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The ‘Not So Secret’ Club: No secret handshakes or mystery messages required to join the IBM Z Apprenticeship Program


American National celebrated the graduation of their IBM Z Apprentices this month in League City, Texas. During the ceremony, senior leaders, managers, and mentors celebrated the apprentices who developed specialized technical and professional skills on the job.

IBM Z Apprentice graduate Sean K. joined American National’s apprenticeship program shortly after earning his college degree. He was looking for a new position and particularly enjoyed the format of the earn while you learn program. After completing the pre-apprenticeship courses at home, Sean joined American National as a full time, paid apprentice to continue his journey.

Michael Smith, Director of Large Systems at American National, shared a memory of Sean’s interview at American National. “I think Sean had the funniest comment in any interview I've ever had. When we asked him about the mainframe, he said, ‘It's like I'm in the secret club now!’ We all thought that was great.”

“I started with the online IBM Pre-Apprenticeship program, and at first, I was super confused,” Sean explained. “It was wildly different from anything I was taught in school. I liked it because it was more challenging in many ways. They sort of just throw you in like, ‘Ohh here's some JCL’.... like this crazy looking stuff! I eventually figured it out and learned how to solve those problems.”

Steve Baugh, Lead Systems Programmer at American National, talked about how Sean grabbed every opportunity that was offered as part of the program. “Sean jumped right into the projects and was doing things that I would never have imagined a beginning system programmer getting into that quickly.

Keynote speaker, Shelly Meierarend, IBM zSystems Skills Ecosystem Leader, emphasized the importance of what the graduates have achieved, “You are now part of a tradition, consider it a group or club – or better yet - a community. A community of skilled workers who have honed their craft through this wonderful apprenticeship program. And as members of the New to IBM Z community you’ll have access to peers and mentors to guide and support you as you continue your career.”

“Never stop asking questions,” Nick Bastos, AVP IT Infrastructure and Operations at American National said. “That's really important. If you're stuck on a problem, don't be afraid to reach out for help. I’m thrilled to congratulate you and encourage you to continue to grow your career with American National and mentor any new apprentices in the future.”

Best wishes to the new graduates and ‘Welcome to the club!’

Sean K and team celebrating his IBM Z Apprenticeship graduation