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IBM Champions in Action: Phil Allison

By Theresa Hans posted Wed June 17, 2020 03:40 PM


Although we’ve had to find different ways to connect with people lately, I’m so glad to be a part of the IBM Champion community. This group is flexible, loves to share, and we are still able to collaborate on ideas and projects albeit virtually. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know one of our first time IBM Champions for Z, Phil Allison, through Webex, e-mail, and phone calls since the beginning of the year. Not only am I happy to report that he’s a fellow New York Mets fan, but he’s also jumped right in to the Champion community sharing his ideas and presentations on his work as an Enterprise Architect with a focus on System Z and Storage at Black Knight Inc.

Phil took the time to share with me some additional thoughts on the latest Z technologies as well as his impression of the IBM Champion community so far. Read on below to learn more about Phil Allison, our Champion in Action :

What does it mean to you to be an IBM Champion?Phil Allison

It is a delight to receive industry recognition as an IBM Champion.  Champions have access to several Champion-specific channels and access to IBM product specialists, which would otherwise be difficult to attain. The knowledge and acquaintances gained as a Champion allow me to improve my value to Black Knight and contributes to Black Knight’s position as a technology leader.

The IBM Champion program is, in a word, supportive.  During calls, there is always a desire to help each other within the Champion z-Community, both with the IBM members and with customers.  When I have spoken about our experiences with a technology, there is a strong appreciation and encouragement for sharing.  The content shared is often useful and helps to expand my scope of knowledge. I feel the program is a great vessel for customers since it exposes programs companies can take advantage of such as sponsor user programs.

What are you most looking forward to as an IBM Champion this year?

2020 is the year in which perceptions regarding virtual meetings and collaboration over distance will forever change.  Recent z15, storage, Open Shift and Cloud announcements have provided great opportunities for IBM and customers alike, but COVID-19 has gotten in the way of onsite visits, workshops, etc. Because of this, IBM will need to leverage Champions employed by customers more than ever.  I am looking forward to more technology briefings and opportunities to collaborate with fellow Champions.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to become and IBM Champion in the future?

Don’t be bashful and don’t marginalize your accomplishments.  Ideas which advocate solutions and convey the value of those ideas to the business go a long way in becoming a Champion.  Don’t become complacent once you’ve gained expertise in a subject.  Make learning new technologies a perennial goal. Most of all, share what you learn and lead with what you’ve shared. 

What technology trends are you currently most excited about?

I am most excited about off-platform technologies which are gaining support within z/OS.  For example, extending the automation we have on z/OS with enterprise automation using Ansible and self-service provisioning with containers using OpenShift. (See a related blog on Ansible from Phil. -Ed.)

What is the best thing about working on the mainframe?

The mainframe possesses a unique set of attributes, data integrity, security, innovation, scalability, resilience and stability to name a few.  The mainframe is the only platform I know of that can support multiple hypervisors and 5 operating systems.  These qualities allow the mainframe to be a virtual smorgasbord of learning and opportunity for growth.  Mainframe talent is also in high demand and consequently internships and apprenticeships opportunities are excellent.

What advice do you have for someone looking to start a career on the mainframe?

If COVID-19 showed us anything, the reliance on mainframes among public and private sectors is significant.  Organizations that use mainframes that seek sustainability for legacy applications need to rejuvenate their workforce.  Many mainframe shops have a significant mainframe-skilled workforce over age 50. This is a tremendous opportunity for someone who is willing to learn operating systems such as z/OS or languages such as COBOL, but who can also say on a job interview that they can automate mainframe events using newer technologies such as Jenkins, Ansible or can code in Python.

My advice is to pursue an internship with a mainframe shop and find a mentor who can guide you.  For example, a mainframe intern who knows how to code in Python or node.js may fill a niche that compliments the deep expertise that already exists.  Having a mentor that can listen, offer advice and help navigate through the organization will eliminate obstacles and be your best advocate.

If the mainframe were a superhero, which superhero would it be?

The mainframe IS a superhero! In the Avengers series, there is a superhero called Mainframe.  This superhero had jet boosters (z15 capacity and zIIP boost spinoff?), sensors and weapons to combat disruption. This superhero has an A.I. core as well for transmitting problem data and to heal itself.

What is your next act as an IBM Champion going to be?

I will be constructing our next installment of Mainframe Days, an internal learning and advocacy program to introduce employees within various silos to a number of underlying technologies within our mainframe platform. You can read more about that in another blog of mine here


Thank you very much to Phil for sharing a bit more about himself and allowing us to get to know our IBM Champions that much better! If you’re interested in connecting further with Phil, feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn. If you’d like to learn about the other IBM Champions who specify in Z, subscribe to the twitter list or stay tuned here for additional Champion in Action blogs.

Thank you all for reading!