Marna Walle Is Dedicated to the IBM Z Platform and its Ecosystem
Reg Harbeck talks with Marna Walle about her longtime dedication to the IBM Z platform and ecosystem around it.
By Reg Harbeck03/01/2018
Marna Walle: Thanks, Reg. You know it has been an interesting path and I've loved every step of it so right after college, I joined IBM. I picked Poughkeepsie like you called it the mothership and I've loved it here ever since. I don't ever want to leave and I got hired into a department I really liked. I was learning something called MVS that I didn't know a whole lot about even though I had actually taken one or two mainframe classes in college, which I liked so I knew a little bit, but not as much as I should. So I got here and I have just been loving it and everyday trying to learn a whole lot more. That includes of course then eventually getting to go to SHARE and meeting a wonderful mainframe community and just needing to do a whole lot more because there is so much to learn.
Reg: Cool. Now of course at each step of the way, you obviously had an opportunity to choose to move in one direction or the other on the mainframe. How did you end up-was your first job at IBM a mainframe job?
Marna: Yeah, it was and it's kind of weird to say this. It probably never happens to anybody else on the planet but I hired into a department that I'm still kind of you know pretty much associated with today-
Marna: A couple of decades later so it is very rare. It's not anything that anybody else I could have planned or anything but it was you know we came to the installation department you know. We put the systems together here in development and we learned how to package with SMP. We learned how to install and service, configure and IPL and things like that, very cool stuff and I just was like man, I like this you know so I really have just been interested in the install side ever since I learned a little bit more about it but one of the things I really like a lot is in Poughkeepsie I get to see a wide scope of things, right.
A lot of people in Poughkeepsie are focused on a particular component and that's wonderful. They're experts in their component but I kind of like that you know the installation and the system programmer level getting to see a whole lot of stuff and sticking my fingers in some interesting stuff so that's you know that's what I really have been liking so I've been lucky enough to start there and I've been lucky enough to stay here.
Reg: So, the words RECEIVE, APPLY and ACCEPT are very dear to you I'm sure.
Marna: Yeah, I love them and every once in awhile a RESTORE, too.
Reg: Oh, yes. Now you must perhaps hold more dearly to SMP than many people do although they have said system programmers in many cases one of their key jobs is to be an SMP jockey. How do you feel about SMP?
Marna: Umm, I feel that it's a tool. It's a great tool. A lot of people on other platforms of course have no idea what it can do and how powerful it is, so I do enjoy using it. A lot of times I've been actually-you know I do SMP of course a lot, but I also have been doing a lot of other things too where SMP is kind of just a small piece of it but really knowing SMP was a really good first step that I took as soon as I joined into Poughkeepsie and learning a lot of the ins and outs of SMP. So, if anyone is just coming to the platform and interested in seeing a large scope like a system programmer, that's always a great first step is to understand a lot more of what SMP can do and how powerful it is.
Reg: Well, now some of these other things and probably SMP as well are some of the way that you connect with SHARE. Maybe you can sort of give us a sense. How did you end up at SHARE and you know how did you kind of connect the IBM mainframe role you had to what happens at SHARE?
Marna: Yeah, so at the time I was moving along in my career a little bit and then we had this thing called OS/390 that came together, which was a whole bunch of pieces that came together as one product. Then we had kind of an installation challenge I guess you could say in order to get this large thing installed where previously we have done little pieces of it and now it was one big guide install. So, then you know after that it started to be an issue of you have these big pieces. They come out periodically and you've got to move from one big piece to the next big piece.
The opportunity of handling migration came up and I just was like oh, I love this. This is great. This is like a big guy to a bigger guy. I just thought man, this is great. I love this, you know. It had everything that I had already learned a little bit of together and so after I learned about migration and working on that as a problem, that's when I really started getting more active in SHARE because it seems like you know a lot of people did want to move operating system levels up and so they needed information that was migration. I happened to be very heavy into that area and really enjoyed it so that's kind of how I came in.
Then after that, I found out there was other little things, hints and tips or you know labs or experiences that I've done that I wanted to share as well so I really just moved on with that and expanded my offerings to the SHARE community to see if they wanted me to present even more topics so it's been great.
Reg: That's cool. Now you mentioned that well beyond SMP, there is a whole bunch of other things you're doing at IBM. Maybe if you can just sort of give us a sense of some of the other things that sort of have worked their way into your career as you sort of broadened your responsibility and experience.
Marna: Over the years, yeah. Well we had SMP at the beginning right. Then we had customized offerings of which you know probably the ones that are well known the most right now is ServerPacs, so I was involved in ServerPac as well trying to see what we need, how to get it installed, and even working on some improvements for that as well with a great other team that we have within ServerPac. So that's another big thing to understand is ServerPac.
Then fast forward a little bit after that and we've got z/OSMF so I've actually been involved in trying to work on z/OSMF and trying to make that as a tool do installation, migration and other things available with that so when we have a technology such as workflows on z/OSMF, I've really latched onto that and I want to move forward a lot on that, so that's kind of some of the other things that we've been working on.
You know, we've gone a lot of other areas over the ways just to see how we can get things improved such as you know I don't do a lot on the ordering side but I have to deal with Shopz and how Shopz might interact with systems that we delivered and things like that so you know every time there is a little tangent in an area that interests me, I've been able to go off and learn it. Then when you look in the past what we put together, it looks like a whole of doing you know system programmer installation migration type of work.
Reg: Cool. Now I understand not just as a learner but also as a teacher that you're not just involved in SHARE but also at Marist.
Marna: Yes, I had been. I don't do that currently now but I have done it before. I'm really interested in that and maybe one day I’ll ask them if they’ll take me back. We were teaching installation type of classes at Marist and it was great. We had some SMP in there; we had some ServerPac in there; we had some other information associated with software and installation in there and so that was great too. I met some new mainframers that were coming on board and they were all gung ho.
I gave them some class assignments and exercises and stuff like that. It was really good so they had hands-on experience so it is great program there if any new mainframers are interested in learning. They have a great program there at Marist for people coming on board.
Reg: I understand that people do that remote as well as in person, I guess?
Marna: Yeah. Actually, it was all remote which was really nice so even though Marist is right down the road from my office here in Poughkeepsie, everything was done on the internet and I had students from all over the world, so I'd be logging on at night and helping them or in a forum trying to answer a question or something like that but they didn't have to physically be there because there was no site location. They did everything over the thing. We gave tests. We turned in assignments, the labs, everything all online so it was great.
Reg:. Now of course speaking of new mainframers and getting back to SHARE of course, there's a whole lot of new mainframer stuff happening at SHARE. Maybe any thoughts you have about you know how you see the future of the mainframe and of SHARE in terms of getting a new generation in place?
Marna: I'm very optimistic about new people learning information on the mainframe and actually as they understand more about it, they understand how absolutely critical it is to have the mainframe. The mainframe moving into a lot of different open areas as well has been very exciting so even in Poughkeepsie we have people that understand some things on other platforms and now they come to z/OS. They said oh, you have that here too huh? We're like yeah but we-you know we have 50 other things that you can run at the same time as that right you know.
You don't have to have one application for one server. That's just a small thing of what we can run so it's been wonderful. I'm very excited about it and I do see a lot of new people coming to the mainframe and learning about it. Yeah, there's some I'll say legacy type of things that are interesting for them to learn as well but I think once they understand why they're so important and why we take this platform so seriously, I think they are really understanding that this is what needs to have happen if you are going to have such availability as we do on the mainframe.
Reg: Cool. Now of course in addition to your presentations at SHARE, you've been involving in a bunch of other ways. You know you're one of these people that is the IBM mortar between the customers bricks as it were. Maybe some insights into some of the other stuff you've been involved with in SHARE?
Marna: Oh, at SHARE I've been yeah involved with the MVS program, so that's an excellent program where I hang out with my types there in that particular group. I've also been doing social activities in that area in that I mostly arrange the dinner that is happening at the SHARE conference, so that's a great way to get new people involved, also get some of the new mainframers that maybe don't know everybody trying to get them along into a social aspect, so we've been working on that.
Behind the scenes here, I've been helping some of the official IBM reps into SHARE help organize what is the right sessions that we need to necessarily have on the agenda and things of that sort so maybe more behind the scene stuff just supporting other people that are out there in front.
Reg: Cool. So this has been a really neat way to just sort of start to get to know you. Any other thoughts you know about your experience on the mainframe or SHARE or anything else you wanted to share with us?
Marna: I'm trying to think of stuff. It has been a great opportunity on the mainframe to meet some really talented and just awesome people. I'm just amazed at how many people know how many things in this mainframe environment. It makes me want to learn more and more every single day. It is also a little discouraging because I want to know everything and there is no way I can learn everything but I've learned that you know I know people that can usually answer the question and I know where to find a whole lot of things. If I don't know, I can go look it up fairly quickly so those are probably the two biggest things is when you come to the mainframe: keep your network strong and also know where to find things so you can go look it up yourself because there is no way you're going to be able to know everything. It is just too big.
Reg: Cool. Well I'm certainly very thankful to have you as part of my network and thank you so much for the opportunity to interview you on zTalk. Any last thoughts?
Marna: No, that's it. Just thank you very much and it's been great talking to you Reg. I always like seeing you; I like your presentations and also your PowerPoint karaoke. How's that?
Reg: Well thank you. So I'll end the interview here but thank you very much, Marna.
Reg Harbeck is a mainframe enthusiast who has worked IT and mainframes for over three decades. He's the chief strategist at Mainframe Analytics ltd. More →
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