Here is a nice article from the WSJ yesterday on uptraining mainframe programmers as the credit card industry moves towards the cloud. The backdrop: TSYS and the thriving metropolis of Columbus, Georgia.
I visited the TSYS campus many times; it is one of my favorite business trips. 100 miles from Atlanta takes you out of the hustle and bustle, and if you are driving north from Florida, you pass through Fort Benning, a significant military base.
The best hotel in town is a Marriott, which is in a converted grists mill, and as you enter the TSYS corporate office, you get another flair for history with the primitive calculating computer in the office lobby. The corporate boardroom overlooks Phenix (sic) City, Alabama, a river town on the Chattahoochee.
Enough history. The story of the day is what do you do in a remote town when a high-tech payments company begins to shift its technology to the cloud. TSYS chose to retrain. More than nice; good for all.
- Warren Atchley, 59, spent more than 30 years working with mainframe databases, technology that many in his field call “the dinosaur.” Then, about three years ago, he found out his job risked extinction.
- His employer, TSYS, one of the world’s biggest processors of credit-card and other cashless payments, was future-proofing its business with a shift away from mainframes to the cloud—and asked its aging workforce to do the same. Mr. Atchley considers himself an avid learner but was still wary.
- he Alabama native attended a town hall meeting in 2017 with nearly 400 co-workers, many over 45, and asked executives whether he would ever get to use the intense retraining his bosses wanted him to take on.
- “Or am I the old sheepdog you’re going to take out back and shoot in the head once you’ve got some young puppies ready?” he said.
It ain’t cheap, or easy, but it is worth it.
- From banking to manufacturing, entire industries are embarking on a digital transformation akin to the industrial revolution of the 19th and early 20th centuries, but at a much faster speed.
- Getting the kind of workforce needed to survive in a more automated world will require companies to retrain—or replace—tens of millions of midcareer workers, labor economists say.
- People in all sorts of jobs will have to learn entirely new skill sets or risk obsolescence, even in the autumn of their careers.
There is mutual benefit.
- Many companies opt to replace people rather than invest in retraining. Two-thirds of U.S. executives recently surveyed by McKinsey & Co. said they anticipated new technologies would upend the jobs of 25% of their workers over the next several years. More than a third said they would mostly hire new workers with the skills they need.
- The trouble is, “you just won’t find enough of them,” Mr. Kerr said, especially in a labor market already in short supply of emerging high-tech skills such as cloud-computing and artificial intelligence.
- That was a problem for TSYS, based in a former textile-mill hub 100 miles southwest of Atlanta. The company’s geography, and its lack of a tech brand like an Amazon or Google, made it challenging to recruit the thousands of cloud-skilled workers it would need. So TSYS turned itself into a laboratory for reskilling a workforce en masse.
It isn’t cheap to retrain but it keeps corporate history intact.
Some new-product launches for clients were delayed as the first team of retrained engineers had to do their new jobs while also helping retrain the second and third waves of co-workers behind them. Having employees pull double duty, though, meant TSYS spent just $1.5 million a year to reskill.
And, this keeps corporate history intact. Old coders never die…
Overview by Brian Riley, Director, Credit Advisory Service at Mercator Advisory Group