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Closing the Mainframe Skills Gap

The Mainframe Playground Education Initiative opens the mainframe to the next generation.

Jan Sądek

Image by Pawel Dobrowolski

There’s been a lot of talk in the mainframe community about filling the IBM Z* skills gap and opening the platform to the next generation of mainframers. Some are very involved in this conversation, and mainframe specialist Jan Sądek is no exception.

Sądek worked in one of IBM’s outsourcing centers in Poland, where he experienced firsthand how the new generation of mainframers is trained. He immediately noticed how IBM’s culture reinforced the benefits of helping others and allowed employees to balance free time and work responsibilities. “There was a really great culture of helping others, of professional attribute, and this is something that I think is very important in a company,” he says.

The Mainframe Playground Emerges

But during his time at IBM, Sądek also noticed some room for improvement, especially when it came to technical training. “Technical training was probably the biggest problem area, not only in my opinion, but also from the perspective of my colleagues.” While this lack of technical training frustrated Sądek at first, it motivated him to find a way to help both himself and his colleagues in Poland.

That’s when the Mainframe Playground Education Initiative was born ( Sądek started the initiative to fill knowledge gaps, allowing him and his colleagues to teach and learn from one another. “There are always ways to learn things on your own. Mainframe Playground was a way to help others, but it was also a way to learn more by myself,” he says. “This website is a perfect learning strategy. I can learn more about topics that I’m an expert on, and I’m motivated to gain skills in new areas of z/OS*, even if they’re not significant to my current work.”

A Flourishing Initiative

Since starting the initiative, Sądek has seen Mainframe Playground expand far beyond his expectations. “In the beginning, it was mainly people from Poland and India. But now, contacts from the United States are coming through various universities or the IBM Academic Initiative,” he says. “I’m surprised it’s gotten so popular.”

Sądek manages the Mainframe Playground website on his own time, balancing his professional responsibilities with keeping the initiative up and running. With so much growth since the initiative’s inception, this is a big time commitment—but Sądek is OK with that. “It’s only me right now, but I don’t mind it. Mainframe Playground is not just a way to help others. It’s a learning strategy for me, too.”

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