Sitting in a box, somewhere in my basement, I have an old, coil-bound notebook filled with handwritten, taped-on notes about everything I learned as I matured as a systems programmer. Over the years, I’ve also created and edited documentation members in countless PDSes as I installed, upgraded, configured, and used many features and products on mainframes I no longer have access to. Come to think of it, I probably had many files on my work PC containing notes I took at various times and probably shared with my successors when I moved on to other things. Whether these notes ever came in handy, I’ll never know.
It’s funny to think that the most professionally run business computing environment on Earth, with the most scrupulous culture keeping it going, still has some loose ends like this. Yes, there are also many procedure manuals and many procedures implicit in the automation that performs them. But the insights, background, and how-to’s have often been left up to the note-taking abilities of computer professionals who aren’t always known for their spelling, grammar, or neat handwriting.
Fortunately, it’s not too late for us “old dogs” to learn some new tricks, and the people who can teach us are just starting to arrive. In fact, I suggest that the best way for old dogs to learn new tricks is by taking that learning journey with new dogs who are still close to the beginning of their learning curves.
This isn’t just theory—it works. In fact, as a case in point, it’s how I learned to speak Polish: from my kids! My wife, whose parents were born in Poland, spoke Polish to our kids as they grew up, and then they spoke Polish to me, and so, as they grew and learned Polish, I learned it from them at a similar pace.
Likewise, this is how the mainframe culture and ecosystem are growing and learning new things. You don’t have to look any further than the article in this issue of z/Journal about the project that won John Noel and Regina Robbins this year’s SHARE Academic Award for Excellence to see a great example of this. They took what they learned about wikis and applied it to their learning about the mainframe. So, instead of having many disparate and debatably decipherable sources of information about how to do their jobs, they had a single, searchable location for all the information they needed.
Another great example of the current generation benefiting from new-generation technology is the arrival of new graphical workspaces that embody the means and methods needed to perform various roles on the mainframe. The current generation of mainframers is able to use such workspaces to more efficiently handle the unique requirements and circumstances of their roles, recording how they deal with them to optimize their own performance of their duties. These optimized paths can then become a form of implicit mentoring of a new generation. At the same time, both can take advantage of a new generation of productivity that enables the mainframe to be managed much more efficiently, effectively, easily, and consistently than in the days of notebooks that were easily misplaced and often difficult to read at times of significant stress.
How else will this new generation bring new insights and improvements to our beloved mainframe environment? That’s the story of the future of this platform and of how your organization will welcome a new generation and mentor them into the roles of tomorrow’s mainframe professionals.
And when they do come up with new innovations that make the mainframe a better place, remember to suggest they submit them to the SHARE Academic Award for Excellence so the rest of the mainframe world can learn about them too!