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Growing up Around Computers and the IBM Culture Led Matthew Cousens to Work With the Mainframe

Matthew Cousens
Matthew Cousens poses at IBM Poughkeepsie. Photo courtesy of Matthew Cousens


Since nearly the first time that Matthew Cousens touched a computer, he knew he wanted to work with them. Following in the footsteps of his grandparents and great-grandfather, his interests in computers led him to work at IBM.

“Growing up in Poughkeepsie [New York] with the ‘PC bug,’ I hatched a plan: school at Marist College, work at IBM,” notes the lead architect for Customer Test Application Strategy, Design and Development, IBM.

While a sophomore at Marist pursuing his bachelor’s degree in computer science, he began as an intern at IBM before coming on full time in December 2002 after graduation. Growing up, Cousens had many interactions with IBM.

His first memory was in fourth grade when IBMers came into his classroom with PCs, a long-held tradition at IBM that he participates in now as an IBMer. That’s when he began using the IBM PCjr, teaching himself BASIC (from a book checked out of the Vassar College library) and to answer questions—What made it work? How did it do that? Could I make it do what I wanted it to?

While his undergrad and, later, his master’s in business administration, weren’t related to mainframes, he began working with them at IBM. “I started doing function testing for parts of z/OS*, and now I’m on the other end of the stack doing integration testing,” Cousens says. “My current role is designing and developing the applications we run in Integration Test. These applications need to be similar to what clients run in their production environments, so that’s no easy task, but it’s very rewarding to build a complex application and watch it come to life.”

He also takes a lot of pride in being part of his family’s IBM legacy. His grandparents met at IBM at a time when many women didn’t work, and his grandfather was a member of the Quarter Century Club, a recognition for employees with 25 years of service.

Having the experience and perspective of growing up in an IBM town with family members working there has given Cousens admiration for the company.

“My understanding of the history of IBM has helped me appreciate the organization I’ve worked for all these years,” he says. “Some people are quick to point out the things that have changed over the years in a negative context. I am more likely to point out how today’s IBM better fits into our current culture, how I wouldn’t want to work for the IBM of the past and how it is still a wonderful company to work for after 100-plus years.”

Valerie Dennis Craven is a Minneapolis-based writer and editor.


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