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With the average organization losing 23 percent of its mainframe staff over the past five years, according to a 2018 Compuware-commissioned Forrester study, many are now recruiting millennials to build a new workforce of next-gen mainframe developers.

The time has come for young programmers to take the mainframe under their wings, carry forth the message of how important and powerful it is and drive innovation on the platform. There are large opportunities for next-gen mainframe developers, and many actually enjoy working with it.

For perspective on what it’s like to be a next-gen mainframe developer, we interviewed Dominic Harrison, a software developer at Lloyds Banking Group, during Compuware’s recent Enterprise DevOps Forum in London. Dominic is working on mainframe development projects for the bank’s Community Bank, Retail and Consumer Finance systems, and after experiencing Waterfall development with ISPF, he is now on a transformational DevOps journey with the bank that is modernizing its mainframe development culture, processes and tools.

Q1. What was your view of the mainframe before you started working with the platform?

I didn’t really know what the mainframe was before I started working with it. It’s the computing power behind a lot of important things, but I’d not heard a lot about it and had no experience with the languages we use on it. So, at that time I had no view at all.

Q2. What skills did you have before starting on the mainframe, and how did you develop your skills afterwards?

My background wasn’t particularly in software development, but I’d used things like Python and JavaScript before. My degree was in physics actually, so I had lots of problem-solving skills, but not so much development skills. In some ways I was a fairly blank canvass coming to the mainframe, so it was interesting that the first significant software development I was doing was on there. I picked up a lot of skills, learned to build programs that were dealing with quite sensitive data and important processes. But it did feel kind of backwards in a way.

Q3. What makes mainframe development interesting for you today?

It’s the fact that it’s such a strong and reliable system; the fact that a lot of companies still choose to use it. Banks and big insurance companies still choose to use it, despite its age, and that’s quite interesting. For me personally, when we made the change to use an integrated development environment (IDE)—in our case Topaz Workbench—it became a lot more interesting and exciting because it finally felt like we were working on a modern, interactive system rather an old 1960s computer. Having such stable, reliable computing but being able to use an IDE makes it quite unique, and like I said, it is different and quite niche compared to what my developer friends are doing. I think there’s something quite cool about that.

Q4. What were your expectations when you started working with the mainframe?

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