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Climbing the System z Ladder

Another 'mainframe master' joins the Big Iron ranks

2/13/2013 12:01:30 AM | If you’ve been keeping up with this “Filling the Generation Gap” series highlighting new mainframe professionals, you could very well come away with the impression that mainframe ranks are being filled almost exclusively with West Texas A&M University computer science graduates.

Patricio-Reynaga.jpgThere are, in fact, IT professionals coming to the mainframe from other schools, but Destination z has just had the best luck following up with West Texas A&M mainframers; and they seem to do disproportionately well competing in IBM’s Master the Mainframe contest.

With that all established, we’re pleased to introduce another fresh face to the mainframe, Patricio Reynaga, a May 2012 graduate of ... West Texas A&M University.

Reynaga currently works as an associate OS programmer for Fidelity Investments, where he interned briefly before being hired on full time. At 25-years-old, he’s the youngest member of his automation team, where he focuses primarily on mainframe hosting.

As for that Master the Mainframe contest? Reynaga won that, too, back in 2010. The contest, coincidentally, was his introduction to the mainframe in general and was the vehicle that drove him toward an eventual mainframe career.

“I took a couple computer science classes in high school, but I actually didn’t even know the mainframe really existed before some companies came to our college and started explaining the importance of it during some of our classes,” Reynaga says. “To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t all that interested in the mainframe. I was originally interested in Windows and Linux PCs, but our professor [H. Paul Haiduk] ‘highly encouraged’ us to take part in the contest and, much to my surprise, I ended up winning it. I didn’t expect to win; I just wanted a good grade in the class. Everything just kind of exploded from there.”

By “exploded,” Reynaga explains that companies (specifically Fidelity) with mainframe IT infrastructures took particular notice, and approached him at a career expo shortly after he won the contest. That spurred him to take further mainframe-specific courses to strengthen his skills—including COBOL and Mainframe Assembler—making him even more sought after, although he didn’t have to look much further than Fidelity Investments.

According to Reynaga, the move from Windows- to mainframe-based computing was fairly easy and logical to understand, with the most difficult transition being the shift from GUI and command line screens to the 3270 green screens still used predominantly in most mainframe data centers.

“What I’ve found most challenging is coming to terms with just how much there is to learn,” says Reynaga. “For me, that’s been the most intimidating thing, just coming to terms with how much there is to the mainframe. I’d just love to learn everything there is to know now—just with mainframe automation—but that’s only a relatively small part of what the mainframe is. There’s so much more to it. There’s much I want to know, and just be there.”

Thankfully, Reynaga has more than enough time to get up to speed about a lot he doesn’t currently know about the mainframe, since he has youth on his side—a commodity in short supply when it comes to many mainframe professionals. For a former computer science student who didn’t even know the mainframe existed a few short years ago, he now sees nothing but a long career in front of him as a mainframer.

“I heard it all when I was back in school—that the mainframe went away in the 1990s; that it was dead for sure; distributed systems are going to replace it; things like that, I heard them all,” he says. “Working where I am now, though, I don’t believe it’s going anywhere, after all. Ever. It’s everywhere, but no one seems to know about it. That’s job security.”

If you know a new mainframe professional you’d like to see highlighted in this series, e-mail Ryan Rhodes at yossarian9@hotmail.com or Mike Westholder at mwestholder@msptechmedia.com.

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