IBM Security Z Security

 View Only

Plenty of Room in Z Security for "New-Collar" Developers…and for You Gamers, Plenty of Weapons

By Marilyn Thornton posted Wed January 20, 2021 12:58 PM


By Marilyn Thornton

I’m going to be right up front with you, dear readers. This is a recruiting blog. It’s likely that if you are reading this in the IBM Security Community space, you already have a role in an IT security discipline, but there are young men and women out there who may not have ever considered joining you. I’d like your help changing that. Please forward this blog link to anyone you think appropriate.

Wanderers and Marchers

Have you ever noticed how high school graduates usually fall into one of two camps: wanderers or marchers? I was a wanderer of sorts. I graduated from high school and for various reasons, needed to work full time. I started going to night classes for college but stuck to the core requirements with little initial idea of a career path. That didn’t last long. I was soon drawn to the technical side of life and have now happily specialized in IT security for over three decades. I found my path.

Yours Truly HS Photo

On the other hand, marchers have usually found their passion by the time they leave high school. My daughter was a marcher. She had her north-star from early on: she grew up at the beach, was always interested in the sea, sharks, scuba, etc. Heck, she asked for a cast net for her 12th birthday. So, not surprisingly, she has an undergrad in marine biology and a grad degree in environmental science and policy. She had found her path, just a lot earlier than her mom.

You see, it really doesn’t matter how you get there, the journey will enrich the process and the end-result. Plus, you can always change directions, start a new journey. So, why am I talking about career paths? Simple. We’re coming up on graduation season and If you can advise a wanderer or marcher on their careers, please consider recommending a look into mainframe security.

What Are “New-Collar” Developers?

Why am I using the term, “new-collar?” The first time I heard the term was when Ginni Rometty, former IBM CEO, coined it in 2019. Traditionally, developers (not all but most) received an electrical engineering degree in a typical two or four-year college program before going on to development, and that job would have been categorized as “white collar,” salaried and professional. On the other hand, “blue collar” workers were those who didn’t attend college or attended a trade school and entered manual labor roles such as construction. “New-collar” jobs are hybrid roles; generally salaried professional positions, but do not require a college degree and instead may only need specialized training after high school, for example for software development or programming.

Mainframe Computers, the Hidden Jet Engines of Commerce

If you are the mechanical engineering type, imagine how cool it would be to work on jet engines for commercial air travel. Pre-COVID, six million people a day relied on jet engines or jet-prop engines to fly them safely somewhere in the world, but most of us don’t think about the engines of a plane—it’s just something we take for granted. Contributing to the freedom to safely travel hundreds to thousands of miles in just hours could be very rewarding.

Mainframe computers suffer the same ignominy: they are the hidden jet engines of commerce, out of sight, out of mind. So, it might surprise you to hear more about how we rely on them. From the last time these sorts of things were measured, here are a few IBM mainframe (Z) System statistics:

  • Can handle 30 billion business transactions a day
  • Supports 90% of all credit card transactions
  • Supports 68% of the world’s IT workloads but responsible for only 6% of IT costs
  • Provides computing power for 71% of Fortune 500 companies
  • More than 225 state and local governments worldwide rely on a mainframe.
  • As of 2019, 96 of the world’s largest 100 banks, nine out of 10 of the world’s largest insurance companies, and 23 of the 25 largest retailers in the US use mainframes.

Bottom line: contributing to the security of computers running small and large businesses and public services around the world could be very rewarding. This is exactly what I’m pitching: consider a future in mainframe security.

Stable, Open Job Opportunities, Excellent Compensation, and Lots of Weapons

Are there many available jobs and do they pay well? ZipRecruiter had thousands of mainframe developer jobs listed when I checked this morning, as do Indeed and ZipRecruiter estimates the top end of expected compensation range to be $176,000 with the average being $106,000. Check out the Payscale page for Mainframe Programmer positions. Salary and bonus combined tops out at $134,000 with the average falling somewhere around $80,000. Not bad for being out of high school for only a year or so, depending on how quickly you can get through the training.

Is IT security a stable job? The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the job growth in information security between the years 2019 and 2029 to be 31% and ranks that growth as “much faster than average.” In their third annual joint research project, Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) and the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) estimate that the number of unfilled cybersecurity positions will grow to 3.5 million by 2021…that’s this year!

What does being a gamer have to do with this?  (NOTE: People my age may have no idea what this paragraph is about; I had to get a teenager to help me write the next few sentences.) What if a bad actor (Bowser™) was using new tricks every day to break in and steal (kidnap from) your organization your most valuable asset (Princess Peach™.) Get the picture? Your job is to defend against these attacks. And, if we continue with the Mario Bros.™[1] analogy, what are the power-ups? Your power-ups, your weapons, in the mainframe security game have names like zSecure, Command Verifier, QRadar, Alert, RACF, and Guardium—which may sound like they're straight out of science fiction but I assure you they are very real, and they do help in our fight against bad actors.

Marching or Wandering, we’d be Honored to Have You                                                            

Have you ever heard of Connor Krukosky? In the mid-2000’s at the age of 16, he dropped out of high school, took his GED, and shortly thereafter, bought an old IBM z890 mainframe and moved it into the family basement to tinker with. He was a marcher and now as an IBM employee, has never looked back. You might not have that level of passion yet, you might still be exploring, wandering. That’s okay, I’m honored to have you in my club. If you’d like to explore the IBM “New-Collar” programs, there’s plenty of information right here including information on apprenticeships and our P-Tech program.   And if that path should bring you to mainframe security, let me know at


[1] Nintendo properties are trademarks of Nintendo. © 2020 Nintendo.





Thu January 21, 2021 07:58 AM

Nice article.   Growing up most of my friends parents did not have a college degrees.   They worked at AT&T, J&J and IBM.   At that time you did not need a college degree.  Companies invested in employees and  trained from within. In my generation you had to go to college to work at these companies.  Personally I never understood why.  Colleges and University today are outragously expensive and excessive.   Let's see with New Collar evolves into.  Hopefully companies investing in employees and pressure on colleges and universities to be more responsible in spending and tuition costs.

Wed January 20, 2021 02:16 PM

Well done, Marilyn. Our youngest is a bit of a wanderer too. It's comforting to think about the journey vs the result.