The age of the industry mainframer can range widely but many are now nearing retirement. Yes, many of us have gray hair and wear Aerosmith tee shirts to work. Being a mainframer has proven to be a wonderfully rewarding and meaningful career. As the next generation of mainframers ascend, we must pass the baton of our knowledge and knowhow on so they can leverage the platform to drive new progress for business and our world economy forward.
One way is through hands-on experience and education, like what is provided through internship programs. In mid-2022, I had the extreme pleasure of working with several talented mainframe interns who were members of the inaugural Kyndryl Internship Program. The program had approximately 80 participants and covered several project areas for Kyndryl. The internship’s duration was 12 weeks, and our mainframe discipline was in the Raleigh-Durham area. Our mainframe architect interns all had that “fire in the belly” that I value so highly in work ethic.
The Kyndryl mainframe internship experience was an introduction to mainframe architecture. Interns were exposed to zSystems lab work, various architect tools, disruptive topics, architectural thinking, and team solution design methodologies. The regimen also included customer shadowing and real-life customer experience with the zCloud team which provides support for our customers who have contracts providing their infrastructure in the Kyndryl mainframe cloud environment. A team presentation at the end of the program was used to review the skills and understanding obtained during the experience. The interns acquired a basic understanding of why mainframe architecture is so important to driving business and our global economy.
One of the assignments was the completion of disruptive technology research papers. Our Kyndryl mainframe architect interns did a fantastic job in the construction and presentation of their assigned topics. The papers were in direct support of our mainframe strategy, which focuses on the right workload for the right platform. With the overwhelming success and the high quality of interns, the program will continue in 2023 to train the next class of mainframers for the future support of our customer’s mainframes.
Kim Duran, a Kyndryl Mainframe Architect involved in the Internship Program, stated, "I’ve noticed firsthand that the new interns are very interested to learn. I helped the interns with the zXplore program, a hands-on mainframe lab environment, and they were eager to get their hands on a mainframe system. The exciting part about the zXplore program is that they were able to perform tasks themselves and get vital mainframe experience. Any task that they were given was completed in record time, and they were asking for more. These interns are going to be a great addition to the mainframe field and will be sure to help transform it for the future."
Getting hands-on experience with the mainframe is a key requirement for mainframe education programs.
The Vital Need for Mainframe in the World Economy
We all know the mainframe is not going anywhere soon. Solid careers are calling, and the skillset is distinctive. At Kyndryl, we have gotten ahead of the mainframer age curve by training our employees. The average age of the Kyndryl mainframer is 38 years old.
Fortune 100 organizations utilize mainframes for a variety of reasons. In terms of speed of transactional processing, the mainframe has no peer. Not to mention, scaling, security and the 99.99999% of uptime, i.e., three seconds of downtime per year. A 2019 survey of mainframe professionals conducted by Forrester for IBM showed that nearly 90% of professionals in enterprise computing careers agree the job market for their skillset is growing, and 75% believe there is a high demand for their skills in mainframe.
Optimization of the mainframe, will be a skillset in high demand for much of the foreseeable future. Four key areas of skill need will be:
- Security: Historically, the mainframe is known for its high security and near bulletproof stature. Organizations will need to keep up with regulatory requirements and compliance topics
- Cloud: Customer organizations want and need the ability to seamlessly scale as demand increases in their environments. COVID changes in work locations have driven this need.
- Proficient Mainframe Training: 75% of respondents to the 2022 Mainframe Modernization Report from oneadvanced.com are concerned with having access to the correct skill sets to operate their mainframes.
- Efficiency: Software licensing costs are rising quickly. A huge percentage of the overall cost of the mainframe including maintenance costs are also rising. New mainframers will need to be skilled in working efficiently and innovating ways to lower overall costs.
The required skills in these four areas are proof of the need for mainframe education to support the mainframe environments long into the future.
Jonathan Dietz, vice president of core enterprise and zCloud of Kyndryl, recently shared his thoughts on this topic, stating: “Education is one of the best gifts we can give to anyone. With that said, educating people in an area that gives them an advantage in the marketplace over others — well, that is a blessing! Mainframes are not going away, and the demands for mainframers are anticipated to grow at a sizeable rate over the next 10 years.”
Looking Forward: Educating the Mainframers of Tomorrow
As an affiliate professor with Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, I have authored and delivered my Enterprise Computing class to a myriad of IT and CS students over the past five years. The class is always fully booked and has overrides to attend. I love the opportunity to transfer my knowledge as I approach retirement, and this is an outstanding way to do just that.
Mainframe education is a very popular topic that needs to be continuously advocated at our universities. Getting mainframe experience on a resume can lead to landing jobs quickly. Students need to always know: a mainframe education is a career and a skillset that not many can profess to having acquired. The demand for experienced mainframers is staggering.