In the lower ranks of the MIS world, sorting out job titles is a nearly impossible task. Some folks are called Analysts. Some are called Programmers. Some are called Engineers. None of them has an office with an window.
So I have listed — from lowest to highest in order of prestige — and described the 10 most commonly used job titles in a data processing shop.
A truly experienced high-tech professional has held five or even six of these positions…usually all at the same time.
This person holds the lowest rank in the DP field. Manages no one. Answers to everyone. Approximately 50% of the Programmer’s time is scheduled for testing. Another 50% is spent filling out time cards and progress reports. Any time left over is spent attending classes on technologies that will never be used in the shop. The Programmer is appraised on code quality and reliability. Never has time to write any. Hopes to, someday, be promoted to Systems Analyst.
9. Systems Analyst:
The Systems Analyst refuses to code anymore. Designs new systems. Writes specs for new systems. Devises procedures and work flows for new systems but ends up training users on how to get by with the old ones. Next in line for Team Leader position.
8. Team Leader:
A Team Leader manages one project. Doesn’t know why he’s not called Project Leader; that’s what he has on his resume.
7. Project Leader:
Manages several projects at once. Analyzes Gantt charts from the Team Leaders’ projects. Coordinates schedules from the Team Leaders’ projects. Monitors deliverables from the Team Leaders’ projects. Has absolutely no idea what any of the Team Leaders’ projects are about. Wants to be a programmer again.
The Operator wields powers that the Project Leader can only dream about. Makes Programmers beg for tape drives. Makes Analysts beg for disk space. Makes Team Leaders beg for printouts. Has an uncanny understanding of career potential in the data processing industry. Going to law school at night.
5. Systems Programmer:
Even an Operator wants to be a Systems Programmer. A Systems Programmer has the authority to wipe out disk packs without warning. Crash the system during user demos. Make new releases appear, then disappear, then reappear again, especially during month-end processing.
No one really knows what the Database Administrator does, and no one is smart enough to know if the DBA is doing it or not. But every shop must have one DBA, because no place can afford two of them.
The Manager is sometimes called a Director. Or an Assistant Vice-President. Or an Account Manager. Has completely lost touch with any facsimile of technology. Wants to finish next year’s budget. Wants to finish last year’s appraisals. Wants to learn the names of some of the Programmers. But instead, only has time to interview job applicants, especially DBAs.
2. Department Secretary:
The Programmers have word processing. The Managers have electronic mail. Everyone has automatic phone messaging. This leaves the Department Secretary with all kinds of time to manipulate, control and dispense the three most basic employee needs: paychecks, rumors, and supplies. Can make copier self-destruct just by going to lunch.
1. Contract Programmer:
A Contract Programmer doesn’t have to wear a nice suit. Or go to meetings. Or fill out time cards. Or keep complaints to himself. He can make all the mistakes he wants. He doesn’t get benefits. He doesn’t get training. He doesn’t get respect. But after years in the trenches, the Contract Programmer will finally achieve the ultimate goal in the profession: He will be able to make impossible deadlines with inadequate resources for desperate managers by putting in all kinds of extra hours… and will be paid overtime for every one of them.