Hemanth Rama on How IBM Champions and SHARE Have Shaped His Mainframe Career
Reg Harbeck talks with Hemanth Rama about what he has learned from the SHARE mainframe user group and how he became an IBM Z Champion.
By Reg Harbeck06/01/2018
Reg Harbeck: Hi, this is Reg Harbeck and I'm here today with Hemanth Rama who is an IBM Champion, a new mainframer, very active at SHARE and all kinds of other interesting stuff. In fact, why don't we let him tell you about himself? Hemanth, tell us. How did you end on the mainframe and working as an IBM Champion and such?
Hemanth Rama: Yeah, sure, sure. Thanks Reg. Thanks for having me today and it is a great show. I learned a lot with the different people and their backgrounds. It is really very interesting so thanks for having me Reg.
Regarding myself, I will start from back at my journey to the U.S. I did my Bachelor’s degree in computer science in India and after my graduation, I think it is back in 19-I think it's 2002, I was thinking to do a Master’s degree from a U.S. university so I applied for a couple of universities and I got acceptance from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois.
Then after-I think that's where I got introduced to the mainframe back at NIU. Then after that, after my graduation, I went on to work for BMC as a mainframe application developer at Santa Clara office. It's been 13 years now. Apart from that, like you just pointed out, Reg that I have been awarded IBM Champion and we'll talk more of that. It's a pretty nice honor to have. Then I also have—well it is a project officer for the zNextGen and MVS performance project chair. I also hold three patents for the mainframe area.
Apart from this, to keep me busy along with the mainframe activities, I also write articles regularly at many popular IT sites and also on my own personal blog.
Reg: Cool. Now your blog, that's Path2Silicon is it?
Hemanth: Yes. It is P-A-T-H Path, number 2 SiliconValley.wordpress.com.
Reg: Ahh. Silicon Valley. Cool. Now what kind of patents? What sort of things would you have a patent for?
Hemanth: Oh, these are in the automation software that we eventually developed from these patents so they are related to three technologies. What this software does is it puts the mainframe into autopilot mode managing the systems and juggling around checking out the workloads and taking into importance and everything, then assessing what it needs to do, define capacity and everything. So when I went into that field, we had three patents.
Reg: Cool. Now at some point of course you started getting involved with SHARE and as you mention, you are now quite involved with zNextGen at SHARE as well as the performance project, even a project officer at zNextGen. How did you end up at SHARE?
Hemanth: Oh yeah, yeah. SHARE is kind of interesting. I heard about it the first time—about SHARE—back at NIU—Northern Illinois University—where we had a few professors who frequented SHARE. Then we used to see a professor not be here for a week and we were wondering what happened, right? We learned that actually they were at this conference attending the SHARE conferences. That's how I knew about SHARE and then once I joined BMC, I started looking for attending at SHARE a couple of times.
Then I think the real attachment or the real passion with SHARE came in when I found out there was an opening at zNextGen as a project officer. I approached them and they accepted my application and everything. It is very different being on the other side of SHARE as it was the other side so I got a lot of volunteer opportunities at SHARE talking to many people. Some were very brilliant and helped to run various sessions, planning and everything. Then I got another opportunity to be in another project, which is the MVS performance group.
I see SHARE as my continuous education. When I left my studies at NIU, I see this SHARE as a continuation because this is where you get latest and greatest and all the people who share there are talking about and passionate about sharing their knowledge. That helps you kick start. On any topic, you will get an expert talking that will get you up to speed so I consider it a real gem once a year so if you are serious about mainframe, you should be at SHARE.
Reg: Yeah, I understand that one of your big connections to SHARE was some of your professors at NIU who are really big SHARE contributors as well. Maybe you want to mention a couple of them?
Hemanth: Yeah. Yeah, I think one is Michael Stack whom I happened to meet last year in Rhode Island. Rhode Island was last year? Yes. Yes.
Hemanth: Last year is it?
Reg: Providence, yes.
Hemanth: Yes, Providence. That's where I met him and he said that—he is actually retired now—but he says that he is still doing every other SHARE. He is planning to be there. He still is a major part of SHARE planning and everything. The other is Robert Rannie and when I talk to people about my professors who for a very, very long time have been at SHARE. I asked them and mentioned that he is the guy who comes with this paddle and everything. So he is a very, very interesting guy. So those are the two professors that are very, very popular at SHARE as well. Yes.
Reg: Cool. Now at some point obviously with all of these different mainframe things you've been doing, IBM noticed you and called you an IBM Champion. How did that happen?
Hemanth: Yeah, that's a good question Reg. The Champion program is very, very interesting. This program actually recognizes the innovative top leaders who are making a significant difference in the technical community.
What IBM says is that “Okay, we see that you are going above and beyond your normal duties and then contributing and passionately speaking and advocating about the technology so we wanted to reward you by recognizing you as a Champion. Then we try to amplify your voice and influence across the other places where we don't get a chance to experience so this is a very, very interesting program.”
What this program is a program that shows that you are an expert and extraordinary supporter and advocate of the mainframe. This Champion program is not just for the mainframe. It is across the IBM six different areas and mainframe is one of them. The last Champion program was spread across 38 countries, around 650-plus people were being judged as the IBM Champions across six business areas. I think the IBM Z area which is our mainframe is 7 percent of that 650 so it is a pretty good number to represent the mainframe area. We have people from across the country so once you are judged, they will get you together, meet with this elect club of people who are very, very passionate about mainframe and everything. So they have the website, the IBM Z Champion where they talk about more on what it takes to be a Champion, but I will walk you through a couple of them Reg if you have some time. I will just outline a couple of things on what you need to be there to be a Champion.
Hemanth: For one, you need to go above and beyond your normal duties. By that, I mean to say that you have to show your expertise and extraordinary support for and advocacy for the mainframe. There are several ways you can do that. One is that you can volunteer like we just talked about at SHARE and the CMG conferences where you can talk, speak and share your store of knowledge.
You can write. You can answer people's questions in various forums. You can write articles. You can blog. You can write any articles anywhere so basically you have to be engaged with the mainframe community not just above and beyond your normal work so this is some of the things that IBM takes into account and helps you out by giving it an identity.
Reg: How did IBM find out about you? Did you submit your name for consideration or did somebody else suggest you or did they just happen to see you?
Hemanth: Yes, that was what I was about to say. They usually open up the nominations sometime in October, October is the normal timeframe and then this time I accidentally happened to be noticed, that somebody was saying that the currently the nomination period is open so I knew it. But the nomination process, either you can self-nominate or somebody who knows the things that you are doing, they can nominate too so it goes both ways.
Reg: Cool. Do you remember—I mean was it on IBM.com? Is it just you look there and Google IBM Champion as a way to find it?
Hemanth: Yes. As soon as you type in IBM Champion, you get the website URL. It's not—it doesn't say IBM Champion in the URL. I think it says IBM.com/developerworks. From there it takes you to the Champion page.
Reg: Cool. Well I think this is a really important thing and I want to call out to our listeners that everybody in the mainframe ecosystem knows several people they really think highly of as excellent mainframers who probably should be nominated for this so this is really good for you to make us aware of this and to take a leading role in helping us appreciate this great opportunity to appreciate other mainframers who are doing something of value. Now in addition to Michael Stack and Robert Rannie, I guess there are probably a few other people who have had really role model and mentor roles that you've encountered on the mainframe. Maybe you can talk about some of your experiences with such mentors.
Hemanth: Yes. Yes. That's a good question, I think. One of the things we talk about in mainframe is that once you get out of this course work or whatever you do to get on to the job, even though you have a pretty good concept of things, the real world is pretty different than what you actually got through academics. So here I had one of my colleagues who I think has 40 years of experience, so what they did was they put me next to him as I was going through. He helped a lot to transition my academic skills to the corporate skills so his name is Keith Moe. He used to work for the IBM—not IBM but I think he used to work for Amdahl and then from there on I think he joined us—so he is the one mentor that I would consider my graduation, he is the best mentor I had in explaining things and everything in the practical world.
Reg: Cool. Well this has been really interesting. It is so neat to get to know a new mainframer who has moved a fair way along on your journey to really become a very active part of the mainframe ecosystem.
Do you have any additional thoughts for other people who are looking at becoming new mainframers, moving their mainframe career forward and not wanting to just get stuck in the first job they take on the mainframe?
Hemanth: Sure. I think the one thing that I would like to tell them is that if you are new to mainframe, I would seriously ask you to consider getting onto zNextGen program that at SHARE we are planning. This zNextGen is an amazing program that—
Reg: Project actually.
Hemanth: Yes, project. So that's the project that you need to begin on. The zNextGen program is a bridge between the experienced and the wise mainframe professionals so this acts as a bridge. So what we need is, I would say, as a platform where we bring in the expert to share their knowledge as in a how-to or introductory course for those who are just starting on mainframe. This is a community of 1,000-plus members right now represented across 24 countries. It is free to join and it's not just at SHARE we represent.
We also have year-round activities, bimonthly conference calls and everything so people talk so we connect people with experts that are wise so this is the best platform. You need to be on zNextGen if you are new to the mainframe and also I’ll take this opportunity to invite those who are experts in the mainframe area to consider sharing their knowledge through the zNextGen program either through SHARE or through our monthly virtual meetings.
Reg: Excellent. Well this has been really good. Any other thoughts you have to share with everybody on this discussion?
Hemanth: I think we pretty much covered everything Reg and really like your show and appreciate talking and you asking me to be on the show. This is a very, very great show. I learn a lot of people’s backgrounds and everything.
Reg: Well, it is certainly a real pleasure to be part of such a really special ecosystem in the mainframe. We are really happy to have you among us as one of our peers so thank you so much for joining me for the call today.
Hemanth: Thanks, Reg.
Reg Harbeck is a mainframe enthusiast who has worked IT and mainframes for over three decades. He's the chief strategist at Mainframe Analytics ltd.
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