Rewarding Partnerships and Careers Evolve From IBM’s Master the Mainframe Contest

Illustration by Miriam Migliazzi & Mart Kle

The 2013 Master the Mainframe contest was a breakthrough for Mugdha Kadam, the first female winner of part three. Kadam was excited to win the competition, which she completed on the last day of the contest. The mainframe appeals to her because of the logical thinking it requires, which was emphasized in part three. “The contest made me work outside of my comfort zone and that was good for me,” she adds.

Kadam, who graduated in December 2013 from the University of South Florida with a master’s degree in management information systems, is intrigued by the back-end processes that run on System z and hopes to use her mainframe knowledge in her next job.

Finding a New Path

Kadam’s success puts her in a special place in the job pool. “Students don’t get college credit and it takes a considerable amount of time to participate in the contest,” says Todd. “Students are motivated to participate because they like the challenge and because they know if they put the contest on their resume, they’ll get hired by a Fortune 500 company as a specialist in enterprise computing.”

“My mainframe experience has allowed me to open many doors and change my whole career and life.”
—Dontrell R. Harris

IBM clients are also showing an interest in the program. “The mainframe is the bedrock of many of MetLife’s core systems,” says David Ditillo, vice president, Regional Application Development–US Insurance with Metropolitan Life. “As one of the largest global life insurers, we are excited to see IBM continue to develop global talent around enterprise computing.”

Not only will participating in Master the Mainframe help students nab a job after graduation, it may just change their career path—as it did for Dontrell R. Harris, who received honorable mentions in part three of the 2013 and 2012 contests. Prior to taking a mainframe class, Harris, a senior at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, N.C., knew nothing about the mainframe. When his professor gave the class incentives to join the contest, Harris signed up.

For Harris, having little mainframe experience meant he had to log many hours to research the technology. His most difficult challenge was creating programs using REXX and JCL that connected user catalogs to remote catalogs. The effort was worth it. “My mainframe experience has allowed me to open many doors and change my whole career and life,” Harris adds.

He knew he loved technology and computers, but had no idea what career path to take. “The contest allowed me to find my niche and become passionate about a technology that I know I could grow and flourish with,” Harris says. “In fact, I had the opportunity to take a summer internship with IBM this past summer and have had many job offers already for post-graduation opportunities.”

Harris, who is expected to graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in electronics technology with a concentration in information technology, will be joining a Fortune 500 insurance company as a mainframe capacity and performance analyst.

Shirley S. Savage is a Maine-based freelance writer. Shirley can be reached at

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