Ahmed Nehal, recent graduate of CA Technologies Associate Software Engineer (ASE) Training Program, discusses his time in the program and his recent experiences at the SHARE Pittsburgh conference.
It Takes Every Kind of Person
I think one of the most striking things about the CA Technologies ASE training program was the diversity of my classmates. Besides recent college graduates, there were former nurses, creative musicians, Ph.D. holders and even three Marines looking to start new careers in mainframe technology.
This tells you a lot about the focus CA Technologies puts on nurturing talent and recruiting the right people. CA’s recruitment process is rigorous but balanced: They choose people not just based on their competency with a particular tool or language, and they look for a balance of skill, personality and determination when selecting each year’s ASE class.
I believe it’s a successful strategy. CA Technologies ASE program is now in its sixth year. Each year, the vast majority of participants move into full-time positions in the company. To date, there have been more than 400 ASEs hired from the program, many of whom have since been promoted to senior positions within the company. Based on my interactions with some of these former ASEs, I feel a big part of the advancements is due to CA’s appreciation for the complete range of abilities candidates has to offer.
The positive feedback I’ve heard from my peers also speaks volumes for the quality of the ASE training program itself. The seven-week course was an intensive and immersive look at the ABCs of mainframe. We learned a broad collection of technical skills and disciplines we’ll need in our professional lives.
Additionally, many of the CA Technologies leaders came to Pittsburgh to share their career experiences and discuss the future of the mainframe with us. Some of the leaders included Mike Madden, general manager, mainframe; Scott Fagen, distinguished engineer; Don Balducci, senior advisor, talent development; Thomas Angle, senior vice president, software engineering; and Kristin Sommerstad, vice president, human resources. Everything we learned and experienced created a basic platform from which my classmates and I were able to launch our future careers.
Going Beyond the Classroom
But the education didn’t stop there. CA Technologies recognizes technical skills aren’t everything when it comes to nurturing future employees and providing a foundation for professional success.
The ASE training included opportunities for my classmates and I to learn the so-called softer skills—the teambuilding, leadership and networking—that complete an employee’s skillset and compliment the technical disciplines embedded in our work. We were all encouraged to collaborate with our classmates on projects and to socialize in group events, network over lunch and dinner and plan weekend activities together.
Outside of the technical instruction, one of the most valuable and enriching parts of the course was attending the SHARE conference in Pittsburgh
SHARE is a volunteer-run organization dedicated to providing education, training and networking opportunities to enterprise technology professionals. Their twice-annual conferences, which move around the U.S., are a focal point for enterprise technology professionals of all ages and levels of experience. As I discovered, SHARE’s Pittsburgh conference was a hub for some of the most celebrated leaders and prominent veterans from the world of mainframe.
Events like SHARE are very important because they provide professional context. For example, before attending SHARE, there were times I would worry about the longevity of mainframe as a technology (you often read about how mainframe will be displaced by one technology or another). However, after talking to some of the finest minds in mainframe, I now believe it will last at least until I retire.
Another thing that struck me at the SHARE conference was the collaborative environment created by representatives from the industry. It didn’t matter if they were young or old, industry legend or college graduate, a fellow CA Technologies employee or someone from a fierce competitor, everyone was willing to share experiences, swap war stories and offer fresh perspectives.
There was a sense of community that I didn’t expect. So much so, that I met and happily chatted with a number of real celebrities from the mainframe scene—like IBM’s Nick Garrod and Gary Andrews—all of whom were incredibly personable and made me appreciate how cooperative the mainframe community can be.
On top of that, I attended hands-on training lab sessions for various mainframe tools, seminars to learn about mainframe’s history, built some strong professional connections and heard some fascinating talks by industry masterminds. I left with a great sense of what is going on in the world of mainframe.
Applying Teachings to Professional Life
I think that SHARE, and events like it, are particularly crucial for young enterprise professionals like me. CA Technologies made a wonderful choice exposing my classmates and me to that environment. It gave us all the inspiration, motivation, confidence and perspective that you can’t find in any other setting.
Having completed the seven-week ASE course, I’m currently settling in to professional life, armed with my experience from SHARE and the great education I received in the ASE program. I’m looking forward to my career at CA Technologies and ‘SHAREing’ my own experiences in the years to come.
Ahmed Nehal is an Associate Software Engineer at CA Technologies.