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Christopher Radcliffe Embarks on an IBM Z Journey

Christopher Radcliffe, a student at Villanova University, believes early exposure to the mainframe in high school or college is crucial.

Christopher Radcliffe

A freshman at Villanova University with an interest in the mainframe and coding, Christopher Radcliffe has over seven years of coding experience along with several years of experience in robotics. His mainframe interests just recently emerged.

As someone who thrives on puzzles and challenges, Radcliffe has always known he’s wanted to pursue a career involving coding. But throughout his journey, Radcliffe has had several epiphanies. He realized he didn’t want to work with GUIs, or anything with websites or designing applications. Instead, he found himself gravitating toward back-end coding.

“If I hadn't been exposed to it, I probably wouldn't be as interested in the mainframe as I am right now. It's that way with a lot of my peers, so the mainframe needs to be spread to the younger generation much more.”
–Christopher Radcliffe, student

Back-End Coding and the Mainframe

At the same time Radcliffe realized he wanted to work on back-end coding, he was exposed to the mainframe. “It was perfect timing,” he says. “I already had experience learning some of the languages like COBOL and similar programming languages, and I was able to implement those skills to start learning more about the mainframe. This helped me understand the true beauty and processing behind it.”

Radcliffe’s mother, Rosalind Radcliffe—a Distinguished Engineer at IBM and a chief architect for DevOps—also guided him as he explored what the mainframe had to offer. “My first experience with the mainframe was (in 2018) when I attended SHARE in St. Louis with my mom, and that’s when I really started to enjoy it,” Radcliffe says. “Her guidance helped me explore the different avenues in which I could pursue my dreams and hopes.”

Spreading the Word

While Radcliffe understands what makes the mainframe unique, he’s noticed that many of his classmates often haven’t heard of it. “There aren’t many places where you’ll hear about it,” he notes. “If I hadn’t been exposed to it, I probably wouldn’t be as interested in the mainframe as I am right now. It’s that way with a lot of my peers, so the mainframe needs to be spread to the younger generation much more.”

Offering more mainframe- related courses at different universities would be a more permanent solution to this obstacle, but in the meantime, Radcliffe is dedicated to informing his peers about the power of the mainframe. He explains how it works, highlights the fast processing and high security, and points out that it’s used in healthcare, financial processing, and more. “I want to teach them that mainframes are very important for the majority of things in life that go on in the background.”

Radcliffe plans to continue challenging himself in school by developing his skills and going beyond what his coursework asks of him. Once he graduates from college, he hopes to work on the mainframe developing code. “This is what I’ve been developing my skills toward. It will be a fun process for me to work through the different challenges I’ll face in code, and that’s ultimately what I want to do.”

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