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Announcing the 2020 Master the Mainframe Winners!


Enterprise Computing Took Center Stage in 2020

Enterprise computing and IBM Z took center stage in 2020 as Master the Mainframe (MTM) entered its 16th year with more than 25,000 registered learners from 129 countries around the globe. Students competed in three levels plus a final Grand Challenge to build enterprise computing, z/OS administration, and coding skills while earning industry-recognized digital badges, putting tech for good to work with World Food Programme’s #ShareTheMeal program, and gaining the chance to win prizes and scholarships.

In the era of hybrid cloud, IBM Z is more important than ever, helping two-thirds of the Fortune 100 and consumers around the world access bank information, make online and in-store purchases, access health records, and more – all securely. But to ensure the enduring value of IBM Z continues for decades to come, we must focus on nurturing and growing our already vibrant and engaged talent communities – the beating heart of platform longevity.

Master the Mainframe introduces learners to enterprise computing and inspires interest in IBM Z technology and careers through what many call a coding obstacle course. It's a fun way to get hands-on experience across a variety of enterprise computing technologies including VS Code, Zowe, Python, JCL, REXX, and COBOL. It was exciting to watch first-time learners jump in to answer other learners' questions, while also forming a community and network. Driven by their desire to learn, students shared their skills forward, empowered those around them, and inspired the community to keep going. Some of the challenges were incredibly difficult, and the learning community encouraged fellow learners to continue to the Grand Challenge. The results of community-shared learning, along with a reimagined user experience, were evident through a 50% increase in Level 1 finishers and 20% increase in Level 2 finishers this year.

Master the Mainframe isn’t just a competition. IBM clients can leverage the Master the Mainframe program as a resource pool and hire Master the Mainframe graduates.

Employers searching for fantastic talent with experience in IBM Z should explore Talent Match to find learners and students that have earned the 2020 Master the Mainframe Level 2 or Level 3 digital badges and other IBM Z Skill resources on the Employer Hub.

We're thrilled to announce this year's winners:

Grand Prize Winners

Pierre Jacquet (France)
Hartanto Ario Widjaya (Singapore)
Adebisi Yusuf (Nigeria)

Regional Winners

North America


Melissa Christie: Melissa is from Canada and learned to code two short years ago after being inspired by the history of the COBOL language and the work of Grace Hopper. She saw an opportunity to transition her career from the manufacturing industry to enterprise computing as a means of making herself future ready in what she sees as an opportunity to work on the most powerful technology across the planet and beginning her journey of establishing herself as a woman in tech. She was thrilled when she found coding, is a big fan of COBOL, and as she says: "this is my thing, the thing I have always been looking for, the thing I am really good at."
Aaron Paterson: Aaron is a student from the United States who first became exposed to computer science in a high school coding course. After hearing about Master the Mainframe from his university professor, Aaron decided to put himself on the enterprise computing map by taking part in the 2020 contest. Aaron loves the transaction processing speed of IBM Z and its utilization of COBOL. He was inspired throughout the contest by having access to other participants and IBMers who took the lead to mentor him throughout his Master the Mainframe journey. Aaron looks forward to landing an amazing role working on IBM Z to help him further his career.

Latin America


Bruno Bega Harnik: Bruno is a graphic designer and student from Brazil who saw his experience focused on frontend development and recognized the opportunity to advance his knowledge by learning more about type-scripted knowledge vs. only focusing on front-end logic. After his classmates discovered Master the Mainframe, he challenged himself to learn more about COBOL considering its role in, as Bruno says, "ruling the world." He learned REXX, JCL, and Ansible for the first time and looks forward to using his creativity to maybe one day create a free school for everyone to learn to code.
Michael Almeida de Franca Monteiro: Michael is a student from Brazil and son of a programmer who inspired him to build and repair computers when he was a child. In 2018, Michael finished level one of Master the Mainframe, made it to level two in 2019, and is thrilled to have earned the coveted 2020 level three badge. He was excited to have been exposed to REXX for the first time, while also having an opportunity to work in VS Code. Seeing all the social media sharing of his achievement was incredibly exciting for Michael as he constantly strives to always improve himself, learn new skills, and discover how to evolve his technical knowledge.



Jens Van Den Eynde: Jens is from Belgium and an applied computer science student. He loves technology and finds it to be his passion, which brings him to create and tinker around with everything involving tech. If bytes are involved, Jens is there. For Jens, Master the Mainframe brought about a similar passion of tinkering with his beloved treasure – bits and bytes.
Pierre Jacquet: Pierre is from France and a final year computer science student. During high school, Pierre enjoyed working with his hands and discovered an opportunity to take on game development. After hours of coding and making his games actually work, he knew exactly what he wanted to study. Pierre is fascinated by the fact that IBM Z is everywhere, which created a passion in him to develop on the most powerful platform in the world. Using the latest development tooling during the 2020 contest, he learned how easy it could be to code on an IBM Z machine. Pierre is a true IBM Z enthusiast constantly exploring new and unique ways to create enterprise computing solutions. He wants to continue his career journey in building and exploring modern solutions on IBM Z technology.

Middle East & Africa


Farai Fnechz: Farai is from Algeria and a third-year computer science student in university. When Farai was in high school, he wanted to build his own computer game with some friends. He started his coding journey in the world of open source and learned C++ using Google searches to explore what was available online. His first experience with Master the Mainframe was in 2019 and he was stunned to see the transition in 2020 that incorporated VS Code and the new tooling that came along with the most recent contest. The extreme power of the new z15, combined with the ease of modern DevOps tooling plus the combination of Linux fired him up to continue to achieve the level three badge. Farai is highly driven to learn all the ins and outs of enterprise computing and hopes for his first career to include mainframe development.
Adebisi Yusuf: Adebisi is from Nigeria and studies communications and science. He loves to code and learn all facets of IT. He started his journey with C and C++, where he began to code and build applications until he discovered IBM Z. Without prior knowledge of COBOL, REXX, or any kind of mainframe technology, he started the Master the Mainframe challenge. He was immediately driven to finish it and inspired by all of the exciting opportunities to learn all about the platform, Adebisi hopes to continue his enterprise computing learning journey and land a job that enables him to utilize his REXX and COBOL skills.

India & Southeast Asia


Somesh Sarkar: Somesh is from India and first picked up coding at the early age of eight years old, YES, EIGHT YEARS OLD! He was first introduced to Master the Mainframe by one of his professors in university, and who doesn’t want to compete in a contest that is powered by the same company that has used its AI solutions to learn Chess? Somesh looks forward to continuing his learning journey in what he calls being part of an "engineering masterpiece."
Avishek Sen: Avishek is a high school student from India. Though not taking computer science in school, he finds it one of the most intriguing subjects, especially Machine learning and AI. A repeat regional Master the Mainframe winner, Avishek is highly passionate about coding and learning programming languages. He was excited to learn through Master the Mainframe how current tooling, like Ansible, fits in with IBM Z. He is motivated to pursue a career in the field of IT and Computer Science.

Asia Pacific


John Glen Falceso: John is a student from the Philippines who rocked his way through levels one, two, and three. His Grand Challenge project, Eye-Bee-M Cipher, are Python files which let the user encrypt and decrypt member datasets through a three-layer cipher inspired by the IBM Rebus Eye-Bee-M.
Hartanto Ario Widjaya: Hartanto is from Singapore and was inspired by one of his high school teachers who thought he might enjoy coding. After stumbling upon an introductory course to COBOL led by Jeff Bisti from IBM on the Coursera platform, he became interested in exploring his skills more. Competing in Master the Mainframe and becoming an IBM Z Ambassador, Hartanto spends his free time helping others boost their enterprise computing skills and looks forward to a career which enables him to empower and inspire others to solve problems, think critically, and use technology to create solutions to the world’s biggest challenges.

What an Amazing Lineup!

During a year like no other, with more than one billion students out of school due to COVID-19 closures, online learning became front and center for many across the globe. Students and student clubs established virtual meetups and talks to empower their friends to join them in their enterprise computing journeys despite increasing online learning fatigue and challenges accessing technology. Events like IBM Z Day, IBMZ4Good Ideathon, Ija Codi, the Human Code, and others enabled students to leverage digital tools to connect, learn enterprise computing, and offer assistance to those new to IBM Z. These students truly went the extra mile to learn new skills and explore new interests.

Students, your learning journey has only just begun! Though the student competition is over, the learning system remains open to the public year-round. Continue exploring Enterprise Computing at the IBM Z Global Student Hub with more learning and digital badges, career prep events, networking opportunities, and also look out for a chance to help shape future contests.

Educators can join the Educator Hub to learn more about incorporating Enterprise Computing into their classrooms. With access to blogs and thought leadership, educators can further integrate content about this critical technology into their curriculum.

Congratulations to the winners! IBM Z looks forward to seeing you on the Hub!

Meredith Stowell
Vice President
IBM Z Ecosystem



Wed April 07, 2021 06:18 AM

You ALL achieved something great! Congrats.
It took me some years to recognize that moving to Z was the best decision that i could make. To save you some years, please believe me: YOU made the best decision when signing up to MTM. Stay with Z and look into a great future!

Thu April 01, 2021 09:28 AM

Congratulations to the winners, I am very happy that Hartanto has been a person in the Slack channel who has helped many with their doubts. I wish I could represent Latam. It's always Brazil -.- but I'm happy for all of them.

Thu April 01, 2021 04:23 AM

Amazing! Thank you all participants and congrats to all winners.

Wed March 31, 2021 06:09 PM

Congratulations to all the winners, be proud!!

Wed March 31, 2021 11:45 AM

On behalf of your Chief Penguin of IBM Z, congrats to all the winners! We are so proud of you. Most importantly, you should be proud of yourselves! Well done!

Wed March 31, 2021 10:54 AM

Congratulations to all of you, what an amazing achievement!

Wed March 31, 2021 10:50 AM

What an exciting day..... BIG Congrats to all of the winners! Rock on students...

Wed March 31, 2021 10:46 AM

Congratulations to the winners! You all rock :D

Wed March 31, 2021 10:41 AM

Congratulations to all the winners!!!!  Your projects were so amazing!

Wed March 31, 2021 10:36 AM

CONGRATULATIONS to all of the 2020 Master the Mainframe Winners!!!!!!!!