New mainframers are finally beginning to arrive, and the mainframe shops that take fullest advantage of the mainframe’s strengths just keep getting bigger through organic growth or due to mergers and acquisitions.
So why aren’t more mainframers getting the word out about this important career choice? And why do we keep seeing articles excoriating big government and industry for continuing to grow their “legacy” mainframe investments?
Clearly, it’s not yet smooth sailing for the mainframe juggernaut—and I’m not sure it ever will be, as some of my recent writing and presenting has hinted.
But let me be clear; struggle can be good. It means you’re alive. The struggles that we’re waking up to in the mainframe world may feel threatening, but we’re going to have to rise to the challenge—necessity being the mother of invention.
Challenge 1: Rebuilding Mainframe Culture
The first struggle we all need to reengage with is culture. Getting the word out to key decision-makers and influencers is essential. We have to bring together tools and approaches to measure and prove that the mainframe is still the definitive platform for the most critical large-scale workloads in the world. It’s time hold the media and other sources of public influence accountable for their malpractice of portraying the platforms that are more sizzle than steak as superior to the one that actually runs the economy. We have to get more new people working on the platform.
And doing those things will help to build our culture, but it’s a culture where much of what made it great in the past is fading. And it’s also a culture with many outdated ways of thinking that are no longer relevant to forward-looking approaches to running the world economy for the next century and more.
So, I’m issuing the first challenge: It’s time for us to grow up, stand up, speak up and power up to take on new opportunities that show who we are and what our platform is capable of. Get involved in mainframe organizations like SHARE, both during the conference and year-round. Take a professional interest in developing your knowledge outside of the technical silo that you’re a part of. Find ways to combine the rest of your life with your mainframe career—maybe even do something artistic that incorporates it.
And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. I’ve settled on a thesis topic for my Master’s degree: “The Humanity of the Mainframe.” I’m hoping to turn it into a book that your non-mainframe friends and family can read, likely some time in 2020 or thereabouts. If I can do it, you can too. Bring your humanity back together with the technology that powers your career.
Challenge 2: Sounding the Alarm
Once you’ve begun to drink deeply of the mainframe and its culture (and I’m not just talking at SCIDS, the SHARE evening reception), then it’s time to get the word out to your coworkers and management, because our next challenge is that people are still trying to squeeze the mainframe for every savings they can get without investing in it to get exponential increases in value. I think this counts as malpractice. And it’s up to each one of us to sound the alarm, blow the whistle and wake our management and organizations up to the fact that the mainframe is still the only computer that really works for the most large-scale and critical business workloads on Earth.
If you do it right, you’ll likely be challenged to prove it. So get ready: It’s time to show the cost-benefits advantage of the mainframe in an objectively verifiable manner that can’t be dismissed by people who are stuck on playing with glorified video games. The good news is, there’s a lot of good content out there already, and you probably know many colleagues who have risen to this challenge in the past. While some of these colleagues rose to the occasion only to have their work ignored because the salesperson for the distributed solution was more attractive, to quote Winston Churchill, “Never give up!” We know we have what works, and the day will come when it becomes too obvious to deny anymore. Be one of those who hasten that day.
Challenge 3: Holding the Media Accountable
Next is the easiest but most uncomfortable challenge we have to face down: holding the media and other public sources accountable for misrepresenting the mainframe. Email, call, submit comments or even tell them in person: The world’s economy runs on Z! There’s a reason for this, and that reason doesn’t apply to any other platform. Persist in these efforts; by the hundredth time you call them to explain, some of them might just be starting to understand.
Challenge 4: Getting More Mainframers
Finally, we do need more people. Of course, we need jobs for them, and that’s why the previous challenges have been issued. But we also need professionals who are willing and ready to take on those jobs. That means getting the word out to students, to former mainframers, to IT people and to others who seem able to take on the challenge. It also means getting some mentoring underway that encourages employers to start to see the opportunity to do more of it, and to build on this great platform.
You might be thinking, “Those are the challenges? None of them are technical! None of them are economic!” The mainframe has those dimensions handled. It’s people stuff that needs to start happening, so we can start moving the mainframe platform forward and getting it ready to turn its weaknesses and threats into strengths and opportunities. I’ll discuss this in my next (and final) article on mainframe continuity planning.