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Daniel, Senior COBOL Developer, on Mastering Your Software Craft

Daniel Vrannai joined Fortech 10 years ago. He saw the company’s growth from 100 to almost 1000 colleagues and is proud to leave a mark in this story.

Get a glimpse #BehindTheCode. Discover Daniel’s career journey and the Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) System he is working on. Learn about his passion for solving complex technical challenges and the joy he found in mastering the software craft he’s building.

Can you please tell us a bit about yourself? What are your studies, hobbies, passions?

Looking down at my beer belly, I laugh remembering that once I was as skinny as a stick. I was the top athlete in my school, played basketball, volleyball and practiced martial arts for 7 years. While these passions remained an echo of the past, I can definitely say I was a geek from a young age and until now. 😊

My father bought his first computer when I was 3. I grew up playing computer games and learning software development. When I was 6 years old, I wrote a mini-program in QuickBASIC, just for fun. Later in high school, I found out that I was really good at writing algorithms and had problem-solving skills. I experienced a drop-out while in college, which I am not proud of. But it was a slightly depressive chapter in my life, and I had to find something to help me get myself together. That anchor was Fortech.

What do you do at Fortech? Please describe your career journey and your current role.

10 years ago, I started as a Junior COBOL Developer at Fortech, having my father as a colleague. Guided by him, I learned the basics of COBOL in a week. After that, I applied for the job and got accepted. In the first years of my journey at Fortech, I brushed up my SQL skills (DB2) and learned some IBM technologies like TSO, JCL, and MQ. With every task I’ve completed, I accumulated more and more business know-how about the project.

I frequently traveled to Germany, some of them taking up to 4 weeks. The main objectives were knowledge-sharing and building a strong and trusting relationship with the client.

Working with a niche technology, I was responsible for many tasks which were proof of concept (PoC) type for me, as I found nothing similar done before. The understanding of the legacy code came with a lot of challenges. But I can say that the struggle was worth it, as I managed to grow professionally and am currently mastering this area. I know exactly how to solve almost every task, and the client sees me as an expert on the project. It’s a great feeling to realize that you can master your software craft.

Tell us a bit about the software project you are currently working on.

I’m working on a Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) System. Our client is a well-known German car manufacturer with factories worldwide and many systems that serve a particular scope. Our project is about the central system that all the other systems are connected to. It documents the entire lifecycle of the cars from design to production, and finally, maintenance and spare parts. It is a long-term, critical project, that must be stable and available all the time.

It also needs new features and continuous improvement, so the manufacturer can maintain a leading position on the market.

What’s the project’s tech stack like?

The data is stored on the “Host” (this is how we call the IBM Mainframe) in a DB2 database system. Almost the entire business logic is coded into COBOL programs that run on the Host and serve a Java client for data visualization and manipulation, or run periodically as a batch for mass data processing. We also have Java EE on the server-side for authentication and for taking over bits of the back-end processing for new functionalities.

What are your favorite and most challenging things about this project?

My favorite areas of the project are the design and implementation of complex tasks. As a back-end developer, I am dealing with data structures for storing data and algorithms for retrieving and manipulating data. I love solving complex tasks. The more complex the task is, the better. And SQLs, complex SQL queries.

The most challenging part comes from legacy code and lack of specifications.


Tell us more about your team.

My team is awesome. We are all proactive and strive to do our best to meet the deadlines and the quality standards on the project. We also have each other’s back, so if one falls with a task behind (due to underestimation), the others jump in and help finish it.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we used to have a really great time in the office, at team events and casual beer evenings. If you were visiting Fortech’s headquarters and saw people shooting each other with nerf guns in the hallway, then… yup, it was us!

A postcard from Daniel and his team.

What’s next in your career journey?

Although it is easy for me to write COBOL code and it was a good opportunity to learn the vast business logic behind the project, I think it’s time to move further and discover new #perspectives in my professional development. Currently, I am transitioning to the Java server-side, where I can use my business know-how about the project and have more time to improve my technical skills. I will discover how to solve the needs using Java instead of COBOL. I just learned that there is also a concept for a person capable of doing many things and expert in at least one. I guess I am starting to look T-Shaped now.

What advice would you give to someone interested in joining Fortech?

I think the numbers speak for themselves. I saw Fortech’s growth from 100 to almost 1000 colleagues in 10 years, so I am sure a lot of things are done right here. Although the organization is pretty large now, I can still see the influence of the old core.
I find a friendly and relaxed atmosphere here, with people doing fun stuff together and caring for each other. The facilities are good. When people need something, they get it without much paperwork and hesitation. Once I requested a traction bar for fun so that I could exercise during the lunch breaks. To my surprise, I found it installed in the garage.

I also think that the 3 core values of the company are met: respect, reliability, and striving for excellence. This makes Fortech a stable and pleasant place to work.

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