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Demystify Mainframe Learning
Shaik Tousif, Global Mainframe operations, Mainframe Tech Support
Thursday, June 06, 2019

Mainframes are today’s prophesy destroyers! Contrary to the repeated prophecy about their demise, Mainframes continue to grow in the digital age powering a large number of critical transactions. But while these machines are still holding to and sometimes, even growing their importance, many organizations face a workforce crisis where they don’t have the people in place to support them. The plain truth is that the current Mainframe workforce is largely comprised of baby boomers on the verge of retirement.

As a result, data from Vanson Bourne research from Compuware points to the fact that 71%  of IT organizations are concerned about looming shortfalls in Mainframe skills but only 46% admit to having a plan in place to address those shortfalls. So, how can Millennials pitch in and upskill themselves to take the next generation of Mainframes forward? Below are my top five pointers to help Millennials on their journey to Millennial Mainframe Mastery.  

  1. Build Strong Fundamentals: Mainframes have been around for a while. As a result, many have age-old COBOL and Fortran scripts running as they continue to perform critical business data applications. There are also many applications which are still using old SNA rather than the TCP/IP network. It’s important to understand this evolution in order to understand how best to evolve it further. Building a strong fundamental knowledge through the vast available resources should be the beginning of long journey in Mainframe learning.

  2. Set Clear Objectives: It’s important to chart out a clear plan for learning. Initially, pick a single area of Mainframe computing that you want to master, like z/OS or DB2 for example. When you’re comfortable doing those routine tasks, try to move on to another aspect of Mainframe. Sadly, there are no shortcuts. Mastering Mainframe will take time and it’s evolving with every passing year.

  3. Organize your web: Fortunately, we have tools like Google or Bing to help us find whatever it is we need to know. But what these search engines can’t do yet is to organize our content. So, make sure you’re utilizing smart tools and features like:

    • Bookmark: Almost all browsers gives us the ability to bookmark our weblinks. Learn to use them effectively by organizing links with clear labels and file them in meaningful folders so that it gets easier to fetch the information as and when needed. It should also allow you to share your bookmarks with your friends and colleagues.

    • One Note: There are several tools out there like Microsoft One Note which can help you organize and channelize your web content. It should also help in adding rich- media content like audio, video and photos. Learn to use them effectively.

    • Mobile Apps: IBM has launched several useful apps like the IBM Redbooks and Kaonadn to search on the go. Try to keep these apps handy on your mobile or PC so that your search for information gets easier over time.

  4. Create your Network: While the Internet helps us fetch and collate useful information, it won’t bring real value until we put the pieces together. A good network of people should help leverage that content to great advantage. Here are some tips that can help

    • Use AI to curate the feed: Once we follow the right people and content using these web tools, it gets much easier to stay on top of the technology. For example, when we follow a set of videos or join relevant groups, the feed starts showing us related articles using AI, as in the case of Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube.

    • Blog and Websites: There are several blogs and sites created by Mainframers to share and engage. Blogs like ‘planetmainframe’ and sites like IBM Systems Magazine are both good examples that help us learn. Check them out!

  5. Mentor enabled training:  With Mainframe, it’s really important to have the right mentor. A good Mainframe Mentor will help to stay focused on the job and the skills that you’re hoping to develop. They should also help in speeding up your learning. In today’s era of information overload, it’s easy to feel lost. A good mentor will be your guide.

Developing any skill worth having takes time. With the right tools and the right mentor, Millennial Mainframe Mastery is a real possibility for those with the right mind-set and motivation to succeed.

About the Author

Shaik Tousif, Global Mainframe Operations, Mainframe Tech Support

Tousif is a millennial mainframer with over 10 years of Mainframe System Programming experience. In 2013 he was the proud recipient of the CA Mainframe Academy Scholarship award. He currently holds IBM System z and zOS Fundamentals technical professional certification. He writes regularly for many popular IT websites and on his personal blog. Tousif passionately speaks about mainframe technologies at various conferences, symposiums and user groups.