Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Easy Does IT

In my last blog post, I discussed the generations of mainframers, and called the current new generation of the technical experts that will act as the beating heart of this platform "Generation Easy." The problem is, getting this generation fully in place before the previous ones depart is not turning out to be particularly quick or easy. This post is about how to make it so.

First, though, I should mention that I also had some nice and appreciated comments from friends of mine in generations Charlie and Easy - thanks!

In 2005, I wrote a whitepaper and an article, and gave a presentation at SHARE, about the need to get a new generation in place on the mainframe, and what steps were necessary to do so. Since then, I've continued to develop my thinking and experience on this, and am continuing to write more articles on the topic as well.

So, this blog post is a good opportunity to sketch out the basics. To find out more, you can read my articles at and the related magazines (z/Journal and Mainframe Executive), or contact me for a consultation or presentation.

The first step is to hire new people while you still have experienced ones around to teach and mentor them, and do a proper transfer of responsibilities.

In-house projects and mentoring, including tracking down and updating obsolete configurations and programs, are important activities to get them going.

However, before that happens, you'll likely need to get your new people introduced to the mainframe, unless you're lucky enough to hire people have have done some initial learning at universities and colleges working with the IBM Academic Initiative. Even in those cases, though, some additional training can be helpful. There are a number of good options for this. Three that I'm familiar with (though this is not an official endorsement) are:

1) Have them join the z/NextGen project of SHARE (free). This will give them the opportunity to start connecting and learning, and also give them access to a select number of mainframe introductory eLearning courses made available for free to z/NextGen members by the folks at Interskill.

2) Go for the whole meal deal and sign them up for the complete selection of eLearning courses from Interskill.

3) Sign them up for CA Technologies' Mainframe Academy.

Of course, there are other options for introductory courses as well - and, ideally, if your organization is big enough to have its own mainframe, you should also have some of your own in-house introductory courses to help people get familiar with your particular context.

I can also strongly recommend self-study to complement this, and IBM's Red Books are excellent resources for this purpose.

Now, once your new people have the basics in place and have begun being mentored, getting to know your environment and doing introductory projects, the next important thing is to get them connected and acculturated into the mainframe culture. If you've already signed them up for z/NextGen, you've made a good start. Getting them involved with such communities is important. The follow-on step is to send them to a mainframe educational conference such as SHARE.

In fact, if you happen to be in the Atlanta area (or have the financial and schedule flexibility to make a last-minute travel booking), I can strongly recommend sending your newbies to attend SHARE in Atlanta next week. Or, you can sign them up to attend virtually with SHARE Live! from Atlanta.

In addition to the above, you'll want to update your local mainframe technology and culture to be more compatible with this new generation, and the one that follows it. I intend to dig into that in future blog posts. And, of course, there's room for plenty of elaboration on the above basics.

Next week, however, I plan to blog more about SHARE.

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