The Magic of Mainframes

By Elizabeth Bell  |  Posted 2009-04-08

See also:

Young IT Pros and Mainframes

New Role for Old Geeks

Why would young people starting a career in IT want to work with mainframes? Well, let me tell you my story. It may ease your concerns about who will tend your legacy systems when your current IT pros retire.

My foray into the world of computers began with my family’s purchase of a used Tandy 1000 when I was about

8 years old. I was endlessly fascinated by everything about that computer.

When my school got its first computer with a mouse, I pleaded with my teacher until she finally relented and let me spend time in the library each week using the machine for my extracurricular projects.

In secondary school, I participated in a variety of computer-related courses, including a few programming courses.

So, when it came time to choose a focus for my post-secondary schooling, it wasn’t at all hard for me to decide to work with computers. I’ve always been comfortable with them, and the job market is always ripe with openings.

When I started college, I had only a basic knowledge of programming, but I had a strong desire to learn. The professors at Georgian College in Barrie, Ontario, provided me with the perfect environment in which to develop my skills and talents.

In my second year of college, mainframes entered my life when I participated in IBM’s “Master the Mainframe” contest as part of a course. Before that, I didn’t know what a mainframe was or that there were mainframes right in my own backyard. I enjoyed the contest, and, as a result, I developed an interest in the mainframe platform.

I described my experiences with the contest and my co-op employment work with the County of Simcoe at a Computer Studies Advisory Committee meeting hosted by my college. There, I was introduced to a IT manager of the BMO Financial Group.

After corresponding through e-mail and sharing my experiences and my desire to work with mainframes, I was offered a co-op position as an associate application analyst at BMO. I spent two four-month co-op work terms learning how to install software on the mainframe in both development and customer-facing production environments.

After sharing my success with IBM and thanking them for the great career opportunity, I was invited to attend the launch of IBM’s z10 main- frame in 2008. That event gave me an opportunity to meet other students who also are pursuing careers that are focused on mainframes.

Currently, I’m finishing college and am anxious to start my career with “big iron.” The going-green trend is spreading, and I’m curious to see how the mainframe will evolve to reduce the footprints left by data centers.

This is a pivotal time to be entering the world of mainframes. I believe that we’ve just scratched the surface of their potential. There is so much more to come, and I can’t wait to be there to see it first-hand.

Elizabeth Bell is a third-year computer programmer analyst student at Georgian College. When she graduates this summer, Bell will begin working in the data center at BMO Financial Group.