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Sixth Annual Mainframe Scholarship

Initiative hopes to break application record yet again

10/30/2013 1:01:01 AM | This October marks the start of the sixth annual IBM Destination z Enterprise Computing Scholarship acceptance and selection process, an impressive run for a scholarship program dedicated to cultivating the next generation of mainframe professionals. Add to that impressive mark the fact the 2012 scholarship attracted a record 31 applicants, with 10 selected winners, and you start to realize there’s more to this platform than meets the eye.

Indeed, bolstering an IT resume with a “z Enterprise Computing Scholarship winner” bullet can attract a lot of positive attention from prospective IT employers. Just ask Chris Richardson, 2012 recipient of the “Greg Zaubi Memorial Scholarship,” the top honor of the scholarship program.

“When I worked to sell myself as a well-versed IT professional, I found that the scholarship—that type of notification, that kind of accomplishment—really helped set me apart,” says Richardson, who graduated in August from the University of South Carolina, interned with Boeing in Seattle, and accepted a full-time position with Boeing in September. “I think I had five or six companies that were all interested in me at the same time, and that scholarship came up every single time that I interviewed. It also helped that I came to the mainframe knowing nothing about it but I took the initiative and had the drive to learn everything I could about the mainframe to such an extent that I was able to receive that scholarship. Taken together, those were extremely powerful selling points.”

While the IBM System z Academic Initiative is always seeking additional support, 2013 Destination z scholarship sponsors, thus far, include IBM, INNOVATION Data Processing, and Vicom Infinity. For information about how to become a scholarship sponsor, visit the donation page

According to Mike Todd, IBM System z Academic Initiative advocate, the goal, as always, is to increase the number of applications, sponsors and winners—and to connect students from excellent mainframe programs with the broader enterprise computing community.

“The number of applications is important, but not as important as receiving quality, winning applications and recognizing top enterprise computing students from some of the top acadmic enterprise computing programs,” Todd says. “We want this program to encourage students to go forward on the mainframe platform and on a mainframe career path. Past winners have proven this and helped promote System z.”

Applications for the z Enterprise Computing Scholarship are accepted through Dec. 13, with winners announced in January.

So, what criteria catches a judge’s eye? According to Todd, a wide variety of factors can come into play, but a dedication to the mainframe is key.

“We’re looking for students who have demonstrated excellence in their enterprise computing coursework and who are dedicated to continuing on the platform either academically or professionally, and ideally both,” Todd says. “GPA can be a factor, but it’s more important that a student has taken or is taking at least one mainframe-specific course.”

And, of course, taking part in the Master the Mainframe contest can be a significant consideration, particularly if participants can soldier through Part 2 of the contest, as Richardson did.

“That was really my first introduction to the mainframe, back in 2011, when I first took part in the contest—I didn’t even really know what a mainframe was at that point,” Richardson says. “But, I was more prepared the following year and was able to complete both parts one and two, and I think that really set me apart in a lot of ways when it came to being awarded the scholarship—having done it twice and going further the second time.”

While Richardson isn’t currently pursuing a mainframe-specific career, he says his mainframe experience and the scholarship will likely always open IT career doors that otherwise would have been unavailable to him, as well as help him traverse the tricky minefield of enterprise computing troubleshooting.

“At the enterprise business level, I’m almost certain to come across a mainframe at some point, even if it’s not my primary computing focus,” he says. “When that happens, and it will, I’ll be comfortable moving to that interface, whether it’s a green screen or GUI. Having mainframe experience is huge.”

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