill Hinshaw began plying his trade as one of the thousands of Cobol programmers working in banks across the world. Now, more than 50 years later, the 76-year-old coder is still working in Cobol, much to his amazement.
“I was coming to the end of my career and I thought that Cobol might be going away,” says Mr. Hinshaw. “But it has actually grown.”
Indeed, despite its advanced age, Cobol is still the most prevalent programming language in the financial-services industry world-wide. Software programmed in Cobol powers millions of banking transactions every day and underpins critical computer mainframes.
And Cobol isn’t going away anytime soon. Banks and other companies have come to the uncomfortable realization that ripping out old mainframes is pricey and complicated. Transitioning to new systems is likely to take years, and besides, a lot of the older tech works just fine.
The problem is that Cobol isn’t popular with new programmers. So, with a generation of Cobol specialists retiring, there is a continuing hunt to find a new generation of programmers to service this technology.
In Texas, Mr. Hinshaw’s company, the Cobol Cowboys, a group of mostly older programmers, is training U.S. military veterans in the programming language. 

Accenture PLC is coaching hundreds of Cobol programmers every year in India and the Philippines to work at banks. In Malaysia, one consultancy that provides engineers versed in Cobol for its clients, iTAc MSC Outsourcing, has adopted the slogan “Keeping the Dinosaurs Alive.”
A host of companies offer online courses in Cobol in places like South Africa, India and Bangladesh. Developing economies are key technology-outsourcing centers for banks.
Can’t let go
Detractors say Cobol isn’t versatile and results in reams of code, because it is partly written in actual English words. It’s also used to configure mainframes, which isn’t exactly a career-enhancing proposition for young coders in an era dominated by cloud computing.
Still, for banks that expect to be tied to their old technology to some extent for the foreseeable future, fluency in Cobol remains key. While a bunch of smaller banks have successfully ripped out their old core processing systems, no major bank has dared to do so, says John Schlesinger, chief enterprise architect at Temenos, a company that sells software to banks. The cost of a major overhaul and the risk of a botched upgrade leaving customers without access to their bank accounts are too great, he says.
Several companies are making hay while the sun still shines on Cobol. 

Micro Focus International PLC is offering courses to some 400 colleges to train Cobol programmers. The company, one of whosespecialties is upgrading old computer systems, polled its customers last year and found that 90% plan to use Cobol systems for the next decade.
“We don’t see that demand going anytime soon,” says Derek Britton, who runs a unit at Micro Focus that modernizes old systems.
Nod to Hollywood
Mr. Hinshaw’s Cobol Cowboys— the name is a nod to the Clint Eastwood movie “Space Cowboys,” about a crew of aging test pilots—has a team of some 200 freelance coders. The average age is around 60. “They can work when they want to,” says Mr. Hinshaw.
“They can spend time with their grandchildren.”
When it comes to coding, age is in the eye of the beholder, says Mr. Hinshaw. Several other coding languages have comfortably slipped into useful middle age. For instance, the coding language “C”—one of the most popular of all time—is still widely used more than 45 years after it came on the scene.
And Cobol isn’t retiring on his watch, Mr. Hinshaw says. “I don’t see Cobol going away in my lifetime.”

Max Colchester is a reporter for The Wall Street Journal in London. He can be reached at 

Friday, September 21, 2018

Ranks of Women in Tech Show Slight Growth

by Steve Rosenbush of the Wall Street Journal

Good day, CIOs. Diversity is at the top of the corporate tech agenda, but scant progress is being made when it comes to expanding the ranks of women and minorities within the U.S. divisions of large companies, CIO Journal’s Sara Castellanos reports. Women were represented in 24% of technical roles this year, a slight gain over 2017, according to a survey of more than 628,000 technologists across 80 large companies. The study was conducted by, a nonprofit organization aimed at increasing the representation of women technologists. 
A broader view of diversity. Black, Hispanic, Native American, Pacific Islander and multiracial women accounted for about 13% of the technical roles, according to the report, which did not measure racial diversity last year.
The business case. “Diversity in experience and diversity in thought is going to produce much better solutions for our customers,” said Mary Beth Westmoreland, chief technology officer at Blackbaud Inc., a cloud software company for nonprofit and philanthropic organizations. Blackbaud was among the 80 companies surveyed for the study, which included American Express Co., Alphabet Inc.’s Google and SAP SE.

Monday, September 17, 2018

3 Qualities that make you an Effective Team Player

The term "team player" is so often used as an essential professional attribute that it’s become a well-worn cliché — but that doesn’t make it any less of a valuable skill to have if you want to be successful at work, regardless of your occupation or industry.

Being able to work well with others and being regarded by your colleagues as an effective team player can lead to a wealth of promising career opportunities. People will tend to seek you out when assembling teams for projects (which are more likely to be successful when the members of your team work well together), peers and superiors will turn to you for collaborations that can enhance your visibility and profile, you’ll increase your chances of impressing your colleagues and others will want to support you and celebrate your success as you climb your personal career ladder.

Although some folks seem to be able to work well with others no matter what the situation or mix of personalities they find themselves in, for others it’s not quite that simple. Not everyone is a natural team player, but everyone can become one with a little effort.

Yes, your work environment and the nature of the work you do will go a long way toward dictating what makes an effective team player in your world, but there are some fundamental personal qualities that most! effective team players seem to possess — and use — to their advantage when opportunities to collaborate arise. If you have the following three qualities, be sure to use them to your advantage at work and keep them polished and sharp.

If not, consider building these skills to maximize your chances of achieving success: 


Great team players typically have an abundance of patience in their reserves, which comes in really handy when juggling the diverse personalities and work styles of team members.

It can be easy to get frustrated in collaborative work settings, especially when one (or more than one) team member is tough to work with or tries to exert unwanted control over the group, or when the project doesn’t go as well as initially planned.

However, those who are known to be effective team members have the patience and self-control to keep themselves and others calm, cool and collected, which helps to keep colleagues and work projects on track.


A close relative of patience, flexibility allows team players to roll with the punches when things get volatile or tumultuous during a group effort at work and can pivot effectively when a project takes an unexpected turn or requires a course correction.

While some folks lose control when things don’t go according to plan during the life cycle of a project, those who are good team players are flexible enough to swerve when change is needed — without putting added stress or strain on their team members.


Reliability is where the "rubber meets the road" on a project, and effective team members consistently deliver in this area.

When collaborating on a project, they are well aware of what they are responsible for and make sure that they deliver as planned and on schedule, allowing their team members to focus on their tasks without having to worry about weak links, with the end result being that the collaborative effort becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

If you set your sights on strengthening your skills in the areas mentioned here, you will improve your ability to work with others and gain a reputation as someone people can count on in any collaborative situation, big or small.

Eric Titner has been an editor and content creator for more than a decade. His primary professional focus has been on education- and career-related topics. He currently lives in New York City.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Surging Business Sales Make Staff Retention a Must!

I came across this relevant article by Joyce M. Rosenberg of the Associated Press:

NEW YORK – Offers of training and stock in their new employer weren’t enough to keep four out of his five staffers when Dennis Chow sold his information technology firm in 2016.

Chow and the buyers learned one of the hard lessons of a business sale – despite their best efforts, some employees will leave. People departed from both companies when SCIS Security acquired Chow’s Houston-based Xtec Systems, most of them workers who didn’t like their new assignments.
"We lost maybe 25 percent of the overall workforce," Chow says.

As the number of small-business sales keeps rising, staff retention is a priority – especially since low unemployment makes it easy for many workers to find new jobs. Transactions tallied by online marketplace show more than 2,700 small businesses changed hands during the second quarter, the most since the count began in 2007. The trend is being driven in large part by retiring baby boomer owners.

One big problem can be a culture clash – staffers whose company is sold may be uncomfortable with their new bosses and how the business is now being run. A new owner may be more rigid about schedules or more of a micromanager. Staffers who worked with just a handful of people before might find themselves with dozens of co-workers, and miss the old camaraderie.

Bosses should focus on the quality of employees’ work life, says Mike Astringer, owner of Human Capital Consultants, a human resources provider. Money, whether it’s in the form or a raise or a bonus, may not work in the long run.

"The new acquirer and the seller need to really collaborate in the transition to make sure the culture not going to change, that the reason people work there is going to continue," he says. Critical to keeping staffers is not springing the ownership change on them at the last minute. That will only anger them and add to their anxiety and temptation to flee, Astringer says.

A new boss should acknowledge and validate staffers’ feelings, and not try pep talks to ease anxiety, says John Proctor, CEO of Ottawa, Ontario-based Martello Technologies. The information and communications technology company has made two acquisitions in recent years, giving Proctor experience with persuading reluctant staffers to stay.

"People aren’t praying at the altar of Martello. It doesn’t work like that," he says.
Proctor’s approach is to meet with staffers individually or in small groups, spell out his ideas for the company’s direction and ask employees about the roles they see themselves playing. He recommends listening rather than dictating.

"You’re giving them a sense of ownership instead of, ‘You’re going to be doing this, and you’re going to be doing that,’ " he says.

Still, Proctor warns owners to expect some friction. "You also need to be realistic that there will be issues and disputes and you must deal with those with an open and frank dialogue with all involved," he says.

It can be more difficult to retain staffers in some industries than others. David Crais, chief executive of CMG Carelytics, a health technology development company that has done several acquisitions, has found software engineers reluctant to be part of a company that’s growing by buying others.

"Many times, they’re driven by wanting to be part of a building process," says Crais, The more an owner can align a staffer’s needs with the company’s culture, the greater the chances of retaining employees, Crais says. He considers an acquisition a success if 70 percent to 75 percent of the staff is still there 18 months later.

John Ahlberg, whose technology support and management company has made several acquisitions in recent years, has been able to retain about a third of the staffers who joined his firm, Chicago-based Waident Technology Solutions. Those who left tended to be uncomfortable with the culture at their new company; for example, they were used to working on their own and had a hard time adapting to team work.

"With each person, we sit down and talk to them, and ask, ‘What are you doing now, and what skills do you have?’ " Ahlberg says. "But most of the conversation revolves around, ‘What are your hopes and dreams. What do you want to be doing?’ "Those conversations must be ongoing, Ahlberg says: "We sit with everyone regularly to make sure they are heard; we discuss the company expectations and define what is expected of them. We try to leave nothing vague."

Sometimes there isn’t much an owner can do. Steve Sargent hoped for an easy transition when he bought an automotive repair shop in Car y, North Carolina, in March and turned it into a Mr. Transmission/Milex franchise. He told the three staffers they could keep their jobs, but changes he made, including new technology to handle transactions and accounting, were troubling for the shop manager. Sargent provided training and tried to talk to the man, but couldn’t get him to open up about his frustration.

"He always said he wasn’t going to leave," Sargent says. But nearly three months after Sargent arrived, "he called me and said, I can’t do this anymore," Sargent recalls.  Sargent advises other owners to keep communicating, but be ready for people to quit.

"Not everyone will make it through the transition, so be proactive about looking for replacements before a person leaves," he says.