April 5, 2012 Workforce 0 Comments

The Hybrid Programmer

One of the most significant milestones when learning to speak a foreign language is mastering the ability to understand native speakers. Every language comes with its own unique challenges. Some, like Spanish, are spoken quickly while others, like Mandarin Chinese, are spoken at a more leisurely pace, but contain subtle differences in tone.

However, a recent study done at the Université de Lyon poses an interesting hypothesis: it suggests that, regardless of the speed of speech, every language conveys roughly the same amount of information in about the same amount of time. The key to learning any language is to overcome the natural fear of failure and learn to fall into the natural cadence of the language. And the reward? The exhilaration you feel when you begin to understand native speakers.

I propose that something similar happens in IT as well. I worked for over three years on an MQ based application that crossed many operating systems. Each of us on the development team was a hybrid programmer working on code that ran on the platform with which we were most comfortable, but also on the other platforms as well. I was coming from over a decade as a mainframe programmer and this was my first exposure to Windows and Linux development. Believe me, Windows and Linux development are completely different from each other — and certainly different from mainframe development.

What our team discovered was, just like in that language study, individual development steps under the various platforms occurred at vastly different speeds. But at the end of the day, the progress of the projects moved along at very similar rates. And once again the key was to overcome the natural fear of failure and work hard to fall into the natural cadence of the development cycle. And the reward? The exhilaration we experienced when we produced software that ran across operating systems.

If you ever get the opportunity to become a hybrid programmer, I would encourage you to embrace it.  And if you ever work with a team of hybrid programmers, welcome them with open arms into the community of mainframe developers. After all, if you could understand both Spanish and Mandarin – you’d be able to converse with 1.2 billion other people!