The Z Ambassadors play a key role in their local student community in advocating for IBM Z technologies and enterprise computing. Each Z Ambassador not only builds the IBM Z Global Student Hub community but also spreads the word about Hour of Z and other learning opportunities. For our second interview in this Z Ambassador series, we sat down with Cindy Fang, a third year computer science co-op student at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario.
SHARE: Tell us about your background in technology and how you learned about enterprise computing.
Cindy Fang (CF): I am a third-year computer science student pursuing a concentration in software engineering. Throughout my two years of studying and exploring topics in technology on my own, I've come across many interesting concepts. One of these concepts was enterprise computing, including their applications and the global impact of the platform. Through finding an Instagram post calling for ZAmbassadors, I ended up applying and was introduced to a whole new world involving these big computers. My role as a ZAmbassador and contestant in the Master the Mainframe contest connected me to an IBM Z mainframe and the enterprise computing world. I gained the experience of learning and programming in COBOL.
SHARE: What are you most excited about learning from the Z community and what are you excited to share with them?
CF: I am grateful to be in the Z community and to be able to interact with individuals with the same interests. I got the chance to connect with other students who share my same passion for technology, have been able to share my thoughts in the IBM Z Global Student Hub, and was even introduced to the enterprise computing world and Z skills.
At the same time, there are many professionals with industry expertise available for friendly coffee chats and who help answer questions about mainframes. I am very excited to learn about possible career routes in programming and to listen to first-hand experiences from experts. I look forward to meeting newcomers and sharing the knowledge and experiences I've had since I first joined and to providing them with beginner tips.
SHARE: Share one of your favorite things about the Z community and mainframe.
CF: I love how the community is always welcoming and extremely helpful. During the Master the Mainframe contest period, many of us contestants were met with challenges and many experts were there to provide step-by-step assistance voluntarily. The community is so supportive and willing to provide guidance, and I am forever grateful for its support. I can feel the passion these individuals have for mainframes, which is an amazing example for newer mainframers to witness.
SHARE: Becoming an ambassador for any program or subject requires passion. What fuels your passion for IBM Z?
CF: At first, it was my lack of knowledge in mainframes and curiosity about IBM Z in the technology industry that fueled my passion to learn as much as I could on this topic. Being a ZAmbassador gave me unique exposure to the world of mainframes, and my learn-while-competing experience with Master the Mainframe made me want to know more about mainframe applications and the machine’s global impact. After the contest, I saw how my code could contribute to big changes, and I wanted to continue learning and being active in the community, as well as contribute to the advancement of IBM Z and promote for Hour of Z and the Global Student Hub.
SHARE: Share three or more resources every aspiring mainframer should know about.
CF: First I would recommend that aspiring mainframers register on the Global Student Hub for access to content ranging from blogs to videos that all offer tips for beginners. Additionally, the following resources are great for newcomers to the mainframe:
SHARE: What has been the best career advice you’ve received to date?
CF: The best career advice I’ve received so far is to understand my strengths and weaknesses, and then focus on improving them, as well as to market my strengths. No matter if you are looking to run a start-up or aiming to be an employee at an established company, this advice applies.
SHARE: What is your vision for the future of mainframe and the Z community?
CF: I hope that more young people will become aware and curious about mainframes. It is unfortunate that many of my peers at school and in the community do not know enough about mainframes to realize their potential. I plan to bring more young people into the Z community, aid them on their learning journey, and continue to provide events for IBM Z. My vision for the future is for the next generation of smart-minded programmers to lead the innovation of mainframe applications and impact the technology world.
SHARE: As a ZAmbassador, you’re tasked with building the IBM Z community and spreading the word about Z skills and other learning opportunities. What are some goals you’ve set for yourself in this role? Can you share some concrete steps you plan to take on your community-building journey?
CF: As a ZAmbassador, I want to promote the global student hub and bring in as many students as I can from over the world. I also want to spread awareness on mainframe programming and IBM Z’s resources to my school and community. To reach these goals, I have already started a Master the Mainframe account on Instagram to reach more students through social media. This account provides followers with updates, tips, events, resources, and important information on the contest and the Global Student Hub. Moving forward, I will continue to manage that account with a few other ZAmbassadors. I also plan to host a few workshops to guide participants through a basic programming tutorial to help boost their skills on their journey.
SHARE: As a student studying computer science, enterprise computing and mainframes and, we assume, interning to understand real-world work, what have you noticed as a fundamental difference between the classroom and the office?
CF: There are some big differences in learning from the classroom and office, and both are equally important. The classroom teaches you foundational knowledge that you must be familiar with in order to participate in internships in an office environment. Without the foundational knowledge, I think that the internship experience would not reach its full potential. While the classroom knowledge may not all be used in the workplace, it serves as a base to propel you through new topics and technical working environments and styles. In the office, you get first-hand work experience, no matter if it is just watching a co-worker complete a task or trying a project yourself. You will see the bigger picture and understand how you can apply your classroom knowledge in the real world.
SHARE: How did you learn about the Z Ambassador program, and what tips or advice do you have for someone considering participating in the program?
CF: I learned of the Z Ambassador program through an Instagram post advertising its open applications last summer. I was interested in the program due to its benefits for students (networking with IBM mentors, student badges and swag, opportunities to write blogs, achieve showcasing, and more), and later went through the application process to be accepted. My advice for a potential ZAmbassador is to definitely apply, as the experiences are very special and you get many opportunities to expand your network and bring higher visibility to yourself. These benefits are very important in your early career journey, and, as a ZAmbassador, always try to be attentive to new events and promotion tasks, this shows that you have the initiative to take on opportunities. You can participate yourself this semester and apply at yourbigyear.com.
Check out all interviews in our ZAmbassador series and learn more about the Z Ambassador program.
Cindy Fang is a third-year computer science co-op student at Ryerson University. Her expected graduation is Spring 2024. She is a self-motivated learner with a growth mindset, who hopes to have a career in software development, specifically DevOps. In the computer science community, Fang is an advocate for IBM Z mainframes and the global student contest Master the Mainframe. Outside of work, her hobbies include reading webtoons and sci-fi fantasy books, playing piano, and listening to K-pop.