COBOL & ChatGPT
Open.AI’s ChatGPT has captured the attention of techies since its launch on November 30, 2022. I’m a techie, and I’ve spent these past few weeks musing about how new technologies make me want to quit.
My 30+ year career journey has taken me from COBOL to ChatGPT.
If you haven’t heard of COBOL, that’s ok. Just think of it as the stage shortly after we hired “computers” to do complex mathematical calculations (have you seen Hidden Figures?). According to Wikipedia, “COBOL was designed in 1959 by CODASYL and was partly based on the programming language FLOW-MATIC designed by Grace Hopper, who was a badass” (ok, that last part wasn’t in Wikipedia, but have you seen her David Letterman interview?).
If you haven’t heard of ChatGPT, it’s an artificial intelligence chatbot you can “talk” to by writing your question, or a request for content, and it will respond with very sophisticated answers, or content (high school essays, code snippets, songs, etc.).
Here’s what I’ve learned by not quitting.
“A career in tech is interesting and a great opportunity — AND, it can be exhausting!” — me, to my mentees
It’s exhausting because there’s always something new to learn and sometimes my brain is just FULL. That’s when I consider other options…
- At the start of my career, when implementing a new enterprise software platform felt stressful, I imagined switching places with the person who watered the plants.
- More recently, I considered learning pond maintenance rather than predictive AI (Artificial Intelligence).
- Now, I’m talking to ChatGPT’s generative AI and wondering if I’m too old to be a ski bum.
“No, it’s never too late to enjoy skiing and being a ski bum! Many people ski well into their golden years and continue to have a great time on the slopes.”
It’s good to have options, even in my “golden years”. 😂
Not quitting (yet) means I’m always learning. At ServiceNow, I’m on the Learning Experience and Innovation team. We experiment with new technologies to help people learn: video branching tools, automated speech generators, virtual reality (full disclosure: I had my 16 year old son set up my Oculus headset — I can’t wait to see what his generation invents!).
Now it’s ChatGPT: how can we leverage its power for good?
Using Your Power for Good
I’ve seen a lot of posts (and podcasts) with examples of how to use ChatGPT. It’s inspiring! I love the creativity and the potential for making day-to-day work easier.
Brian Oblinger, Strategic Community Consultant, used ChatGPT to write a job description for a Community Professional (In Before the Lock podcast, Ep 99). It saved him time by producing a starting point he could tweak for a specific role.
Poornachander Kola, ServiceNow Certified Master Architect (CMA), shared a developer tool that gets code/suggestions from ChatGPT for ServiceNow. Another great way to save time.
But it was #14 in Mark Shaefer’s 20 Entertaining Uses of ChatGPT You Never Knew Were Possible that inspired me the most:
14. Reduce bias
Author Joanne Taylor knows how difficult it is to separate embedded biases in her writing. In this post, she asked ChatGPT for help with ideas.
Specifically, I asked ChatGPT to check a text I entered for racial bias and it seemed to do an excellent job.
How can this new power be used to create more inclusive tech communities? Could I use ChatGPT to reduce bias in job descriptions? Training courses? Marketing materials? Community posts? THIS BLOG POST (see below)?
What Have I Learned?
It’s important to know:
- how do YOU learn best?
- what do YOU enjoy?
Everyone will tell you the BEST way to learn the BEST career. But it’s only the best if it’s the best for YOU.
I rarely complete an online learning course but I almost always complete a podcast. I have a hard time reading non-fiction but love historical fiction books, and movies (have I mentioned Hidden Figures?). I enjoy learning new enterprise app building platforms, if I can get a free account and bang around by myself. I did this a lot when I was job hunting (loudly sharing my opinions of “other people’s platforms” with my dog).
What I Enjoy
Yes, I’ve seen the memes about “do what you love and the money will follow” but if you are making a decision about a new career, check in with yourself to understand what parts of the technology or business problems light you up and what parts are a drag. Caveat: No job is fun all the time — I’m sure that pond skimming and ski bumming are not fun in bad weather, and there’s always some boring paperwork to do in every job — but ideally you’ll find a career where you enjoy the bulk of the work.
Learning something new is always worth it. Remember that enterprise software implementation I did instead of watering plants? That was PeopleSoft. I learned the platform deeply enough to hit the edges of its capabilities, and had to talk to the product manager. That connection led me to my first tech company role!
Where to Start?
Whether it’s learning a new technology to expand your skills (already know Salesforce? Those same customers probably have ServiceNow!), or pivoting into tech from another industry (if you can problem-solve in a direct customer service role, dealing with technical problems will seem easy!), start by being curious:
- What can this technology do for me, for a business, for the world?
- What career options will I have if I learn it?
- Are those roles something I’d (mostly) enjoy doing all day?
Then consider the type of learning that works best for you. Search for online courses, meetup groups, podcasts, videos, actual real physical books, etc. Chances are, you’ll find other folks are trying to learn that skill your favorite way, too.
Now get started & stick with it! If you get stuck, build something & go to coffee — or, ask ChatGPT. 😉
p.s. Things I asked ChatGPT to do…
Review this text for racial bias <I pasted in this blog post>.
I did not find any instances of racial bias in the provided text. The text discusses the use of a chatbot called ChatGPT and how it can be used to reduce bias in various contexts, such as job descriptions and training courses. The text also mentions the historical figure Grace Hopper and the movie “Hidden Figures,” which highlights the contributions of Black women to the field of science and technology.
Write a COBOL program to generate a report.
Not only did it write the program, it explained what the sections in the program did. (hmmm, could we use this power to document our code?)
Recommend the best career for me.
I’m sorry, but I do not have enough information to accurately recommend a career for you. Choosing a career is a very personal decision that depends on many factors, including your interests, skills, values, and goals. It might be helpful to reflect on what you enjoy doing and what you are good at, and then research careers that align with those strengths. You could also consider seeking guidance from a career counselor or taking career assessments to help narrow down your options. Ultimately, the best career for you is one that allows you to use your strengths and passions to make a positive impact in the world.