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Scholarship Helps Clarify Student's Career Path

By Destination Z posted Mon December 23, 2019 03:26 PM


In three short years, the Destination z Enterprise Computing Scholarship program has recognized dozens of mainframe students and awarded thousands of dollars in scholarships. The scholarship fund has grown each year since it was established in 2008 to encourage students to pursue mainframe-focused IT career careers.

With the deadline for 2011 applications fast approaching on Dec. 7, Destination z recently caught up with a 2010 recipient, Jay Thomas, a Madison, Wis. resident who is pursing his master’s degree in information assurance from Pace University.

Q: Tell us a little about your background. You’re a non-traditional student, yes?
A: Yes, I started school in 2008 at Pace University and graduated this May with a bachelor’s degree in telecommunications. I’m continuing my education through Pace as I pursue a master of science degree in Internet technology with a major in information assurance. I started working as a computer technical consultant in 1999 while I was in high school. I transitioned to a lot of IT work after that, and started working for my current employer—TDS Telecom—in 2002. They’ve helped support my continuing education.

Q: How has your role evolved at TDS as you’ve continued your education?
A: I started out as a sales person because of my consulting background and eventually moved into second-level troubleshooting, and then into our analysis group this year. So the SQL and DB2 tasks really came in handy during that interview.

Q: Where did you find out about the Destination z scholarship?
A: Through the IBM affiliated faculty at Pace, specifically Dr. Lixin Tao, who teaches the enterprise computing—a.k.a. mainframe—classes at Pace.

Q: How much did you receive?
A: $500. It paid for my text books this semester and most of a class.

Q: What impact did the scholarship have on your ability to continue your education?
A: It was certainly a critical factor, and it was a major motivator in deciding to take some enterprise computing classes as part my current degree program.

Q: Did the scholarship influence that career path or reconfirm it in any way?
A: I think “reconfirm” is an excellent description of how I felt. I was already interested, and it helped cement my interest in the technology.

Q: When did you initially decide to pursue a mainframe career?
A: After the first year (2009) of the Master the Mainframe contest, I really thought it would be a field I would enjoy. All of our billing systems at work are running on mainframes, and with the application servers and Java support, it is an amazing platform to work with.

Q: Are you applying again this year?
A: I plan to. I mean since I came in second last year, I think I would be a
good candidate.

Q: What would you say to any peers who might consider applying for the scholarship?
A: They should get involved with the platform, especially if they could get some experience with RDz (Rational Developer for System z), because it takes everything that makes the Eclipse platform great and extends it to the enterprise environment. I think experience would be a benefit for anyone who wanted to work in the business world.

For more on the Destination z Enterprise Computing Scholarship or to download an application, visit