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Cheryl Watson Highlights the Importance of Learning

Cheryl Watson
 

Reg Harbeck talks with Cheryl Watson, an expert on tuning capacity and a longtime supporter of SHARE, about her experiences with SHARE and her career on the mainframe. Listen to the interview via the orange play button above or read the transcript below.

Reg: Hi. This is Reg Harbeck and I have the pleasure of speaking with Cheryl Watson today, who is a very well-known mainframer, performance expert and somebody that we all come to SHARE especially to see. Cheryl, if I could maybe start by asking you to just kind of tell a little about your background, how you got onto the mainframe, what the mainframe and SHARE have meant to you in your career?

Cheryl: Well SHARE has meant everything to me in my career, but I'll start with my background. When I graduated with a math and physics degree in 1965, I wanted to teach, but teachers were making $300 a month and trainee programmers were making $500 a month.

REG: Wow.

CHERYL: And I had a husband to put through grad school, so I said sure. I went to work for Consolidated Freightways, who had an IBM 7010 and a 1401. Within about six months, we were investigating and researching going to a new computer and that computer was the System/360, so I was on one of the very first ever 360 machines and it was so exciting because everything was new. So I went from a trainee auto coder/programmer to a system programmer for System/360.

REG: Neat.

CHERYL: It was very neat. During that time, I saw all three sides: I saw application programming development, I saw system programming management of a system and I saw operations. What has served me well is that throughout my career, I have been involved with all three faces and I think that is really useful for anybody and I can highly recommend it. Because without seeing all three, you don't really understand the problems you might be creating or not. Then I switched jobs a lot because I was generally single and I could transfer and move around. I worked for EDS, Electronic Data Systems, on and off for 10 years. When I was in the performance area, there was this one guy that would go to these conferences and come back with all of this knowledge and he wouldn't tell anybody about it. Working for EDS, you don't take many vacations so I had a point where I had about, oh, 20 weeks vacation stored up and they certainly didn't want me to take that long so I ask them if I could turn in all my weeks of vacation if they would send me to a SHARE conference, and they did.

REG: Awesome.

CHERYL: It was such an eye opener to see all of this information, all of these knowledgeable people and IBM right there giving you information for free. They would just teach—I mean, yeah, it wasn't free but with a whole week of information, I was so excited. So I said I want to do this again. I collected at that point in time, and this was about ’75, ’76. At that point, people brought handouts for their sessions,

REG: Oh, I remember those.

CHERYL: And so I collected every handout I could get and when there was a session I didn't like, I’d go collect more handouts during that. So when I got back, I created a—you know the old 4-inch binders?

REG: Uh-huh.

CHERYL: I created a 4-inch binder of handouts and I had them tabbed so that here were all the handouts for CICS; here were all the handouts for system programmers; here were all the handouts for capacity people. Then I wrote a SHARE summary and in this summary was, oh, I would say it was about a five-page summary with references to the handouts and the links. I pointed out all the things that I thought other people in the site would see. I gave a presentation when I got back to the office to say, hey, I just went to SHARE and here is everything I learned. They were so blown away by that because this other guy had kept everything to his chest. He didn't leave any of it—he didn't share the knowledge so that gave me a pass back to SHARE every single year from that point. I also found out, in that early time period of ’75, ’78, I started volunteering in ’78 so I'm almost up for my 40-year volunteer pin.

REG: Wow.

CHERYL: But I found that when you volunteer, you get access to so many other people, resources and networking. Even if you just start by chairing a session, it gets you in the loop and from that point on, I mean, I was sold. I consider it to be the best education I receive.

REG: Excellent. That's a great vote of confidence.

CHERYL: So in a nutshell, that is how I got here. I guess a big nutshell.

REG: Well, that's really neat. Now, obviously, one of the things—the thing you are most well-known for is being an expert on tuning capacity, your Tuning Letter and of course the sessions you give at SHARE, I remember one of my great treasures, of course, was the first edition of your Tuning Letter, which I was able to get autographed by you a couple of SHARES ago. How did you end up in that business? What led from you working for EDS and I especially remember that wonderful story you tell of optimizing without permission?



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