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How to Reach Millennial Programmers

By Destination Z posted Mon December 23, 2019 03:34 PM

A few years ago I graduated from college and started working on the mainframe and I’m still blending into both my local and professional communities. For many people, reaching out to a new group is daunting, even though it can be very rewarding. Much in the same way, the mainframe community is collectively trying to reach out to a new community unaware of our existence: millennials. How do we get millennials to talk about the mainframe again?

This isn’t simply an intellectual exercise: the shortage of mainframe programmers and architects is cited as one of the biggest threats to Big Iron. It’s important for all companies that rely on mainframe computers to find the right new talent to operate their systems, but younger programmers often don’t know about these computers. Unfortunately, many organizations aren’t doing a good job communicating to those my age because they simply don’t use the right channels.

My company recently surveyed all of our summer engineering interns to explore how millennials chat, get news and learn.

As an exercise, try to think of the last thing you read or heard that wasn’t through a site or a person you know. For me, and most millennials like me, this is a challenge: since I moved out of my parents’ house (It happens, despite the trend!), I’ve never had a magazine or newspaper subscription. I only use my TV to watch specific live events with guests—usually just sports. Most of my media consumption is streaming, even if what I’m watching is on TV at the same time. Many of my friends live around the world, and I probably know more people a flight away than a drive away.

In short, this means if a discussion about the mainframe takes place outside of my workplace or a handful of sites, I won’t see it. Since so few people in my generation know about the mainframe, it’s hard for any message about it to reach them. And, considering the amount of noise that we’ve grown up with in our daily lives, even if we come into contact with it we may just filter it out and skip the headline altogether.

If your goal is to reach out to millennials at a national or global level, that means joining their communities on a personal level. A sponsored post on Facebook or a tweet using #Millennials doesn’t do enough. Speaking to them but not with them will never have the lasting effect. Use their language. Grow comfortable contributing to sites like Reddit, Stack Overflow and other tech sites without an agenda, to lend a voice or to learn the culture. Offer your experience to a university and show students that the mainframe is still an important platform.

Breaking into new circles isn’t an easy task. But if your goal is to bridge the gap, there’s no shortcut. And by then, your goal has completely changed. If you’re truly part of a new community, you don’t need to get millennials to talk about the mainframe. Simply talk about the mainframe with them.

Kyle Beausoleil is a 24-year-old engineer for Rocket Software. He has worked on a variety of projects on z/OS predominantly dealing with storage solutions. He often visits Massachusetts colleges attempting to reach out to students who have never considered a career on the mainframe and helps interns with the transition from the classroom to the office.