In August, SHARE members descended on New Orleans, Louisiana, to learn from technology experts, share their expertise with each other, and learn about new products from vendors. But getting there can be a long journey for many, especially students just making their way in the mainframe ecosystem.
IBM Z Champion Geoffrey Decker from Northern Illinois University's Department of Computer Science has known about SHARE’s events since the late 1980s when he stumbled into the mainframe world through dinners at his University of Kansas (KU) roommate's family home. Decker, who graduated from the KU with a degree in music, was struggling to find his career path when he met Dr. Robert Rannie, winner of one of the first John R. Ehrman Awards for Sustained Excellence in Technical Education. “I got to know him spending time at my roommate’s home in Kansas City during holidays where Dr. Rannie was often a guest,” said Decker.
“Among other things, Dr. Rannie taught MVS systems programming in the Department of Computer Science at Northern Illinois University (NIU). Knowing my struggles to find a career path, he suggested I give computer science a try,” he recalls. “I moved to DeKalb and took COBOL during the summer. The understanding was that, if I did well enough and thought it worth pursuing, I could start the Master of Science degree in Computer Science at NIU.”
Dr. Rannie was the best mentor he could have asked for given Rannie's experience with MVS Systems Programming. It’s no wonder that after an 11-year career in the mainframe ecosystem, Decker decided to become a university instructor in mainframe computing at NIU.
“When Dr. Rannie retired from NIU in the mid-2000s, the Department of Computer Science asked if I would like to serve as our department's SHARE representative,” he said. “Of course, I was honored to accept.” When it came time to attend his first SHARE event in Atlanta this year, Decker sought university support, but it was clear that the university couldn’t pay for every SHARE event. As entrepreneurial people often do, Decker sought corporate sponsorship to cover the cost of attending SHARE New Orleans for himself and also for Dr. Cameron Seay from East Carolina University.
“We were very fortunate to have Intellimagic sponsor us to attend SHARE New Orleans, and we both can't begin to thank them enough,” says Decker.
Sponsoring academics and sending current employees to SHARE events can ensure employees and instructors are aware of the latest mainframe technologies. The same can be true for students. Decker always recommends that his students who are interested in mainframe careers have a LinkedIn page and join the mainframe groups on the site to network and learn from other experts.
At the end of this summer's NIU class on Assembler, he says, “I mentioned that I would be attending SHARE. Several students wanted to know more about it, and, to my surprise, they had registered as students and made flight and hotel reservations within just a few days.” He told his students that it was another way for them to network with mainframe employers and learn about new products, as well as discover the support that SHARE offers the community. “I could not be happier at how welcomed they were by everyone,” he says, “And they learned so much.”
With corporate or academic sponsorship, he adds, two other students, who were unable to cover the costs on their own, could also have attended SHARE New Orleans. Decker says corporate or mainframe community sponsorships for students is one way the industry could not only identify and cultivate new talent, but it is also another way that they could extend their reach into the university system and build a pipeline of future employees.
SHARE is the one place where academics, mainframers, and students can access a huge wealth of mainframe ecosystem knowledge. “Learning directly from the experts in the mainframe field is an unquantifiable experience,” says Decker. “The camaraderie at SHARE is infectious.” SHARE brings together expertise from a variety of companies, vendors, and walks of life into one place and for one purpose: sharing knowledge. According to Decker, the benefits of supporting academics, employees, and students’ desires to attend SHARE events are endless. Companies and other sponsors should follow the lead of Intellimagic in opening doors for students and other mainframers so they can gain the knowledge they need for a successful career.
Registration for SHARE Orlando, taking place March 3-7, 2024, is now open! Don't miss out on knowledge-packed sessions and networking opportunities, and register today.
TAGS: Students , SHARE NOLA
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