James Gosling Opines about Tugboats and Job Security

Consider yourself lucky if you ever get the chance to have a conversation with the father of Java, James Gosling.

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One of the things you'll find when you speak with him is that if you don't interrupt him, and give him a chance to speak, he'll simply continue talking, which is great, because with his wealth of experience and history in the industry, he'll end up giving you all sorts of insights and opinions that you probably weren't expecting to hear.

Gosling at TSSJS 2011

At TheServerSide Java Symposium in Las Vegas this year, James was talking about a developer who had messed up a system so bad that nobody else would ever be able to understand it, at which point the Evil Tyrant Owner of the JavaRanch, Paul Wheaton, yelled out from the audience "Now that engineer has job security!" You can just barely make out Paul's words at the beginning of the adjacent audio, but if you listen carefully, you'll be able to hear him out.

"Now that engineer has job security!" - Paul Wheaton 

Anyways, that got James going on a completely peripheral topic about job security and the retirement program his Uncle managed to secure for himself with the Beachcombers on the shores British Columbia.

Turning your mistakes into job security

"Many mistakes turn into job security and it's not as though job security is an IT thing. I had an uncle who was an engineer; he worked for a lumber company. He was the head engineer for a lumber company in British Columbia and they would buy tugboats and barges and things." Says James.

Anyways, it's vintage Gosling, demonstrating his knack for being able to spin an interesting yarn on just about any topic, including the art of welding tug boats for Canada's lumber industry.

Listen to the adjacent audio of the father of Java, James Gosling, talking about creating your own job security. The transcript of the discussion is below.

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Read the full text transcript from this video below. Please note the full transcript is for reference only and may include limited inaccuracies. To suggest a transcript correction, contact editor@searchsecurity.com.    

Paul Wheaton (yells from the crowd): Now that engineer has job security!

James Gosling: Yeah, many mistakes turn into job security, and it's not like that job security is an IT thing.

I had an uncle who was an engineer and he worked for a lumber company. He was the head engineer for a lumber company in British Columbia and they would buy tugboats and barges and things. Of course the people who made these things didn't really make them for lumber companies so he would go on board and have a happy weekend with a welding torch and rebuild the guts of these tugboats. When he retired the lumber company realized nobody knew how to repair anything on this entire fleet of ships; he had a bunch of folks who worked for him but he was the one who really knew what had to be done. So they brought him back from retirement, quadrupled his salary and all he had to do was sit around and tell people how to do stuff. It was the greatest retirement plan ever.

There’s a certain seduction to that and lots of folks in the IT world get there. Certainly the beaches of Mexico are covered with retired COBOL programmers who are sort of living off of their emergency retainers. "Help! We've died!" Then they go back. Fix something. Go back to the beach. It's a good plan.

Probably not someplace you would want to intentionally go if you're managing an IT site, but if you're an engineer it's good work if you can get it. I wasn't that clever.


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