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My VM Workshop Experience

By Destination Z posted Mon December 23, 2019 03:28 PM

This May I submitted a blog entry regarding the then-upcoming VM Workshop event and my pet passion, building mainframe skills. Well, the VM Workshop has concluded successfully, and I’m here to give you a synopsis of the event and how it tied into my pet passion.

First, let me tell you that this year’s Workshop was a resounding success, both in terms of attendance and the flexibility of the conference team to integrate z/VSE into their program. Here are some of the numbers:

  • Attendance this year was 200. This compared with 50 just five years ago, and 114 at last year’s event.
  • There were over 50 sessions covering z/VM, Linux on z Systems and z/VSE, and some general sessions (like mine to be described later).
  • There were four hands-on labs conducted as follows:
    —VM Install Lab (consisted of four one-hour sessions)
    —LINUX install Lab (consisted of three one-hour sessions)
    —REXX Programming Lab (consisted of four one-hour sessions)
    —VSE Connector and mobile labs (consisted of two one-hour sessions)
    —Total for lab sessions was 13 one-hour sessions
  • The total for all labs and sessions was 65 hours over the three-day conference.
And to put this in perspective, all of this was available for $100.00 per attendee. Of course travel/lodging was the attendee’s responsibility, but the $100 conference fee included a polo shirt, receptions and a dinner banquet on the second day. For more information regarding the workshops visit the VMWorkshop website. Plans for next year’s event are already in progress, though the venue has yet to be selected.

Per my May blog, I had intended to go to this event as a volunteer to help set up and perform any volunteer duties that were needed. I had also, with IBM’s blessing, submitted an abstract to do a session updating attendees on IBM’s Academic Initiative program for z System, and to provide insight and commentary from my own experience as a University Ambassador for the program while working at IBM, and continuing that role with some local colleges and high schools after my retirement from IBM. To my surprise (given the high-powered sessions that I was competing with), my session was pretty well attended. Not only was the content of my presentation well received, but I connected with both IBMers and mainframe clients to help them in their efforts to promote skills in the cities in which they are based.

Now back to community, as predicted in my prior blog, I in fact was able to connect with many of the VM development team that I used to work with both in Kingston and Endicott, New York, some of which I hadn’t see since I moved from Endicott in 1994. It was great catching up to understand how their careers had progressed, how families were doing and of course what their plans for the future were. The opportunity to meet up with these folks was due to the location of this year’s event, and the openness of the planners to designate a “meet the developers” event which allowed both current VM developers as well as some of the retirees to come to the conference to mingle. I’ll tell you, I haven’t been to a conference that had that kind of program in a long time, if ever!

This “meet the developers” event was quite climatic as the conference leaders announced two “Appreciation Awards” to two retired IBMers, both with whom I worked closely over the years, playing major roles in supporting the VM and mainframe communities as part of their IBM duties. Awards were presented to Pamela Christina (formerly from the Endicott VM Lab) and Chuck Morse (formerly from the IBM Washington System Center). My congratulations go out to both of these outstanding mainframe community members.

As a final note, it was refreshing to see all these old-time mainframers at the event, but it was even more so to see many young faces at the event. Apparently some organizations, including the VM Lab, decided to send some new hires to the conference to get their first lessons on the mainframe, with an outstanding opportunity for them to talk to customers who they will eventually support.

Perhaps next year, we will see even more young people. After all, look what $100 can buy you these days.

Marc Smith spent 28 of 33 years at IBM as a member of the mainframe z Systems community. He began his mainframe career working with VM/HPO and VM/ESA development before moving on to planning and managing VM Early Support Programs (ESPs), marketing z/VSE and z/VM until moving into marketing and channel enablement positions within the System z (now z Systems) hardware family. He is one of the team members who brought Destination z into existence and managed the online community until his retirement from IBM in 2012.