It’s a funny thing that at each step of the way, the technological developments meant to bring us together seem to have actually isolated us. No more having to travel or even look up from across the table to connect with others. We can video conference with a person anywhere on a whim, without having to reach out and physically shake their hand or greet them with a similar embrace. We don’t even have to know the person (and sadly, often don’t take the time to do this).
Still, we need to connect with each other, whether by traveling to classes or conferences such as SHARE, where we meet in person and build relationships, or by using those very electronic devices to bring us together instead. After all, nothing has changed the fact we’re all still humans.
Mainframers may have been reluctant to exploit these tools, feeling more comfortable with direct or face-to-face communication such as the water cooler interaction, even as the opportunities for in-person connections dry up. Life always seems to find a way and so do we. I’m pleased to report that the modern workplace is the perfect exemplar for this. Some of us can still connect directly with people we support and work with because we’re sharing an office with them. But many are more isolated, trying to connect from home or a remote office. As a consequence, social networking has emerged as a great way to connect with colleagues, no matter where they’re located. In fact, social networking is also an ideal way to connect with people around the world; it has the vast potential for us to create a global support and collaboration network.
At first, many employers viewed social networking as more of the 21st Century version of the smoke break. And just as non-smokers envied smokers the time off to get “fresh” air and interact socially with each other, now, mainframers are beginning to see the value of the virtual water cooler that social networking represents.
Companies initially took small steps by supporting intra-company instant messaging and SharePoint collaboration. But as the value of enabling this technology proved itself, companies began to support wider access to external social networks, such as LinkedIn and Facebook. Business-enabling groups, such as Mainframe and zNextGen, come together easily on such networks as Facebook and LinkedIn; two examples I’ve joined on LinkedIn are MainframeZone and SHARE. Companies also realized this is where savvy customers and prospective employees were holing up—they needed to open up to the possibilities that social networking offered to keep a competitive edge.
Social networking tools complement our other activities as mainframers and give us opportunities to build our value to our employers while growing our insights and networks with fellow mainframers. Drawing on the vast knowledge and expertise of global colleagues also helps us grow in our careers, networks, and options. In fact, in a recent CA Technologies commissioned independent survey of 200 senior-level mainframe decision-makers, more than half cited social media networking platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn as the most effective recruiting tools. If you were hesitant to jump into the social pool, this benefit should convince you to give it a try.
But perhaps one of the coolest things about these social networking sites is that they enable us to connect with a new generation of mainframers in our own workplaces, as we teach them how the established environment works. In return, the new generation gives us a new perspective on work that allows us to be active members of the culture that keeps the most important business computing environment on earth running smoothly. For me, the net-net of that is that social networking has a lot to offer mainframers!