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Creating the Next Generation of Mainframers Isn’t Impossible

New mainframers

With breaking into secure computer systems as a mainstay of Tom Cruise’s blockbuster film franchise, “Mission: Impossible,” the reality is that there’s never been a better time for ambitious techies to break into mainframes—just not in the criminal sense.

However, our industry won’t simply cruise its way to replacing the aging (and retiring) generation of mainframers with a new cohort, all of whom are armed with the right skills and outlook. We needed to do more and, I’m pleased to say, we have been doing more. For example, my own company has developed a successful Mainframer in Training program that offers multi-year training to develop professionals who have a well-rounded skillset in mainframe technologies along with the specialist knowledge and soft skills required to become successful service consultants.

Universities and colleges in the U.S. and U.K. are also offering an increasing number of mainframe-related courses and programs. And earlier this summer, I attended a University Day in London that was organized by the IBM Systems Technical University for people to meet and network with industry professionals, academics and their peers. Events like University Day play an important role in supporting and promoting the Z platform, and in helping bring forward tomorrow’s mainframe professionals.

Going the Extra Mile

So why do companies like RSM and IBM bother? Because it matters. Activity like this is having a real impact on the future of the industry. That brings me to October’s TechU in Florida. The agenda of the five-day event perfectly aligns with where our industry is right now and where it needs to be—whether you’re a newbie, you’re interested in developing an established career or you want to explore new horizons.

For instance, there’s a new “z/OS for Rookies” track for early-career programmers and engineers, which combines face-to-face interaction with e-learning. In short, it’ll help train up the next generation. But getting on in this world is not only about those vital technical skills. It’s also about developing the right attitudes, approaches and leadership abilities.

That’s why TechU also has a “Professional Development and Leadership Training” stream along with a new Linux track to reflect the ever-growing opportunities in our industry, as we move into organizations that haven’t traditionally used Z. And the TechU agenda is as broad as it is deep, with some 300 technical sessions, plus a Solution Center that brings together folks from several industry providers, suppliers, partners and vendors—people that mainframers at all levels can chat with, learn from and network with.

If I’m being cheesy—which I often am—I’d say there’s something for everyone. There’s so much going on that I may not even venture onto the beach (only kidding). It seems we’re all going back to University these days: as the old saying goes, every day’s a school day. Far from being “Mission: Impossible,” it looks like we’re actually doing it, and bringing that next generation on. It’s all very exciting—perhaps not as exciting as breaking into the CIA mainframe at Langley whilst dangling at the end of a long rope—but arguably, far more rewarding (and much safer) as a real-world career plan.

Mark Wilson heads RSM Partners’ technical and security teams, and is an international speaker in mainframe security and technology. He’s a passionate advocate of all things Z.

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