Changelog & Friends – Episode #36

Retirement is for suckers

with Cameron Seay

All Episodes

THE Cameron Seay joins us once again! This time we learn more about his life/history, hear all about the boot camps he runs, discuss recent advancements in AI / quantum computing and how they might affect the tech labor market & more!



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Notes & Links

📝 Edit Notes


1 00:00 Let's talk! 00:38
2 00:38 Sponsor: Sentry 02:14
3 02:52 Welcoming back Cameron 00:37
4 03:29 Retirement is for suckers 07:29
5 10:59 The most magnificent woman 02:06
6 13:04 A long line of educators 04:38
7 17:42 Sociocultural Theory 01:43
8 19:25 The opportunity ballet 02:03
9 21:28 It takes what it takes 01:20
10 22:48 How the boot camps work 02:47
11 25:35 Success rates 03:11
12 28:46 Creating expertise 03:25
13 32:11 Sponsor: FireHydrant 02:24
14 34:57 Oppenheimer 02:45
15 37:42 Teach by doing 03:17
16 41:00 Making COBOL money 02:18
17 43:18 The COBOL work env 03:05
18 46:23 The boot campers 04:19
19 50:42 A week on determination 03:01
20 53:42 Sponsor: Tailscale 02:53
21 56:46 Adam's story 03:40
22 1:00:27 A pleasant sound 01:26
23 1:01:52 Moar boot camps! 01:55
24 1:03:47 Obligatory AI chapter 05:20
25 1:09:07 Computers have computers 04:31
26 1:13:38 Job trepidation 01:19
27 1:14:58 Prompt engineering 01:19
28 1:16:17 Applied Linux knowledge 01:10
29 1:17:27 Going off cloud 05:23
30 1:22:49 Bye friends 00:18
31 1:23:08 Coming up next 01:28


📝 Edit Transcript


Play the audio to listen along while you enjoy the transcript. 🎧

We are joined by Cameron Seay. Cameron, you were our most beloved interview of last year by our listeners. We haven’t had so much feedback ever, I think.

I’m glad to hear that. Thank you. Very, very kind of everybody. I love what I do. I’m having a great time. I say I don’t have a day job, but if I have a day job, this is it. I love every bit of – right now, as we speak, I’m running a boot camp. I’ve got a guy teaching COBOL, I had to check with him right before the class started at three, make sure the class is going alright. So I love what I do.

Nice. How long are you gonna do it? I mean, you’ve been in the biz a long time. What are you gonna do?

Till I can’t.

Till you can’t anymore?

Till I can’t.

Do it till I can’t. That’s the way to do it.

Retirement’s for suckers, man…

That’s right… My wife often asks me, she’s like “What are we going to do for retirement?” I’m like “I just can’t imagine that kind of life.” I mean, I want to retire. Like, I think I’ll always want to have purpose. I think people conflate work, in quotes work, and the idea of retirement, with not doing something of purpose… And I feel like as long as I have some version of purpose, I’m gonna keep doing that until I – like you just said, until I can’t..

Why would you not?

Because what would I do otherwise? I mean, just sit there? Come on…

I sat down and watched TV for almost – I didn’t make it a week. I’m like “No, I’ve got to do something.”

I could probably make it a little longer than that though. Maybe like two weeks.

It was a struggle for me.

Yeah. Well, I took a week off two weeks ago, with my wife, and we planned on nothing, pretty much. We went down to Phoenix, stayed at some nice places, ate good food… And our plan was like “Let’s sit by the pool and unplug.” And I found that to be so difficult. I could do it, but I was ready to get back into doing stuff. I think I need more adventure in my vacations… But I couldn’t imagine that just on into perpetuity or the end of my days. For me it’s gotta be…

How many times did you check in, Jerod? Did you check in on anything at all?

Oh, yeah. Of course. Well, my brain didn’t leave. That’s the hard part about sitting by a pool, is you’ve got to think about something. And so maybe more adventure would have distracted us a little bit better.

Yeah. I think I’m a guy like you, Jerod. Guys like us - and we have spouses, we have significant others, and we have families… Guys like us can only be away from this stuff so much.

And we go on a vacation, but we’re gonna check emails, we’re gonna check texts. I’m sorry, that’s just the way it is. I mean, we can’t help it. We can’t help it. And we’re gonna give our family to time, but we’re going to keep our finger in it, to some degree.

Part of me wonders though, however, if that is a reconfiguration of our brain OS, so to speak… Like, habits slash dopamine… Where do you get your dopamine? Because then you gravitate towards the places you get that dopamine hit. And we do have brains that control us in more ways than we realize it controls us. And so I wonder myself - this is not just a question for you all, but just generally, this is what I ask myself, “Adam, am I thinking about this while at the pool, on this vacation, or whatever it is, because I love it? Or is it because that’s where my dopamine hit comes from?”

[00:06:04.03] Let me give you the answer to that, Adam. You will never know. [laughter]

And that’s why we had you back, Cameron…

You will never know. I mean –

That’s exactly why you had the invite back right there. That answer right there. You will never know.

You will never know. And I mean, how important is it? I mean, it may be of some importance at some level… I really don’t care any more than I care why somebody likes strawberry ice cream. I mean, I don’t care. I mean, I’m sure there’s a reason for it. Maybe neurological, maybe psychological… But they like strawberry ice cream. Simple answer, they like strawberry ice-cream.


Keep it simple then. Okay.

I mean, the way I think about it is when my mind wanders, it wanders to things that I care about. And so I think about my kids, I think about my family, I think about my life, I think about the Changelog and what we’re doing here… And I want to check in and see how it’s going, because I care. And so some of it might be habitual wiring, is what you’re talking about, Adam; like, I habitually check my email. Is that good for me? I don’t know. But when I do have time to just think, I do think about the things that I care about, and so this just happens to be one of those things.

Let me interject this, because I’m considerably older than both of you gentlemen. And I don’t know if it’s a function of age, because some people learned this much younger than I am… But I have learned how to make myself happy, how to be happy. And it comprises a series of processes and activities and habits and behaviors, and work is part of that, but there is this stasis that I’ve learned how to maintain, and I don’t know when it happened… Work is a part of that though. Work is a part of that. I’m working seven days a week, 24 hours. I’m never off the clock when I’m running a bootcamp. But I don’t feel under any stress, I don’t feel any – everything’s organized, everything’s happening the way it’s supposed to happen… So this is just my stasis. And I don’t go up or down, I pretty much stay the same. I pretty much stay the same.

So I don’t know if that’s something for you look forward to, or you want to learn, but it makes me very comfortable. I don’t spend a lot of time worrying “Why am I doing this?” Because it works. My life is good, and I want to focus on doing more of the things that make my life good, and less of the things that make my life not good. And that’s what I’m contemplating 24/7, wherever I am.

I love that. So how did you get there? How’d you get here?

Pain, hurting a lot of people, dead bodies along the way, suffering…

[laughs] I can’t help but laugh. I love your responses.

I mean, I was married to one of the – if there is a ranking for the best, most noble human beings who have ever lived, I was married to one of them for 14 years, and didn’t have a clue what that meant. I didn’t have a clue what that meant, because I was so in my own mess. And it’s all psychological. I’m sure my parents in there somewhere - I don’t care, they’re long dead; may they rest in peace. They did the best for us they could. I have no ill will toward my parents whatsoever. I don’t go back and try to psychoanalyze why I was as deficient as I was. I just acknowledge for whatever reason I was deficient. In what it takes to live a good life, to make good decisions, however it happened, whatever the cause, I was deficient… Until I wasn’t. And the thing that made me not deficient was putting my hand on a burning stove, and then not doing that again. And so that’s the clearest answer I can give you.

Okay. Good old fashioned experience, I guess.

Yeah. No substitute for it. Because now I’m able to make a decent living relatively effortlessly, because I’m old. I’ve done the same thing so many times… What other people find complicated and complex, I find easy, not because I’m so much smarter than them… I’ve done it 1,000 times more than they’ve done it. So I’m better at it than they are.

I’m really curious about this being next to this person for 14 years and not knowing it situation… Did she pass, is she still around?

[00:09:56.00] No, she died at 56, may she rest in peace. A little over a year ago. Wonderful woman. I met her purely by chance, and I was not – I was 36 when I met her. And I said “If I make it to 40, I’m not getting married”, because I was totally against marriage. I was anti everything Western civilization. I was an anarchist. Nothing meant anything. This woman treated me so good that I just said “Dude, you know you’re not right for this woman. But you notice she’s right for you.” So for whatever reason – I don’t look back with regret. I don’t have any bad feelings. We made up. When she died we were we were on very good terms. But I just couldn’t see it, for whatever reason; for whatever reason.

My sister, the one I’m living with, she’s in the other room. I treated them horribly, for decades. I don’t know why. They certainly never did anything to me. I can’t look back and say “The reason I did this to these people is because what they did to me.” No, it was just because what I wanted to do. But about the person - yeah, that’s about her.

There’s two points I’m curious about. One, what changed, I suppose, in your relationship to help you understand that she’s this most magnificent person ever of rankings, so to speak, as you had said? And then two, what began to change in your life to make you not be so mean to your family, or to be horrible, as you had said? What began to change for you?

I think I can give you a lucid answer to both. With her, it was immediate. It was immediate. When I met her, I knew she – it wasn’t like love at first sight. I just knew she was an exceptionally kind and compassionate person. First meeting. And that feeling never changed. That feeling never changed. What changed was my inability to accept my inability to be the person that she needed me to be. That’s what changed. I couldn’t take it anymore. I could not take it anymore. So that’s why we parted ways, because I was just like “This is not gonna work for you.” Whether that was the right decision or the wrong decision, I don’t. I can’t say. I don’t think that way.

So I think that’s the answer to both of your questions. Well, I’m going to answer the second one. When we broke up, all my trouble – I was a very unhappy person, like a lot of people. That doesn’t make me unique. But it was always somebody else’s fault. I could blame it on something. I could blame it on American society, racism. And when I got married to her, everything was her fault. “If she was a better person… I would be happy if she was different.” Not true.

So when we’ve parted company, and I was without her, and I still had the same issues, obviously she’s not the problem. So then I started having some internal conversations, some internal conversations. And I should have gone to therapy, really. I’ve needed therapy my entire life, but I didn’t. But that’s what started my path back to my family. My sister and I, we didn’t speak for like five years over something trivial. But we’ve been thick as thieves for the last 5 or 10. I mean, I live at her house. They take care of me. So yeah, long road back.

Long road back. I like that.

One of the things that you’ve done thousands of times more than most people is you’ve been teaching. You are an educator. And like you said, you’ve got boot camps going all the time, and you’re willing to work 24/7 for the people who need your help. You have a contagious enthusiasm about this stuff. And in my limited exposure to you, you’re a very good teacher. And so I wonder, how do you teach? What have you learned, you have experienced teaching that many of us don’t who are younger, or haven’t taught as long? Can you impart anything in terms of what works, what doesn’t work, how you’re effective, why people who go under your teaching are so successful in their careers, etc?

Just like last time, you folks ask phenomenal questions. Your questions are almost bringing tears my eyes. Don’t laugh, Adam. Don’t laugh at me.

Well, the last time you couldn’t help but complement us the whole podcast.

That’s why we invited you back, Cameron. We like all these comments.

I’m just giving a smile, because that’s your style.

Yeah, it is. But first, I come from a long line of educators. Let’s go back a little bit. You want this to be about me. Let me tell you about me. Let me tell you where I come from. My great grandfather, Eli Madison, was a slave on an Alabama plantation. That’s about as low in this life as you can get. Not too much lower you can go. So he escaped, joined the Union Army, killed Confederate soldiers for his freedom, got his $1,000 pension, bought land, borrowed money against the land, sent his children to school.

Now, when you hear the reparations talk in the US – you guys are Canadian?

No, we’re U.S.

So when you hear the reparations talk in the US, I want you to think about this. The trajectory of my life was changed for eternity with that $1,000 pension, that all the black soldier were supposed to get, and most of them didn’t get it. Most of them got cheated out of it. So he sent his kids to school. They had these things called normal schools, with these microwave programs to rapidly train the freed slaves to be teachers. So he and his wife he married, they became teachers. He couldn’t read and write as a slave. It was illegal. You’d be killed if you knew how to read and write.

So they became teachers, and they sent their kids to school. His grandson, Arthur Madison, went to law school with Paul Robeson. You may have heard of Paul Robeson. They went to law school at Columbia University together. And so I come from a long line of teachers.

My grandmother, my father’s mother, had a master’s degree in math in the 1940s,which is very unusual for a black woman. So teaching’s in my blood, and I was in IT for a long time, and I never considered it teaching. I was in a Ph. D. program, because my family is serious about education. So if you’re not gonna go to medical school, you’re not gonna go to law school, the least you can do is just go get a PhD. That’s the least you can do. So that’s the minimum requirement for membership in the family. That’s an overstatement, but that’s why I did it. They were not that bad.

But anyway, I never planned on being a university teacher because they didn’t make enough money. They don’t make enough money. But while I was finishing – I decided to go and finish my PhD, because understand, the PhD is not adding anything to my IT career, but it’s taking time away from my IT career. So it really was a cost at the time. But I made up my mind to go and finish it.

[00:16:18.27] So I’m skipping parts of the story for brevity’s sake, but I came up to North Carolina to visit a black college, to meet a woman that had written an article that I read, and I met a student there who was graduating the next day, on Saturday. And she asked me, she said “I’m getting a degree in CIS. Is this degree going to help me get a job?” Mind you, she’s graduating tomorrow. I said to myself “What kind of a question is that?” I mean, why is this a question? So I decided to teach – I taught at North Carolina Central, I’ve taught at four black colleges… I love it. I love it. And the reason I’m good teaching is more than anything else - it’s intentional. You’ve gotta want to be a good teacher.

And then my doctorate is in education, it’s not in tech. I was at a university program, trained by university professors to be a university professor. That’s how they trained me, and they trained me well. I identified a learning methodology, a formal learning methodology that works for me. It’s called socio-cultural learning theory. That’s what I’ve used the last 20 years. The difference is it completely eliminate smart or dumb. It doesn’t care who’s smart, who’s dumb. We’ve got these activities out here that need to be accomplished for mastering a domain. I don’t care how you have to do it, what it takes to get you to do it… If you complete these activities, you can participate in the domain. That’s how I teach. And guess what - it works. So that’s where we are today.

I love it. Well, I’d never heard of socio-cultural theory in the classroom…

Yeah, Lev Vygotsky. Look him up. Russian guy.

Interesting. And you’ve been using this in your classes for the last 20 years.

It works.

I like this assumption that your smarts don’t matter. It’s all about effort and applying yourself, and success is just at the other end of your applied effort.

We have different abilities.

And the value placed on those abilities is subjective. Completely subjective. LeBron James 100 years ago, he would have been in the field, chopping cotton. I don’t care how good a basketball player he was, it didn’t make any difference. So it’s all about opportunity and proper instruction. That’s what it’s about. And it’s driving me crazy about women, because I’m telling you, I’ve been teaching mainframe for 20 years, and I posted on LinkedIn several times… I can say with complete lack of ambiguity that women learn mainframe better than men. I can say that with complete conviction. Complete conviction. That women across the board – why? Because they listen and they pay attention. They pay attention. And I don’t have a theory whether it’s biological, because they’re mothers, or societal… I don’t care. It’s just like strawberry ice cream. They’re just better at it. You talk about diversity and inclusion? We’re trying to include people in a field that they’re actually better at than the people that are trying to include them. That doesn’t make any sense. We’re asking men to include women in mainframe, when women are better at mainframe than men are. It makes no sense. It should be the other way around. Men should be asking to do it if we’re going by merit, if we’re going by who can do the job. Men should be asking to be included.

So if opportunity is such a big part of it, what do you do in your training/education in terms of opportunity?

Good question. Man, I think you’ve found your niche. [laughter]

It is what he does for his day job among many things, but it is definitely one of the many things.

[00:19:43.13] Jerod, it is a ballet. It’s a delicate ballet that you have to manage, with some level of precision, that everybody seems to be missing this ballet. And people don’t – that’s why there’s this discontinuity between the students, their academic departments, and industry. You have to have interplay. When I first started doing this, the problem was the students were taking the class, but they weren’t getting jobs. And I called IBM and I said “Look here now, you guys told me to teach this stuff. And I taught it. And I taught it well. They can do what you say they need to do. This is an elective course. If students are not going to get jobs out of this, then I’m gonna stop teaching, because I’ve gotta teach where students are gonna get jobs.” And wouldn’t you know, IBM made a couple of phone calls, we had six or eight students picked up by Bank of America the next semester, and we’re off to the races.

You have to continually try to identify the companies that need what you – first of all, I started with this. I want my students to get jobs. So I was a Linux guy coming in the door, with strong Microsoft background; Linux was my preference. Mainframe was not on my agenda from an academic standpoint. But what I’m doing, I was gonna do with other technologies. But when I saw mainframe, I’m like “Man, this is easy. This is easy. Everybody needs this, and nobody’s teaching it? Gee…” I think “What should I teach? Uh… I think mainframe! I think mainframe.”

And so you have to identify it. Then you go to companies. Fidelity Investments, Lowe’s, Wells Fargo… Whatever you can do, keep HR out of your business. They add nothing to the equation, in most cases. Some HR departments are better than others. But you need to talk to the hiring managers, ask the hiring managers, “For you to hire somebody, what do they need to be able to do?” They’ll tell you. You teach that, and then students good jobs. There’s no more to it than that. But you’ve got to manage that ballet, and people don’t do it.

Definitely have to have jobs inside of education. It’s like you’re the person you went and met, “Is this degree I’m getting going to be worth it?” and it’s the day before graduation. Well, there should be some sort of indication, months, if not maybe at least a year in advance to say “Okay, on the other side of this effort is the opportunities that have presented themselves.” And I love the fact that you were willing to leave the education process of mainframe if you couldn’t provide a path to employment for the students. What’s the point of going through the class, in this particular case? Because sometimes you go and learn things just to learn things, and that’s okay. But if you’re gonna dedicate yourself to a class like this and learn a very high-level, very thought-provoking task and skill set like mainframe is, what’s the point of doing it unless you have an opportunity on the side?

Yeah. And you know, I’m going to believe that there is a layer of logic in the universe floating around that we can all – if we drill down, we can hit it… And that’s what we hit here. The companies, they got it. And just like the bootcamps now, companies – it’s taken a while though. Because I’ve been saying the same thing for 15 years. It’s taken a while, but it takes what it takes. But I think they understand now that this process – the process that I’ve put together works for everybody; it works for the students, it works for the schools, it works for the companies.

Can you lay that out for us? The process, the boot camp, and how it works…

I’d be glad to. So now there is an established way to do this. And the company – if anybody tells you they can’t find mainframe people, they’re just not looking. There’s an established way to do this. What you do is you run them through apprenticeship program; there’s several people having it. Franklin has one. You can look these guys up. I’ll give you some names you can look up. Franklin apprenticeships. So they do a pre-apprenticeship program. There, you’re not really ready to get a job, but you are ready to get into an apprenticeship program.

You go through the apprenticeship program, and it’s 6 to 12 months, depending on what the company is. And then you get a job. You come in the door, you make like 75% – it varies, because all this stuff is statutory by the federal government. So there’s a certain percentage that they can pay you less while you’re an apprentice. But once you complete that apprenticeship, you’ve got the full salary. So that’s the process.

And our bootcamp is like a supplement to the pre-apprenticeship. The pre-apprenticeship gives them some general knowledge. We drill them down in COBOL, DB2, MQ, whatever; we drill them down, and then they’re ready to go. They actually already go to work, but the company is running them through the apprenticeship anyway. They are ready to join production teams when they leave us, because they know enough to join production teams. But the companies – they’re gonna save a buck, and then students don’t mind. They’ve got careers. That’s the process. Was that comprehensive enough for you, Jerod? Or were there pieces left out?

Yeah, tell me more about the bootcamp. How long is the bootcamp? What’s involved in it?

[00:24:10.21] I’d be glad to. I’m sure my colleagues, my business partners would love me to talk about that. [laughter] We have very flexible – first of all, I’ve been teaching bootcamps a lot. I’ve probably taught 10 or 15 bootcamps. They have varied anywhere from 2 days to 12 weeks. So there’s all kinds of gradations of it. These are like corporate engagement. So a company comes to us and they say – they’re iterations, but in this case, “We want you to train X number of people for us, and we’ll give you X number of dollars. And this is what we want them to learn.” And we’ll go through the process. In this case, they’re learning a week of Agile, before – everybody has a week of agile. Then mainframe basics; then something called vSAN, which is a file thing… There’s something called [unintelligible 00:24:52.17] which is a – think credit cards. Then COBOL. And then a little DB2. A little database in there, too.

And so we have labs we’re gonna do… Today, right now, the professor’s lecturing. But certain days – like, the last time we had three hours lecture, three hours lab in the afternoon. Now we have two days of lab and a day and a half of lecture. So this one wanted MQ. The last one wanted to focus on vSAN. MQ is like a messaging service between applications. You guys understand the concept of messaging. Think Tomcat. Just a messaging server. So they wanted that. We can do whatever you want. I’ve got a worldwide network of guys that are credentialed to teach this stuff, and they want to teach it. So instructors are no problem.

So you’re customizing these boot camps based on the needs of the companies, and the students, and everything like that. It’s not like there’s one magical solution that produces this.

Nope. Whatever you need.

That’s cool. How about graduation rates, and placement rates? How successful is it? I mean, are you getting –

Well, I’ll be candid – I’m always satisfied with the placement rates, but I’ll be candid, East Carolina is the first non-HBCU I’ve taught, and it’s been a great experience… But the demographics are just different. So everywhere I was before, all the HBCUs, mainframe was the point of the spear. There was nothing in the department we had that was more successful than mainframe, at all HBCUs. Because they weren’t doing much in other areas. In some they weren’t doing anything. This is a very healthy programs. This is at the College of Engineering. My chair is Dr. TJ Mohammed. He’s got about 1,500 kids in the program. I’m one of about three or four or five excellent programs that they have, that kids are getting jobs in. And I don’t mind that. I mean, in my classes - more at HBCUs - everybody there is looking for a job. At East Carolina about half of my kids are - they’re not kids - half my students already have full-time jobs. So it’s just a different demographic. And so I don’t push as hard.

But anybody that wants a mainframe internship at East Carolina is able to get one. So that hasn’t changed. But just, the demand among the students is different. But my classes are always full though. My classes are always full.

So what are the people doing that already have full-time jobs? Are they looking to change positions? Or just get a paygrade upgrade? Or what are they trying to do?

Again, a great question. This might be open-ended, because this speaks to my critique of higher ed. In a lot of cases, Jerod, I really don’t know why they’re there. I really truly don’t know.

[laughs] Okay…

I mean, they have no interest – well, sometimes they have no interest in the topic. Sometimes they have no interest in the topic and they do the work. Sometimes they have no interest in topic and they don’t do the work. So I’m okay, these are all adults. So it would be a much bigger issue with me if I was at HBCU. Not that I care about the students anymore at HBCU, but it’s different. These folks are gonna be okay. They’re going to be okay, they’re gonna be just fine. So I think they want the degree for promotability, or something; everybody wants the degree. But what hiring has done with this – and you can blame COVID. We have almost removed the requirement of quality from online programs. And that is a shame. If you’re an instructor, you have to figure out ways to ensure that there’s quality in your program. Because if you do it the way that you can get by with doing it, there’s no guarantee that there’s going to be any learning outcomes. And that sad. A lot of self study…

[00:28:11.23] I’m teaching a course at community college now. And look, I’m not berating it, I’m not even gonna name the community college. I love the people. I love the people. But this is like an asynchronous course. Now, I’m giving lectures; there’s no meeting times, there’s no exams… And I’m not the biggest fan of exams, but there’s no – other than… You may have seen it, it’s the Red Hat course. And it’s a good course for what it does, but that’s not the way I would teach Linux. That’s not the way I would teach Linux. But I don’t want the community to think I’m not grateful. I am grateful for the opportunity to do what I’m doing. But I just have a lot of concern that quality is not in where it should be.

Describe quality in educational terms. Like, I understand it in like chocolate, let’s say, because I like chocolate… I’m down with chocolate…

Strawberry ice cream…

Yeah, strawberry ice cream… But how does quality get quantified in educational processes?

I can give you the pragmatic – I’m gonna give you both. I’m gonna give you a pragmatic answer, and I’m gonna give you the kind of philosophical answer. Pragmatically, you’ve got a couple of things that you want the student to be able to do at the end of the class, that they may or may not have been able to do when they came into the class. You want them to understand a couple of things that they didn’t, objectives. You want them to leave this class with some concepts. And it’s up to an instructor to determine what that is, and how – there’s always a broad versus deep dilemma. That comes with the turf. But once you establish your objectives, then you see “Okay, what is it going to take…?” For me, I build activities. I want them to be able to do things on a mainframe, so I’ll do activities to lead them to do those things on a mainframe. And then I have them write up – this is the most important thing for me. I have them write a narrative of what they just did. 100-150 words. So once they’ve done all that, I’m pretty sure they’ve got it. They’ve got parts of it anyway.

Now, from the more philosophical standpoint, you want the student – and I don’t know how you would measure this, but you want someone to leave a class with the feeling that it has been a profound experience. I’ve had several – and it’s not been all of them, but some my classes, many of my classes, that was a profound experience. That was a profound experience. I’m not even gonna use the term “I learned something there.” It was moving. I was moved by what happened in that class, what I learned. And it could be historical, it could be technical, I don’t care. A guy taught me software engineering one time. It was moving, the way he taught it. It was just moving. I mean, when you’re in the presence of a great teacher, it’s special.

But yeah, so you’ve got objectives… And everybody’s got objectives, but the problem is the way they’re assessing. You can’t do this with paper and pencil tests. You can’t tell me – the thing is, I teach by teaching people to do the thing. To me, that’s everything. To do the thing, and understand the thing they’re doing. That’s success for me. Because I don’t care what your GPA is, I don’t care if you’ve got [unintelligible 00:30:58.25] That doesn’t mean you can do the thing. I don’t care [unintelligible 00:31:02.19] it doesn’t mean you can do the thing. I need to see you do the thing. That’s what I need to see.

Yeah. That’s deep. I mean, it’s kind of like a variation of learn by doing in a way too, because it’s like, you make them do, so they… You know what I mean? That’s an adage of how to learn on your own self, right? You learn by doing. And if you could do it, well then hey, you kind of know what you’re doing. You learn.

I think about the term expertise… You can only acquire it. You can take 1000 tests, you can go to 1000 class. You can only acquire expertise one way; that’s by doing the thing purposefully, over and over again. That’s the only place expertise comes from. And if expertise is our goal, we need to be focusing more on how to get them along that path, than how to have these artificial or subjective assessments.

Break: [00:31:58.03]

Are either of you familiar with Oppenheimer, Dr. Oppenheimer?

The physicist, yeah.

Right. Well, I recently – I haven’t gotten through the whole movie. It’s a three-hour movie. And other than knowing about the hydrogen bomb, and the atomic bomb, and knowing as just a person in culture in the last 100 years, aware of Dr. Oppenheimer, I’m not really that familiar with his life, and his work and whatnot. But in the movie, there’s something that happens scientifically that he says is not possible because the math says it’s not possible. But in the very next room, somebody proved the atom could be split, because they were doing the experiment. They were not doing the math calculation. So here’s one [unintelligible 00:35:35.02] and we know what he did, and we know that he – in lots of ways, he was a very brilliant man from a physicist standpoint, but in one room he’s doing the math and saying “No, that’s not possible”, and in the next room somebody’s done the work and proved that it is possible, and he’s just flabbergasted that the math didn’t work that direction, but yet somebody in reality can prove that they were splitting the atom, and here’s what happened with fission, earlier days of it and whatnot. So this is an example of somebody that’s really, really well known name-wise, and has introduced something into society that is profound, right? In one room saying not possible with math, next room it is possible, with doing.

That’s a great example. It’s funny you should mention this. A physicist is responsible for me not getting tenure at A&T. I bear him no ill will whatsoever.

Tell us more. Tell us more.

So I walked on water at A&T. I had the second-highest award, seven and a half million dollar award from the federal government in history of the school. Everybody just assumed tenure was a done deal. I’m an old head. I know the politics in university. Tenure is never a done deal. Never. So they had like a restructuring, and my dean who hired me, I did what my dean said… He got demoted. He fell out of favor. There was a coup d’etat.

Oh, no…!

And my side lost. And so this other dean who was a physicist, and a very well-respected physicist, he said “Well, we don’t need to be teaching mainframe, because it’s obsolete.” Mind you, at the time we had the highest average starting salaries on A&T’s campus. But off of my head, so I go in peace. It wasn’t personal. The man just didn’t understand what we were doing. He just didn’t understand it. He really didn’t.

Well, that’s a great way of looking at it, Cameron. I don’t know if I could look at it that way. [laughs]

What other ways you have of looking at it, Jerod? …that’s productive.

Well, you see, you put that qualifier in. “That’s productive.” I never said it was gonna be productive… [laughs]

See, you guys may have time for not productivity. I don’t. I’m too old, so everything I do has to be productive.

I gotcha. I gotcha. So back to the learn by doing thing, when I was at university, my best teacher - talking about profound teachers… My very best teacher was an adjunct. And it was a night class, because he was a databases guy, a practitioner… And he was out there, doing databases all day long, and then he came to our school and taught us databases. And I learned more from him in a night class, as an adjunct, than I did from any of my other teachers, who were full-timers, and they were doing the theory…

[00:38:13.19] And that taught me something, which is like “You’ve got to have your hands in the dirt.” I mean, you don’t have to, but I feel like the teachers who are active and are practitioners, day to day, pragmatics, using this stuff, they just have so much more working knowledge. Maybe less theory; maybe they have the theory as well… But for me, they have what makes a better teacher. I wonder if that resonates with you, or if you’ve found teachers that are the opposite of that…

You say “resonates”… You guys are psychic. So look, when I was at Georgia State in Atlanta, Georgia State was the only school in the town where you could get a master’s degree part time. Georgia Tech, Emery, Atlanta University, Mercer - y’all had to go full-time. Now, who are you gonna be taught by when you go to a full-time academic program? A bunch of academics that have been nothing but a professor. And there’s a place for that. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a place for that. But at Georgia State, all of my professors, they had day jobs. They were actually doing the thing. So I will submit to you, you can’t teach somebody how to dig in the dirt, unless you’ve dug in the dirt yourself. You can teach them how somebody else dug in the dirt, but you can’t teach them how to actually dig in the dirt, because you’ve not done it. And I’m still using that knowledge base today. 90% of what I learned, I learned from that program. These guys are good.

Gosh, I wish we could somehow – I mean, maybe even in bootcamps… I’m thinking beyond your bootcamps specifically, but a lot of teachers in more of a startup bootcamp ecosystem, if you will… A lot of these people are day to day practitioners, who then decide to teach. I mean, I did it for a little while myself, teaching web development… And for me, I was doing web development all day long, so I had that credential, and I had the legit real-world experience, but I didn’t really know how to teach very well. So I had that problem. Like, I didn’t have a PhD in education like yourself. And so a lot of us practitioners though, out there doing the work, with our hands in the dirt - we don’t necessarily know how to pass on our knowledge very well… And so there’s kind of a mismatch there.

No. And – I mean, that is a dilemma. And I don’t think you need a PhD to be a good teacher.

I know you don’t…

A lot of the best teachers I’ve had - some of them didn’t even have degrees, but that’s neither here nor there. How somebody can become a good teacher - I really can’t tell you. All I can do is tell you the books I’ve read… But a lot of people that are good teachers, they’ve read different books, or they haven’t read any books. So I don’t know. I can tell you how I became a good teacher. But I don’t know if that’s the way you’re gonna become a good teacher. I know the thing – the thing is just to make sure that you focus on the doing. You need to always be teaching them how to do the thing. There is a place for pure theory, there is a place for it. I’m not saying there isn’t. But Lord knows, the community I come from, we’ve had enough theory. We need some money. We need money.

Yeah, yeah.

I mean, theory is a great thing, but we need to get paid.

Right. So speaking of getting paid, on one of our clips we put out on YouTube of you from the last time was called “COBOL Programmers are aging out.” And it’s got some good comments on it… One of the things someone said a couple months ago - this is Joe Cooper 1703. He says that – and responding to the overall thrust of the video, which was you and I talking about how there’s nobody to replace a lot of these legacy programmers who are aging out of the program; like, this is why you’re doing your work. He says that salaries don’t reflect it. He says “COBOL has a much lower average salary than many other languages. It’s on the low end, down there with PHP, etc. I’d be happy to [unintelligible 00:41:36.22] hurt big iron, but I’d have to take a big paycut, too. If those giant companies need COBOL programmers so bad, they need to be willing to pay competitive rates.” Does that resonate with you? I don’t know if that’s true or false…

[00:41:51.12] I’m not gonna say it’s not true. But I will tell you this. I hear a lot of commentary about this. All I can tell you is what I know. The people that we’re training in the bootcamp, they’re going to start around 60k, and they’re gotta go to 80k within a year. So if that’s not rich, it’s not starving.

My students that are coming back in the field, there’s a season program, professionals - they’re getting between $60 and $75 an hour as contractors. That’s what they’re getting. I know other people may not be seeing the same numbers… When I see that people aren’t gonna make decent money from what I’m teaching, I’m gonna teach something else.

Now, I don’t know how [unintelligible 00:42:26.29] There is really not a shortage of COBOL programmers right now that people think there is. The people that need them just don’t know where they are. But there’s going to be. In 5 or 10 years there’s going to be, because nobody’s teaching COBOL. And these folks are retiring every day. And if you’re not teaching something, and somebody leaves, somebody’s gotta learn how to do that, and somebody’s gotta teach him how to do that. So…

So you think today’s training will be more valuable 5 to 10 years out, because –

I do. I can say that without reservation, because of the dynamics of it. People are retiring at one point, and people come into the industry at a much lower point. So the numbers are what they are. But if I didn’t believe that, I mean – and I’m open to data to the contrary, because the last thing I’m gonna do is mislead students. Enough of that has gone on.

But I’m just not seeing those bad numbers though. I’m not.

What is the working environment of one of these developers? Is it remote, work from home? Sometimes you’re attracted to an environment, and sometimes you’re attracted to a money outcome, or a financial outcome… 80 grand a year is not that bad of an income. It’s a really great income. But at the same time, if you’re a software developer you can go and get a quarter million dollar salary at a startup, or something that was just recently funded, doing different work. So maybe that’s this person’s commentary from that perspective…

I’m not trying to really go there necessarily, but I’m just kind of curious… If in 5 to 10 years there will be a shortage, that means we need to have more come into it, so that means there has to be desire to come into it, and potentially an environment where they’re in software development and call themselves a software developer, but then choose a lane that makes less money in comparison to other lanes they could choose to be in. So what is the environment? What are the opportunities? How does it work? Do they get great vacation? Are there other benefits? Like, what are the non-monetary, non-financial strictly salary speaking benefits of that environment for folks?

Great question. And I will tell you, I mean - and you make some great points, Adam, because 80 grand a year is not a lot of money for an experienced, seasoned developer. But I will tell you this - coming in the door, a lot of my folks have not written a lot of code. They’ve not written a lot of code. So it’s a great – it’s the only entree for them into the industry, into development.

Now, once they get there, once they get with Bank of America or wherever they’re going, that developer, they use the same tools that everybody else is using. They’re using Git, they’re using JIRA, they use all the big data stuff… Same tools. There’s one set of tools now, and one set of the development processes. Also, they work with applications that are talking to other languages: Go, Python, Java… So they are becoming, in the truest sense of the word, developers. And I’ve not seen one of my students that came in as a very – no matter what junior developer they were, they stayed in. And all these I’m talking about came in the mainframe side of the house. All of them are senior software engineers now. All of them. Not mainframe engineers. Senior software engineers at the enterprise level. So it can lead somewhere. It can lead to those other things. And I’ve got folks making 250k now. I’ve got people making 250k. But they’re architects, or they’re in sales. But the money’s there. I’m just trying to get them in the door. I buy the money argument, I buy the money argument, but then at the same time, when somebody says “Okay, they can make more money doing something else” - well, tell me how to place this person better then. If that’s true, tell me what better I can do with this person. Because this person has no background. If they don’t get in the mainframe door, then open another door for them. Let them in another door.

That’s interesting they haven’t written a line of code, though. You were saying before what makes them take the courses, you said “I don’t know what makes them take the course.”

But that was the other people. Those were the full-timers.

Yeah, those were students. Those were university students. They were taking the degree for credit, I don’t know. Yeah, the bootcamps - you find out the first day if it’s right for you or not. You find out day one. Six hours a day, five days a week.

So of the bootcampers, how many of those people are just – they sit down that first day, and then day two you don’t see them again?

We’ve lost two. We started out with 22, and we’re down to 20.

That’s not bad.

And we had 14 last time, and we lost two. But I don’t think we’re gonna lose any more. We have one young lady that’s lagging a little bit, but we’re working to catch up. everybody else is on par.

And how do you select them? How do they come in? Is it just whoever signs up, or is there a process?

In this case, it was done by my client, who is an apprenticeship intermediary. They select them. We were not involved in the selection process at all. And for this course it’s not problematic. When it becomes problematic, I’m gonna say, “Look, if I don’t select people, I’m not doing the bootcamp, because I don’t do failure. I don’t do failure.” But in this case, they selected. And they did a good job. I don’t know what the process is. I think they have some assessments and things… But the last time we had one little kind of high-level assessment, and then we just interviewed; we just interviewed a bunch of people. Because a couple of conversations with you are all I need to tell whether you can do this… Because the only thing you need to do mainframe is being able to read/write at the sixth grade level, and have a hell of a lot of determination. That’s it.

I love that.

Nothing else.

That’s a lot of people.

That’s a lot of people.

I was gonna ask you what kind of skill sets are required, because sometimes people have – they’re doing something that is lower value, let’s say, in the job economy, and they’re making less money, but the skills they’re gaining in those less valuable, less paying jobs can be transitioned to something else like this, where those skill sets transition easy, or they have learned something else that in a different application are worth way more. Can you point to other industries where people are like camping out in lesser paid jobs, lesser valued jobs, that would translate somewhat - not so much easy, in quotes easy, but have a path, a more viable path as part of like how well you know your students and where they came from?

You mean to mainframe or to something else?

To mainframe, to this in particular. Because you said a sixth grade education, reading education and determination.

Let me think of the non-tech people… Because a tech background always helps. But I’ll be honest with you, our last bootcamp it was full of comp-sci majors, but there was a woman who was a social work major, that ran rings around them. So a tech background plays a role somewhere. But your question was what industries do I see…?

More like where are people at now, where they don’t have that viable of a job, they’re not getting paid as much, that if they knew of where else to go, could apply their skills – like, what else are folks doing out there that are not getting rewarded well enough, and they can just go to a boot camp like this and reassign their determination to a new focus?

Well, I mean, you may have given me something to look at, because that is really a demographic that we hadn’t tried to identify. And maybe by default we have identified those people when we’re interviewing them, but I don’t identify them as being in a particular industry or something. If somebody’s doing something, they don’t like what they’re doing, and they’re getting some kind of marketable skills in what they’re doing, and they want to do something else. No, I can’t give you a job role, but I think I kind of understand what you mean.

What about the attributes of the social worker you mentioned? You said she ran rings around them. What are the attributes of that person? Not so much where they came from –

She listened. I don’t know if she was taking notes, but I would ask a question… “Okay, everybody, how do I create a dataset again?” And she would give me step by step. Room full of IT and comp-sci majors, everybody quiet. Now, maybe they knew it and they just didn’t want to answer. And she would do it over and over. And not only because she recited; she could actually do it. I don’t know how she did it, but she just paid attention. And she’s [unintelligible 00:50:13.21] now, in a lead role.

[00:50:17.08] But honestly, Adam, I really don’t try to figure it out that much. I know having good parents is good… Not necessarily money, but somebody who teaches you something about delayed gratification, and the seriousness of life… That’s true of just about all of our students. All come from people, somebody brought them up; not necessarily money, but somebody has taught them right from wrong, the basics.

Well, determination. I mean, that’s taught, to a certain extent. Some people I think maybe are born with it, I don’t know, more or less… But a lot of times you learn determination by example. You know someone in your life who’s over you, whether it’s your mother and father, or whoever; a boss, an uncle, a teacher… And this person is just not gonna give up. And you are alongside them growing up or whatever, and you see them, and then you see their success, and you’re like “Okay, that’s what success looks like.” It comes on the other end of this determination. And then you just do what people do, is you just start to mirror that in your own life, and then eventually you own it for your own… And I mean, I think it’s such a huge predictor of success, in so many aspects of life.

You’re absolutely right. And two cases. My ex wife, Adam, I’d mentioned - the courage… She’s fought brain cancer for 10 years. The courage she showed… You can’t witness that kind of courage, that kind of resolve, without it affecting you. And my maternal grandmother, who I watched go through serious health challenges living with us - never complained, never had a bad word to say about anything. She was a double amputee. She just wanted us to roll her out on the porch, so she could watch the squirrels playing in the trees. And when you’re around that, it affects you. At least it affected me.

So sixth grade education plus determination equals success in this program.

I mean, I feel like… Let’s get more people into this program, you know what I’m saying?

Absolutely. Hear, hear. And I will say this, because I know you guys are tech guys… I am playing with a bunch of different early models, like with middle school people and high school people, people that are reaching out to me… And there’s only 24 hours in a day, so I’m trying to work them in. But I’ll keep you guys [unintelligible 00:52:20.20] It’s not necessarily mainframe. We’re just trying to get them into thinking. This is all about thinking, solving problems. I’ll keep you guys posted about that.

That’s interesting.

Well, I just think if you have this vacuum coming, essentially, or I guess [unintelligible 00:52:34.16] really, in 5 to 10 years of a need, when folks do begin to further age out, and you’ve got less – like, you don’t have the problem now, but in the 5 to 10-year mark there’s a bigger problem where you have less incoming, you’d want to keep this program full. And not just market it for marketing’s sake, but for help’s sake.

There’s lots of people out there that choose a different opportunity, because the opportunities are limited. And so their choices are limited, and so they choose the best of what they’ve got available to them… Which is how kind of we all are… But if you can transition, if you’ve got this education – I mean, you can have this determination, too. I was gonna say, Jerod, you can probably teach them determination as well, if you can. Maybe prereq to this class is those skills that you mentioned, those attributes, but then maybe a week on determination, you know? [laughter]

It might take longer than a week, but I like the idea.

I do, too.

Break: [00:53:35.29]

I see that too in my life. There’s been times where I see my wife and she’s not quitting. And I’m not a quitter. I’m a resilient – I think I kind of am a resilient person. I can pretty much get through a lot of stuff. If there’s a hurdle, I figure out how to get over it, around it, under it, dig under it… Whatever it takes, if the goal is worth it, so to speak; the determination is required. But there’s times I’m ready to like “Okay, this is the wrong road. Let me turn around”, and my wife’s like “Nah, we’re gonna keep going down this route. I see where we’re trying to go here”, and she’s an example that. And there’s times that’s been the case, where – in other cases it’s been me.

There’s a – I guess it’s not really a philosophy necessarily, but it’s something we live by. More recently, in this last year, I kind of learned it even more myself - you never know unless you ask, in life. And so the example was we were just on this random drive… Out in Fredericksburg, here in Texas, there’s a place called Enchanted Rock, and it’s a national park. So you have to prereserve to get in there. It’s usually pretty busy. And we were just on the drive in the area, and we’re like “Oh, there’s Enchanted Rock. We should go check it out.” And the sign says “No vacancies.” You had to pre-register. Basically, don’t try to come in. The sign said this. And I’m a veteran, and so I was like “Okay, I can get into state parks”, because Biden passed something where you can get into state parks as a veteran with just your ID. And I’m like “Babe, let’s just – we want to go on this little family adventure. Let’s just go and ask.” And she’s like “No, the sign says this. I mean, this is what the sign says.” My wife is by nature a rule follower. Her mother was an educator, so I can tell you something… And she’s like “No, but the sign says this”, but I’m like “But babe, the sign can be wrong. The person that we talk to may look at this family and be like “No, they should come in here and have this adventure.” And we had the best time ever. So we made it through the gate. I’ll spoil the story for you. But we go up there, and my wife’s saying, she’s like “No, we can’t get in there. The sign says this.” I’m like “Let’s just try.” I’m like “You never know.” Before we went in, I was like – we’re in line, waiting to get to the tollbooth, so to speak… And I’m like “Babe, and kids in the back, you never know in life until you ask.” And it’s basically you never know until you try as well. You never know if you could do something in life unless you ask, or unless you try.

And so we get up there, and “Sir, how are you doing? Good to see you. Are there any openings?” “Yeah. Actually, we had two cancellations. So let me see your ID. Okay, go ahead. Park over there, you’re good to go.” Well, we had the best adventure. My kids climbed this massive rock, but it was pretty steep. Like, you would not want to fall down this thing. We would not have had that adventure, we would not have had the memories, nor the pictures, if I didn’t just go and ask. And if I’d have said in that moment, in the flip side, seeing my wife is so determined, and I’m sometimes a quitter, or want to turn round… In this moment, I’m the one who said “Hey, we don’t know unless we ask.” So I don’t know why I told you all that story, but that came to mind for me, because that was a moment where we would have not had these really precious memories from that adventure unless I just asked.

Your kids are never gonna forget that. Never.

It was the one of the best adventures ever. And we have that. We have photos of it, we’re on top of this mountain… My three-year-old - he was a three-year-old - climbed this mountain. We never thought he would – we thought he’d be like “I can’t go anymore”, pick this kid up and carry him. No, he was ahead of us as a three-year-old. And I’m like “Wow…!” I learned a lot about myself and my kids that day, and just generally, we just had so much fun. It was the best day ever.

[01:00:22.01] It’s a good story, with a good lesson.

I agree.

Is that your – there’s this jingling sound in the camera that I hear. It’s not a problem, but I’m wondering if it’s like – it sounds like a wind chime out there.

It is. The doors open for the dogs to go in and out.

Gotcha. It’s actually a pleasant sound. A lot of times we’d stop a show and say “Hey, can we not have this?” But it’s actually kind of a nice sound.

I thought it was like in Silicon Valley, Jerod, there’s a two and a half second song that Guilfoyle plays every time Bitcoin is not profitable enough to continue to mine.


“That’s the song “You Suffer” by Napalm Death.”

“Oh, yeah? That’s a whole song. It’s like a second.”

“It’s an alert, whenever the price of Bitcoin dips below a certain value; it’s no longer efficient to mine. When it comes back up, it is. So I need to know when it breaks that threshold, so that I can remotely toggle my rig at home.”

“Okay… Any idea how often that might happen?”

“Bitcoin is very volatile, so…”

“This is so loud…”

“A lot?”

“Good. Alright. Well, maybe turn it down, or something.”

[laughter] Only in Silicon Valley…

Oh, man…

Only in Silicon Valley.

And that’s kind of like a version of that. Maybe it’s like “Hey, a new developer entered the mainframe world, the chime goes off.”

Every time, a chime goes on… [laughs]

Another COBOL programmer is born.

Yeah, exactly.

On cue. Not even on purpose. That was on cue. I love that. What’s a good next step? I mean, you’re an educator, you’re leading folks… I mean, it’s got to be a fulfilling life that you’re doing.

It’s very fulfilling, yeah.

You said before you were unhappy, you were depressed, you had some time [unintelligible 01:02:01.25] How are you now? How do you feel about life now?

Never been happier. My state of mind has never been better in my entire life. I can’t remember a time in my life where I was more at peace with my existence, and more sure about what I’m supposed to be doing with my time, spending my time while I’m here. And for the future, I just want to do more bootcamps. I’m not trying to grow too big. I would like to expand them… I would like to open up something in India. I’m working on a business model – because we get requests from a lot of Indian individuals; not companies. But I don’t like to take money from individuals. I don’t mind taking money from companies. That doesn’t bother me a bit… Especially in India, where people don’t have a lot of money. But we’re working on a business model. Maybe you guys can help us work one out, I don’t know.

That’s interesting. What is the cost? What’s a normal bootcamp cost?

We can we can do them for 60k. We do them for 60k. More or less. I mean, it just depends on how much I need, and we can make a profit of that. Everybody makes [unintelligible 01:02:57.27] The companies don’t seem to mind, because they can train up to 20 people, so it’s cost-effective for them.

Right. I like that. You’re getting the company to pay for them, versus the individuals. Back when we started our deal back in 2013-2014 timeframe, it was all a business-to-consumer – it was all individuals. And that was always very difficult, because they’re having to come up with some cash up front, and then there’s other models we know that people tried, where you don’t pay until you get a job… With more or less success. But a lot of these bootcamps are expensive for individuals. But for a company - and they’re getting the value out of it. That’s a win/win/win.

Yeah. I mean, if they say that’s too much, I’m like “Okay, call us back next year, when it’s not too much. Because this price is right. This price is right.”

[01:03:47.21] Yeah. So in the areas that we run in, which is a lot of startups and big tech firms, there’s been a lot of trepidation lately. There’s been more layoffs, there’s been the release of more sophisticated AI programmers… Devin, the most recent one, made a wave online as being a more sophisticated code generation AI tool, that can kind of start projects from scratch, and code them up from scratch… So we’re all sitting here, thinking about our own jobs over the next 5 to 10 years, as working software developers. And a lot of people have gotten laid off, and there’s so much competition amongst even senior engineers who’ve gotten laid off, they’re having a hard time getting rehired. So people are out of work for extended periods of time. I’m wondering if you’ve seen any of that from your perspective there, if you’re feeling any of that, if there’s talk of, you know, “We don’t need another bootcamp, Cameron. We’re going to train an AI to do all of our COBOL programming for us”, or stuff like that.

No, I haven’t heard that. But I’ve heard of it in other sectors. I mean, one of the problems with COBOL for it to do AI is that so much of the business logic is embedded in the program that that got me really hesitant. There’s this general hesitancy to just refactor that… Because you’ve got to understand what those – particularly if you’re gonna move to another language. Using COBOL is less problematic, but… Just leave the COBOL code – just leave it alone. It’s fine. It’s fine. If you want to let the AI do an analysis of the code, it’s fine. Just leave it alone. It’s okay. It’s not hurting anybody.

Sure. What about like the mainframe – the people who are maintaining the mainframes now, and will be retiring over the next 5 or 10 years.

Oh, I’m not seeing AI touch the assistance programmers, the guys who’d actually write the assembler code that keeps everything together. I’m not seeing it touch them. I’m not seeing them in the least concerned. And maybe – look, I know probably less about AI than any other IT professor you find. So I’m trying to bring myself up to speed, but it’s even a little too fast for me. But I’ve not seen any concern on the part of the senior engineers on the mainframe side.


Not that there shouldn’t be any, but I’ve not seen it.

Yeah. Fair.

I would imagine, because of its age and depth, I wonder if documentation – like, how would an LLM really repeat or know so much. There’s gotta be a lot out there. But it’s also behind the doors. It’s proprietary in a lot of cases, so the LLM has to train on some sort of model to get there. But…

Adam, that is a good point. A lot of this stuff is in people’s heads. It’s just in their heads.

Right. It’s also like the most high-risk code. This is like financial transactions, where – I mean, there’s more high risk than finance, but it’s pretty high risk, right?

Yeah. It is. It is. I mean, it can do a lot of damage. I mean, there’s things with military and other code that is probably more lethal, but just financial stuff can cause a whole lot of problems. You don’t want to play with it.

Well, our Practical AI podcast guys did have Jack Shanahan, who’s a retired Lieutenant General from the JAIC, the Joint AI-something… I don’t know, high up in the DOD, and the National Security Strategy towards AI. Very fascinating episode. It’s in the feed for those who are –

Oh, I’ve gotta check that out.

Yeah, it’s really interesting. And they’re working their way… I mean, they’re working their way towards AI-enabled killer drones, but they start small. That’s the thing I learned, is start small, low-risk, easy to revert stuff, and slowly build from there. Don’t hop right into letting it run our credit card transactions, and stuff like that.

Well, you guys are kind of at the bleeding edge. What do you see? What are your concerns about AI? Because I think you guys see more than most of the population.

Well, I haven’t seen exactly what this new Devin tool can do… The demos are always very impressive, and yet they are demos for a reason…

They, are demos, yeah. [laughs]

[01:07:53.20] Yeah, they absolutely are. Especially prerecorded demos… I mean, don’t put too much trust into those. But what they are showing is the ability, at least with greenfield software projects, to take high-level instructions from a product owner, or it could be a programmer like myself, and say – my old thing that I always said is “When can I say “Make Facebook, but for dogs”? When we can say that and a program can code that up, then like pretty much I’ve been replaced as a software developer. But so far, it’s all been like assistive, right? It’s like making us move faster. “How can I write this function better? How do I not have to remember so much?” etc, etc. That’s all great. I think that’s probably – my personal take, I think that’s where this current stage of technology, with the transformer models, kind of stops; plateaus, and we just get better tooling based on the current LLMs. And there’s not another step change until we have some sort of new technology that comes out, that has a step change. I think that’s the case. But there are impressive enough demos where people are like “Hm… That’s pretty close to not needing a developer, at least for small greenfield projects.” And so maybe for startups, maybe for small businesses, they need less software help. That’s about what I’m seeing.

Where does quantum fit for you in with AI? That’s a scary combination.

Yeah, I don’t know, man… That’s where it gets beyond my paygrade.

[laughs] I mean, I’m getting my head around quantum physics; it’s not a pleasant experience. It makes my head hurt.

The most recent thing I’ve read about quantum is that the practical applications and usages are less broad as they thought it would be, and further away than they thought it would be.

I had some financial reversals, and I had to drive an Uber for gas money… And I had a Duke University doc student in quantum. And I know his professors, I hang out with Duke a lot. And he said “Yes, we’re not as far along as you guys think we are. Yeah, we’re not as far along as you think we are.” But, I mean, it’s coming. It’s coming. I don’t know when.

Well, three years ago we weren’t as far we could be as we are today with LLMs, and training models, and stuff like that either. I think it really does get, you know - back to Silicon Valley, to Guilfoyle’s advice to Jared. Sorry, not you, Jerod…

Oh, to Jared?

His name is Jared.

Not me Jerod.

Well, his real name is Donald. Donald Dunn. But everybody called him Jared; it’s a whole thing… He’s like:

“Someone tell me how to feel.”

“Abject terror for you. Build from there.”

I kind of feel like at some point quantum is gonna come around, and something will be applicable… And when it does, if we have paradigms of artificial intelligence, or just a least generation… I mean, someone was saying recently “I don’t know if I would call it intelligence. I would just call it like a repeater. Some sort of thing that can take something that has been done before and repeat a version of that that makes sense. And it’s up to the human to apply if it actually creates something of value”, which is really hard to consider… But if we do get into the quantum world, where it’s a whole new paradigm shift and we’re no longer bound by the status quo of what a computer is and it’s a whole new world, and there’s legitimate artificial intelligence out there that can be leveraged in that world, it’s gonna be pretty crazy.

I mean, mind you, in the ‘60s, a computer was something that fit in a room. You couldn’t conceptualize a PC being something you put on your desktop. It wasn’t even thought about.

Let alone in your pocket, or on your –

Much less in your pocket.

Or on your glasses…

Or your watch.

[01:11:35.20] Nowadays, computers have computers, right? I just had a conversation with Kyle Wiens from iFixit, and I knew these things, but there’s this idea of parts pairing. So inside of any given iPhone, the – well, I suppose even the touch ID version, there’s a parts pairing between that touch ID sensor and some other part within the iPhone. So you couldn’t just replace that one thing; you’d have to replace a larger piece of it, is the long story short. But the point is… What exactly is the point? [laughter] Gosh…

Ah, it’s Changelog & Friends, you don’t need a point.

What were we talking about? Gosh –

Well, you said computers have computers.

Oh yeah, thank you.

You’re welcome.

Gosh, I’m so knee-deep in explaining parts pairing that I forgot my point. Come on! Yeah, I mean, computers have computers. Essentially, you have a part that has its own smaller microprocessor that has a serial number and things like that, so when you pair it with another part, they essentially talk and say “Okay, well, because your part has a microcomputer in it, I can tell its serial number, I can tell what it should be. Okay, I reject that one, or I have a different way of working, or an alternate version of working; maybe slower clock speed, etc. because that part is “not verified”, because the microprocessor, the computer within the computer says “I’m not an OEM. I’m not an Apple original. You shouldn’t trust me”, kind of thing. Or the other part says “Because you’re not OEM or Apple original, I can’t trust you, and operate the same way. So therefore, I operate in a degraded way.” Which I think is just so interesting. Like, your computer literally has its own computers within it. It’s kind of crazy to think about. But thanks for getting me back on track there, Jerod. I was lost for about a second there.

[laughs] I couldn’t tell.

Parts pairing, man… Parts pairing is interesting. That was a good conversation there.

We were there with you. We were like “Here comes the big point.”

Here comes the big point. Well, you know, any given reason…

Well, good to hear that there’s not major things going on from your perspective in your particular sector.

That I hear about.

Yeah, I mean there’s –

That I hear about.

…less the AI stuff right now, I think, and more that just paired with the fact that there’s a lot of trepidation around jobs, just in big tech and in startup land, in Silicon Valley area.

Of course, of course.

And so a lot of people are hurting right now, and it’s been – it was weird, because we thought we were kind of coming out of it in terms of end of last year, coming into January, things were looking up… And the market has never been better, they keep telling us this; you can look at the numbers, and they’re all big. But the layoffs are still happening, the work conditions are still not great, opportunity is scarce… And a lot of very talented people are out of jobs, which means they’re all fighting for the same jobs. And that’s tough.

For young calves like you, out there still in the wars, that’s gotta make you real uneasy. I could care less. I’m at my last stop. This is where I’m gonna be. Well, I leave here, you’re gonna find me right here. So I’m gonna be right here. But, I mean, it’s got to be a concern. Because you don’t know – coupled with AI, and the economic stuff, it’s just a very unpredictable landscape. One doesn’t even know what skills to acquire; you don’t even know what skill set. “Can I sell this…?”

Well, last year everybody was talking about prompt engineering was going to be a new skill that everybody needs to learn, and now it’s like, weren’t we already doing that with our Google prompts? We were already prompting Google for what we want. Now we’re just prompting something else. And of course, it is something you have to get good at. The best developers and the best tech people know how to find the answer to their solutions more than they know all the solutions, right?

Right, right.

So being able to find answers is part of that determination. So of course, yes, you need to learn how to engineer the prompts in order to get out of the language models help that you need to do your job… But people were acting like that was going to be a new career path, is like prompt engineer. That lasted like six months as a career path, and now everyone’s like “Nah, it’s just part of everything else.” And so what do you learn? Maybe you just go learn mainframes, I don’t know.

[01:15:42.05] Well, I can tell you that. I could tell you, they’re gonna need mainframes. But I really don’t know. I mean, to get people to – if I were to advise somebody today, I don’t know… I would come to you guys. What should they study?


What should they learn? I say “Linux and Python. Can they still sell Linux and Python?” I mean, I know Linux and Python, but I don’t know what else they should learn. I mean, what should they learn?

In one sense, things are changing at all times, but in another sense, things build on top of other things. And I don’t think Linux or Python are bad bets for the next decade. Do you? I mean, I just don’t think they would be.

I really don’t.

Where can you apply Linux knowledge specifically in the market?

I don’t know if it’s that much the Linux skills specifically, Adam, but I will expand it to cloud skills. And I don’t think you could acquire cloud skills without understanding Linux. You might be able to.

At that point isn’t it simply just APIs and interfaces, and I suppose determination, because you’re willing to get past that certain things?

I agree.

[unintelligible 01:16:43.27] removed from Linux, you may have the understanding of maybe even like kernel things, or which flavor of Linux suits the best task… I just wonder, because –

No, I can’t disagree with you at all, because being a heavy AWS user, that’s because before I ran my bill up so high I couldn’t afford to pay it… But I’m like, okay, I would not know how to teach an IT curriculum today, because I would teach them these constituent technologies separately, like database, web, programming… But here, they use them all together; with, like you say, a series of APIs, and tools, and stuff. So I don’t know how far they have to drill down. I can’t answer that question, I really can’t.

Well, we’re starting to see the pendulum swing back away from the cloud.

Yeah. There’s that, too. There’s that, too.

There’s a lot of pushback. I think it’s just like people getting tired of the bill, maybe… Like, why keep paying the rent, when you can own it? I think there’s that aspect of it. And then there’s this aspect of like “Well, the control even.” Just literally giving several small – not small companies; a small handful of very large companies the lion’s share of the influx of dollars going into what is called the cloud… When the cloud is simply what you can make of it, in some cases. You can get your own rack and stack servers, you can collocate… You can do a lot of stuff, if you’re willing to put in the work of literally sourcing the server, buying it… Now, your responsibility layer’s grown; you no longer have to just be responsible for certain things beyond the API; you have to be responsible for the actual machine itself, and stuff like that. And maybe you’re willing to take that risk on. But that’s really what the cloud’s promise is, is “Let’s just give you a working thing. You never have to worry about it. APIs have SLAs, and SLOs, and we adhere to those… You pay us X dollars, but–” I mean, there’s lots of examples out there where you’re overpaying over years for cloud when you can be on-premming.

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Now, what form is this pushback taking? Are they going back on prem, or are they looking for other models? …maybe a regional model, where companies share a location, or something. What manifestation is the pushback, other than just words?

So there are some companies - and a lot of them are, I would say, a small handful with loud voices - who are actually taking their infrastructure out of the cloud, back on prem, and building… They’re racking and stacking servers, and they’re doing Linux administration… And they’re doing all that stuff that –

That’s a revoke. That’s a revoke there.

Yeah, exactly. And they’re doing that almost purely for cost savings. I would say that’s their primary motivation. And the cost savings are significant if you are in that group of people who have a stable business, with known growth trends… Because the cloud provides a lot of things, but the main thing it gives, especially for startups, is that dynamic scaling. You know, scale it up, scale it out, scale it back down again… That’s really powerful for companies who don’t know what their server demand is going to be. So that’s one.

And then there’s also this movement of taking cloud APIs to either your own hardware, or to collocated and cheaper VPS-style infrastructure. So now you’re still – everything we learned about the dynamic scalability of cloud APIs and AWS and others have given us, what if we could use those same APIs, but build them on our own hardware, for instance? That’s another movement. And that one’s about – I think it’s also about probably privacy plus cost, but without losing a lot of what the cloud provides. It’s trying to have the best of both worlds, I guess.

[01:20:19.21] Well, this is not a total analogy, but it is somewhat analogous… 20 years ago I was at the Hartsfield airport in Atlanta when I joined [unintelligible 01:20:26.25] everybody was a contractor; contracts with various companies. He brought all the function in-house. The database, the network, and everything in-house, and saved a ton of money. Now, it’s not the same as cloud, but it was kind of the same principle. You’ve been farming this stuff out to contractors, and we’re gonna bring it all in house… And he saved a ton of money.

Yeah, I mean, there’s advancements happening there… I think even with integration layers, between – even networking is probably a big deal for cloud, right? If you can have your database talk to your application server on the same network at a higher speed, that’s probably worth it. We experienced – what was the latency we had, Jerod, with Neon? We had like a little bit of latency that we were okay with, because we call it out to our database, versus having it like literally in the same network, in the same stack, basically. That’s an example, to some degree; that’s still cloud-based, but…

Yeah, it is. But yeah, amplify that a couple of thousand times and you can see.

Yeah, same concepts. So there’s another fella, Ben Ubois, with Feedbin, which is a business that runs an RSS reader service… And he’s a small business. I mean, I think he’s got himself plus maybe an employee. But he went completely out of the cloud, to his own on-prem infrastructure, and it was a project that took him months to do… And his primary reason wasn’t money, although he saved money doing it over the long run; it was worth the investment, because it paid itself off. His reason was because he could just eke out way more performance out of hardware that was not cloud-based hardware. And again, knowing exactly what his application is doing, intimately understanding the needs of his application; is it write-heavy, is it read-every? How much is it hitting the database? etc. He could build custom infrastructure that just works great for Feedbin, and makes it way faster, and then it makes a better product. So that was another reason why he did it. But you know, we’re just telling a few stories here. None of this is like a massive migration away. The cloud’s huge.

Understood, but you have given me the first I’ve heard of tangible technical specificity… But I’ve heard some rumblings, some grumblings… You know, “Costs, costs, costs…” But you told me specifically kind of what was going on. I mean, you see what you see. Everything’s ad hoc until it’s not.


Well, if you’re not in the cloud, where are you…?


Learned a lot today. I knew I would.

As did I. As did I.


Well, you know, when folks like us get together, somebody’s gonna learn something.

That’s right. That’s right.

Alright, thanks, Cameron.

It was a lot of fun. Thanks, Cameron.

Bye, friends.

Bye, friends.


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