My name is Hartanto. I’m currently a Year Two student taking Computer Science at Singapore Management University and I am also an IBM ZAmbassador.
I was first introduced to coding through my junior high school IT teacher. He challenged the whole class to make a tic-tac-toe application, complete with an AI, in exchange for an almost-full-mark for the final grade. I remember trying to spend hours solving the challenge, while I was picking up new programming knowledge and languages too! In the end, I couldn’t implement the AI, but the gratification of problem-solving is something that I enjoy.
It wasn’t until I found this random coupon code for the IBM Z Mainframe Practitioner course on Coursera that I was introduced to enterprise computing. I remember when I first saw Jeff Bisti, an IBM Z employee, explaining a topic on video and I thought “Hey, he teaches well.” and I decided to dive deeper and deeper into the course until I came upon the first lab.
And there it is, staring at me, the green screen. My first impression was awe and wonder. It was old school, but in a good way. Everything about it seemed right and efficient, from editing things in the ISPF editor to seeing logs on SDSF. The experience was smooth and flawless. I couldn’t get enough!
After the course, I became passionate and interested in enterprise computing. Digging deeper into the statistics only increased my curiosity. Did you know that an IBM Z machine can process 1.2 million transactions per second. I had never heard of this magic before! And they said that 68% of the world’s production workloads run on it. It’s simply amazing. How had I never heard of this before? IBM Z is literally the IT backbone powering the world. The WORLD!
It wasn’t long until I came across IBM Z’s student competition. It was too late for me to join the 2019 competition, but the Learning System was still available, so, the only rational decision I could make at that time was to spend the whole day trying to complete the challenges.
During Level 3 of the 2019 Learning System, they introduced me to COBOL. At first, the language seemed unusual, and it was just a passing thing for me (AT FIRST!). But, a few months later, I learned that Jonathan Sayles, an IBMer from the Z DevOps team, had an upcoming instructor-led COBOL course. Feeling curious, I decided to enroll.
It was only then that I discovered the true beauty of COBOL, a programming language that is extremely powerful and efficient for business applications. It was simply amazing, and for the first time in my life, I thought that a job in enterprise computing is exactly what I want in life.
I saw amazing people like Jeff and Jonathan as inspiring figures for me. One of my passions is helping others. I dream of enabling others to learn and solve big challenges and issues independently. In enterprise computing, errors are not always easy to read, but the documentation is always very, very helpful. During the past few months, I have been thinking about technical enablement as my career path — a job focused on helping to empower others while also learning new and fun technical skills.
I still have two years of studying left before I graduate. Oh, I forgot one thing!!!!! A month before Jonathan’s COBOL course was announced, I saw on Twitter that IBM was opening applications for a ZAmbassador program, specifically tailored to students to serve as IBM Z Ambassadors. As an introvert, I was hesitant to apply at first. I didn’t regret my decision to apply and take on the challenge of serving as an IBM Z Ambassador. They say that you cannot get no for an answer if you do not ask the question, so I went for it.
I met tons of wonderful people from all around the world. And, the best thing? We share a common interest in Enterprise Computing. We get opportunities to host and participate in events and other speaking engagements. One of the best things I’ve done was taking part in a 24-hour code-a-thon during IBM Z Day. I was paired with Ray Mullins from Rocket Software (and now an IBM Champion for IBM Z) who mentored me through the session, and we ended up completing half of Level 2 of the IBM Z student contest live with thousands of people watching us! Did I mention that I’m an introvert?
I’m also part of the zStudents Committee where we create accessible content that is for, with, and by students under the IBM Z Global Student Hub. So, my friends and I hosted events ranging from Quantum Computing to AI, and also COBOL! It was amazing to interact with many people and learn from others.
I also got to join my friend, Emmanuel, along with Dr. Cameron Seay and Dr. David Woolbright to talk about the next generation of COBOL programmers along with Sudharsana Srinivasan and Paul Newton from IBM. It was amazing to have such access to experts from IBM and beyond.
As ZAmbassadors, we also get to learn from professionals in the enterprise computing industry, like Larry England from Broadcom who joined one of our meetings to share more about his career and also personal brand development from our own Chief Penguin, Melissa Sassi!
Despite the pandemic, this year has been great. There are so many opportunities for us to learn about enterprise computing — skills we do not often gain access to in formal education! It’s great to see the constant development of open source projects hosted by the Open Mainframe Project (such as Zowe, Mainframe Open Education and COBOL Programming Course) and I get to participate in conferences which I wouldn’t be able to join had it still taken place offline.
The 2020 student contest was also amazing. Last year they decided to use VS Code and Zowe, which basically aimed to attract students to enterprise computing, and I think they did just that. The challenges were intriguing and very educational. We learned a lot of new things with Ansible, Z Open Automation Utilities, REXX and Zowe CLI. The Grand Challenge concept was also new in 2020. We had an opportunity to create new things out of what we learned! After learning that Zowe CLI uses z/OSMF REST API and that z/OSMF is included by default on z/OS, I decided to make a Python script that calls z/OSMF REST API to retrieve job status, cancel jobs, and also restart them. I am looking forward to learn who will win the contest! Wish me luck!
With the constant development of IBM Z, I can’t wait to see what the next student contest has to offer to us students. It might be too late to incorporate z/OS 2.5 into the competition, but hybrid cloud on the mainframe has been a new hype that seems very interesting for us to learn. Furthermore, containers on the mainframe! Granted, it might not be that easy to set up such challenges for next year, but it would be amazing to see new things on for next year. Hey, IBM Z, are you listening? :)
Lastly, it has been great to learn so much about the world of enterprise computing. There are so many resources available to us which enable us to learn and find out about new stuff! Check out this list for the resources! Also, do join us on the IBM Z Global Student Hub where we could network and learn from each other. Oh, and before I forgot, do check out our monthly calendar of events! They surely have many interesting events prepared for us.
See you on the Student Hub!
Hartanto Ario Widjaya
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