IT Management

Callout: Over half of the 376 companies surveyed indicated they’re planning to hire new mainframers straight out of college or university, but they have concerns that these employees won’t be fully prepared to take on mainframe responsibilities.

The journey to a bright future for the mainframe and large enterprise computing community is clearly under way! This realization hit me during SHARE in Anaheim this past February in the middle of a meeting with Dayton Semerjian, head of CA Technologies Mainframe business, and members of the SHARE board of directors, including SHARE president Janet Sun. One topic being discussed was initiatives to build and enable a new generation of mainframers.

At one point, Ray Sun (deputy director of Marketing for SHARE) referred us to a SHARE survey, sponsored by IBM and produced by Unisphere Research, titled “Closing the IT Skills Gap: 2011 SHARE Survey for Guiding University & College IT Agendas”  (www.share.org/LinkClick.aspx?link=69&tabid=36). Over half of the 376 companies surveyed indicated they’re planning to hire new mainframers straight out of college or university, but they have concerns that these employees won’t be fully prepared to take on mainframe responsibilities.

Of course, it would be easy to point to all the new, graphical, browser-based and role-based solutions available to respond to these concerns. But the fact is, you still need people to have a clear grasp of how the mainframe functions as a cornerstone of modern business. That includes an awareness of how the mainframe works, how to manage it, and of the culture of scrupulous computing that has been so essential to the qualities of service that we now take for granted. But new mainframers have to do more than think about it; they have to live it.

To help address these concerns, during his SHARE keynote in February, Semerjian announced a $1 million scholarship for SHARE to award to new mainframers so they can enhance their capabilities by attending CA Technologies Mainframe Academy, an accelerated, vendor-agnostic, eight-week immersion in mainframe essentials, concluding with a certification test (learn more at www.ca.com/lpg/mainframe-academy.aspx).

So, new mainframers are being hired, and there are opportunities for them to become quickly effective with programs such as the Mainframe Academy. The only missing piece is for them to become active participants in the global mainframe culture and community; they can do this by participating in associations like SHARE, to relate and learn about experiences that bring together best practices from around the world.

That’s why Janet confirmed that these new mainframers would be given a presentation about SHARE near the end of each Mainframe Academy session and offered the SHARE student discount to attend SHARE within one year of completing their training. Taking advantage of this would be another key step toward becoming fully integrated into the mainframe community.

Amazing progress has been made since the last Anaheim SHARE in 2005! Back then, I gave a presentation on the need to develop a new generation of mainframers, and also published a white paper and article in z/Journal on the topic. Since then, the SHARE zNextGen Project was formed to support the development of a new generation of mainframers, and many other initiatives have been undertaken to encourage and enable a new generation on the mainframe.

Now, six years later, the future is bright. Of course, the greatest part of the journey still lies ahead of us. Organizations must do the hiring and training they now recognize is needed, and those new mainframers need to take personal ownership of their roles in the future of this great community and platform.

But, as I look at the people who are already stepping up to take ownership of this bright future, such as John Noel and Regina Robbins, winners of the SHARE Academic Award for Excellence announced at the SHARE General Session in Anaheim, I know that journey is now solidly under way. I can’t wait to see the brilliant future of mainframe and large enterprise computing.

And that’s the kind of data I like to see about the group that forms the new generation!