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Pacific Life Gets Ahead of Retirement With Mainframe Academy Training Program

Pacific Life Mainframe Academy


Customer: Pacific Life Insurance Co.
Headquarters: Newport Beach, California
Business: Financial services
Challenge: Dealing with inevitable mainframe developer retirements and lessening its reliance on augmented staffing
Solution: Establishing a Mainframe Academy with support from LearnQuest to teach and mentor a new generation of IBM z Systems programmers
Hardware: Two IBM z13s systems
Software: Various third-party applications

Across industries, seasoned mainframe developers are becoming an increasingly rare breed. They’re retiring, pursuing other opportunities or being outsourced. These developers essentially hold the keys to the kingdom—the system of record that is the mainframe.

“We employ multiple resource strategies to support our applications in-house, externally and in what I would call scaling partnerships,” remarks Phil Teeter, senior vice president of IT, retirement solutions division, Pacific Life Insurance Co. “But mainframe resources are scarce in the market. It’s hard to find them.”

This leaves some businesses frantically searching for recent computer program graduates, taking on company-agnostic contractors to fill gaps or moving to other, less robust computing platforms. None of these scenarios is optimal. Younger programmers are focused on what they consider trendier technologies, third-party hires may not be personally vested in an organization’s success strategies, and platform migration can be expensive and doesn’t necessarily come with the IBM z Systems* reliability, availability and serviceability.

Despite this, it’s clear the sky isn’t falling. Some companies have even taken it upon themselves to train the next generation of mainframe developers. Pacific Life, for example, has eight new developers on its staff thanks to its internally managed, LearnQuest-supported Mainframe Academy—and they’re now poised to become future mainframe leaders of not only Pacific Life but also across other industries.

“When we look at the number of senior-level developers getting close to retirement, we must look at who is going to replace them,” Gina Salzman, talent development program manager, says. “It makes sense to start building our bench now. We can give them the time to learn and develop their expertise so they’re ready for more complex work and greater responsibilities as those opportunities present themselves.”

The Longevity Pipeline

In business for over 145 years, the Newport Beach, California-based company offers a variety of financial services for both individual and institutional clients through its life insurance and retirement solutions divisions as well as several subsidiaries.

In addition to life insurance products, it also has a hand in the wealth accumulation and preservation financial segments, including annuities, mutual funds, and investment products and services for businesses—all sold through an extensive network of third-party financial professionals.

Jim Utsler, IBM Systems Magazine senior writer, has been covering the technology field for more than a decade. Jim can be reached at

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