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The Luckiest Man in the World

By Destination Z posted Mon December 23, 2019 03:41 PM


As part of its Mainframe50 celebration, IBM named Yong-Siang Shih of National Taiwan University the winner of the first Master the Mainframe World Championship at the April 8 event in New York. The 2009 winner of the Taiwan Master the Mainframe competition bested 42 other competitors from 23 countries to take the title.

Previous participants who had demonstrated superior programming skills on the mainframe were invited to the competition. While participating, the students sharpened their programming skills; cultivated advanced development tools and learned how the mainframe platform supports cloud, big data and analytics, mobile and security initiatives. In March, competitors were given an already-built application to refine and improve upon, and were tasked with constructing an application that real-world business would use.

April 6, the competitors were brought to IBM in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where they presented their results to a panel of judges. Scores were collected, tallied and six finalists were named. On April 7, those six presented their projects to another set of judges. The top three winners were announced the next day during the Mainframe50 live event.

The top winners for the 2014 Master the Mainframe World Championship are:

First Place: Yong-Siang Shih of National Taiwan University, Taiwan
Second Place: Rijnard van Tonder of Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Third Place: Philipp Egli of University of Brighton, United Kingdom
Fourth Place: Mugdha Kadam of University of South Florida, United States
Fifth Place: Shahini Sengupta of RCC Institute of Information Technology, India
Sixth Place: Aaron Call Barreiro of Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Spain

“One of the most exciting parts of this competition was getting to meet these bright students in person, and getting to know them on a personal level,” says Troy Crutcher, Master the Mainframe project manager, IBM Academic Initiative, System z.

“One of the main goals of the IBM Academic Initiative Master the Mainframe contest is helping these students gain enterprise systems skills that they will be able to use well into the future. Employers are continually looking for these skills,” he explains. “This contest is a way to get them excited and on the System z platform in a fun and educational way.”

Competition Brings Out Confidence

As a student at National Chiao Tung University, World Championship winner Shih got involved in Master the Mainframe in the hopes of winning an external hard drive, the 2009 prize for winning the second stage of the three-part competition. Despite this win, he said he was surprised to be invited to the World Championship. However, he was excited to have the opportunity to continue with Master the Mainframe and visit the U.S. for the first time.

“The most rewarding part of this experience was that I got to meet so many people and talked a lot” with others who have similar interests, Shih says. “My favorite memory was presenting my work; I enjoyed the demonstration and I got some very nice feedback. I also felt more confident after this competition.”

Shih attributes his win to luck based on timing and circumstances before the competition. In addition to having technical skills—including having recently taken a course about cloud computing—and participating in the National Taiwan University English Debate Society, he came up with the idea of creating a mobile application for debit cards shortly before the competition. In his application, a card is enabled to make an online purchase and disabled immediately afterward so no other charges can be incurred online. That way, if any information gets in the hands of the wrong person, he or she cannot make an unauthorized charge.

“If the third stage were not about an application, I might not have been able to think of another bright idea,” Shih notes. “Everything worked so perfectly together that this itself is incredible.”

Shih, in his first year of graduate school, has professional experience with an internship on IBM’s DataPower quality assurance team, mainly developing a test framework. After college, he said he hopes to work as a software engineer.

Students Benefit From Experiences

Although no concrete plans are in place for another World Championship, Crutcher says there are talks of such an event. He had heard positive feedback and that the students had an amazing time in New York.

“Not only did the participants get to compete with some of the best minds around the world, they got to explore the city,” he says. “A few of them had never even been on a plane before, let alone leave their home country. This was a huge event that they will continue to benefit from in the future.”

The Master the Mainframe competition is open to high school and university students that go to schools involved in the Academic Initiative. To learn more about the competition, visit the Master the Mainframe page here. Read Shih’s first-person account of the competition and his application in his blog here.

Valerie Dennis is site editor of