Cultivating community is a top priority in the mainframe space. IBM Z Ambassadors, or ZAmbassadors for short, represent just one program aimed at growing the mainframe community, with ambassadors in at least 17 countries. Each ZAmbassador volunteers in their local student community and plays a key role in advocating for IBM Z enterprise computing. These ambassadors not only build the IBM Z student community, but also spread the word about the Master the Mainframe competition and other learning opportunities with members of their campus communities. In return, they get a chance to build their own skills, bolster their resumes, expand their networks, and foster a stronger mainframe community — all with the help of IBM mentors.
For our first interview in an ongoing series spotlighting ZAmbassadors worldwide, we spoke with Marwa Thabet, a Ph.D. student in computer science at ISITCOM in Tunisia.
Marwa Thabet (MT): I'm currently a Ph.D. student in computer science with a research focus on cloud computing. I have been fond of algorithms, software design, and problem solving since I was in high school.
In Tunisia, we don't get mainframe lectures in school. I heard about mainframes from Melissa Sassi, the chief penguin of student and entrepreneur experience at IBM Z. Then, I did some research and discovered that mainframes were the first to introduce the concept of virtualization, which is behind the famous cloud nowadays. I was hooked and decided to learn more through the IBM course on Coursera. I also decided to be part of the Master the Mainframe (MTM) competition in 2020. It was amazing how you can't stop competing and learn as you practice. It is guided and supported by experts on slack and through the Z Ambassador events. Are you excited? Don't miss the call for the Z Ambassador 2021 program … coming soon!
SHARE: What are you most excited about learning from the Z community and what are you excited to share with them?
MT: The most exciting aspects of the mainframe community are the connections with experts, the new opportunities, and access to events and competitions. I love to share events, experiences, and achievements with others.
SHARE: Share one of your favorite things about the Z community and mainframe.
MT: My favorite things about the Z community are how humble and helpful the experts are and how they are easily reachable. As a student, I can share my ambitions and achievements with Z community members from all over the world. Also, how the community provides opportunities for students through the IBM Z Global Student Hub, where they can learn about enterprise computing and professional development through various blogs and events, and they can share their opinions directly with IBM and suggest new programs in the Global Student Hub discussion forum.
SHARE: Becoming an ambassador for any program or subject requires passion. What fuels your passion for IBM Z and the mainframe?
MT: I think it is my passion for unique things, and exploring new areas, that fuels my passion for IBM Z.
SHARE: Share three or more resources every aspiring mainframer should know about.
MT: Three things are: MTM learning system, Coursera: IBM z/OS Mainframe Practitioner Professional Certificate, and the IBM Developer YouTube Channel, which contains great tutorials to learn COBOL by Jeff Bisti (IBM Z). I also really recommend every interested student to join the IBM Z Global Student Hub where you can find experts' blogs and students who share great resources. See you there.
SHARE: What has been the best career advice you’ve received to date?
MT: Failure is not a mistake; it's part of the process to improve and get new skills!
SHARE: What is your vision for the future of mainframe and the Z community?
MT: I think it will soon be taught in schools all over the world. The IBM Z team is doing great work to make it fashionable and tractable for students. Besides, there is a huge demand for developers who master the mainframe.
SHARE: As a Z Ambassador, you’re tasked with building the IBM Z community and spreading the word about MTM 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?
MT: My main goal is to let more students and developers in Tunisia know about the opportunities brought by IBM Z and mainframes and help them get ready for them.
I have hosted seven events for Tunisian students online. As a result, for the MTM 2020 contest, there were 65 Level 2 finishers and 10 Level 3 finishers from Tunisia.
SHARE: As a student studying mainframe and, we assume, interning to understand real-world work, what have you noticed as a fundamental difference between the classroom and the office?
MT: In my opinion, the fundamental difference between the classroom and the office is that in class you are given a lecture and some related homework — or exam — to apply what you’ve learned, whereas in the office you are given a problem or task that you need to be able to either solve or complete. To do this, you should be able to call upon the knowledge you gained from your studies or experiences, or you need to be able to learn about it on the fly. This is what makes MTM and the Global Student Hub special. Both resources prepare you with the skills necessary for future work.
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?
MT: I will give you two: (1) never say no to any opportunity brought to you by IBM, and (2) don't keep your ideas to yourself. IBM hears you and makes them true in the best way!
Look for our next interview with ZAmbassador Lella Halloum in the coming months. Learn more about the Z Ambassador program here.
Marwa Thabet is a Ph.D. student in computer science at ISITCom (Tunisia), with a research focus on cloud computing. She is currently a ZAmbassador and Mendeley advisor. She co-organized several events to spread the word about mainframes technology to Tunisian youth and she was an active member of GirlsInAI2021 Tunisia. She likes learning about new innovative technologies to enhance problem solving.