As I enter the last decade of my career, it’s nice to know that I’m helping pave the way for the next-gen mainframers.
David Hodgson, August 26, 2014
“You’re off to great places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So… get on your way!”
The above book by children’s author Dr. Seuss is one that often comes to mind when congratulating someone who has recently graduated. But maybe in this case, I’d say, “Your mainframe is waiting…”
Last week I was the speaker for the Class of 2014, Associate Software Engineer (ASE) graduation event at the CA Technologies office in Pittsburgh. Encountering the drive and passion of people launching their careers was an amazingly inspiring way to end a week.
The ASE program at CA Technologies just completed its eighth year and we have on-boarded over 500 graduate engineers onto our teams through this mechanism.
Investing in next-gen mainframers
With many of the veterans of IT in our ranks retiring as baby boomers, we know the investment is critical to providing a replacement workforce on our mainframe products.
By actively recruiting and training graduates ourselves, we not only ensure a strong a next-gen group of thinkers in terms of demographics, but also ideology and culture.
“Breeding” lost comp sci skills
Within the mainframe development organization we code in Java, C and other high-level languages as much as possible now, but there is still a need for IBM assembler programmers to maintain and evolve critical parts of our broad portfolio of management products.
These skills are no longer being taught within university computer science departments, so it is necessary to ensure we “breed” them ourselves. We recruit at major universities near our six main US development centers: Ewing, Framingham, Islandia, Lisle, Pittsburgh and Plano.
We also find candidates at career fairs, including West Texas A&M, Penn State, Arkansas and Northern Illinois. We run a similar program for our development center in Hyderabad, India too.
Putting them through their paces
The students worked hard, boot-camp style for seven weeks learning z/OS essentials and the specifics of IBM assembler. A highlight was attending the SHARE summer event, where they could see more broadly what the mainframe means to the industry. The group of 31 ASEs also had time for purely social events that helped them relax and enabled them to bond together as a class.
The main host of the class, Jim Kokoszynski, a former Marine and VP for the Pittsburgh development center, made it his mission to ensure the students had fun.
He invited the gang over to his house for a BBQ and dodge ball event as well as arranged the Ducky Tour (a river cruise on amphibious vehicles), a visit to Kennywood amusement park and, of course, they went to a Pirates game. He also brought in local guest speakers: Bronze Star and Purple Heart Veteran as well as Super Bowl Steeler Rocky Bleier and Carnegie STEM director Linda Ortenzo.
What I taught them
My talk centered on CA Technologies strategy of enabling the mainframe as part of the mainstream IT trends today, including the requirements of the emerging application economy. This means addressing technologies like mobile device access, big data analytics, hybrid cloud and devops.
And, of course, I emphasized the opportunities I saw for the class both to develop their careers and contribute directly to setting the directions we took in some of these areas. We emphasize teamwork at CA Technologies and are always looking for ways to flatten the organization and enable everyone to be involved and contribute to our overall success.
What they taught me
The students followed me by each summing up their experiences of the time together. With energy and enthusiasm they expressed common themes of hard work, challenges and becoming totally committed to the amazing world of today’s mainframe computing environment.
But what struck me most were the camaraderie, team spirit and obvious deep friendships that the whole group had experienced and forged. What an incredibly empowering way to start a career and your first job. This bunch of people will now probably be lifelong friends and will support each other during the transition from university life to a job inside a large corporation like CA Technologies.
As I begin to enter the last stages of my career, which I started as an assembler programmer too, it is with some satisfaction that I can view my job as participating in helping pave the way for many successful careers that get launched through the ASE program each year. Best of luck to the Class of 2014!