Evangelizing Mainframe
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It's a Big Pond ...

Navigating alone in a big pond is not a good thing, as you need a school of fish to guide you and help you grow. People new to the mainframe, or who have recently taken on a new mainframe role, may be feeling like a minnow in a huge pond. To develop new mainframe skills, it helps tremendously to have a network of experienced mainframe professionals eager to guide and nurture minnows. If you prefer to swim alone, that’s OK; I still encourage you to read on to see how you might assist other fish in the pond.

You might be wondering, “Why should I join a professional network?” When a fish is off on his own, he won’t have the benefit of the group. Challenges that arise might be harder to manage alone, and fish are better equipped to protect their territory in a group. Visualize a professional network as a school of fish, and how well they work together to complete their daily tasks. A network can be a great support! If you have a story to share about how a network of experienced professionals helped you overcome an obstacle in your job, please post a comment to share with my readers.

To find a professional network, you might use your favorite search engine and search key phrases like “mainframe network” or “career change from operator to system programmer.” The results would yield information about different reference books, IT networks, responsibilities for an operator or system programmer, and more. Because you most likely wouldn’t find the answer you’re looking for in your search, I want to share the inside scoop with you. No matter what size fish you are, the organization called SHARE, Inc. is the “school” you want to be a part of, because they offer the most valuable professional network for those who have just started their mainframe career or have transitioned into a new mainframe role.

You might be thinking, what is SHARE an acronym for? Well, it’s not an acronym at all; it’s what we do … SHARE knowledge. As a mainframe user group, SHARE is an essential school because members share their hardware and software user experiences and foster long-term professional relationships that span throughout the year. Go to the SHARE website to learn more, but first I’d like to highlight its valuable networking component. In the sea of online information, the power of SHARE is the feeling of belonging and having a school of people surrounding you who want to see you succeed.

SHARE offers various channels for all stages of mainframe career development. There’s a pond for small fish to swim in, called zNextGen that I co-founded with Kristine Harper. It’s a group within SHARE whose goals are to provide beginner- and intermediate-level education to early tenure mainframe professionals or anyone who may have changed job roles and now needs to develop new mainframe skills. zNextGen also offers networking, mentoring and education throughout the year.

Here’s one example to demonstrate the value of the professional network I’ve built through SHARE. I was trying to complete a work item that was due the next day. I had done all my research, but I still didn’t understand what I needed to complete my assignment. Then, through the magic of instant messenger, I saw my zNextGen buddy online who happened to have experience in the area I was stuck on. Because we had built a mentee/mentor professional relationship, I felt confident enough to send a quick chat and ask him for help. Within minutes he explained what I wasn’t clear about, and I was able to complete my assignment and meet my deadline. I can’t express enough how valuable this lifeline was for me.

Another example to help qualify the value of our SHARE network is how all members are able to communicate with the developers and managers of various mainframe software and hardware vendors. How often do you get to directly connect with people who design the solutions you use daily in your job? As a member of this school, you can submit requirements to those vendors on behalf of all SHARE members, instead of just coming from you. As part of this network, you can also participate in IBM’s System z Stakeholder Feedback program. For more information on that see my previous blog post.

For more experienced fish, SHARE offers a wide range of larger ponds to swim in that cover all areas of the mainframe. If you’re fortunate enough to be an experienced fish, pay it forward and encourage a less-experienced colleague to join SHARE.

Being part of a school, or network, can help you avoid feeling like the only fish in the pond, wondering what to do next. As you gain knowledge and grow into an experienced fish, your continued involvement in a network will help guide other fish to successfully navigate the deep end of that huge pond we know as the mainframe.

If you have any questions about SHARE or zNextGen, please post a comment below so others can benefit from the discussion!

Iris Rivera is a user experience professional specializing in System z Software UCD and usability at IBM. In her eight years at IBM, she’s acted as the liaison between people and technology, by using various methodologies like stakeholder feedback, to ensure IBM develops solutions that meet the needs of their customers and end users. She is also one of the co-founders of zNextGen.

Posted: 1/15/2013 12:02:55 AM by Iris Rivera

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