At his first SHARE event in August 1971, Aron Eisenpress made a connection that would set the tone for his next 40-plus years as a SHARE attendee, volunteer and, eventually, Board member.
At the time, Eisenpress was one of the systems programmers at Columbia University for an IBM System/360 Model 75 and a Model 91. He met fellow mainframer Robert Rannie at that 1971 event, who, he learned, had created a modification for the Model 75 that would preserve its somewhat limited high-speed storage for essential functions. Curious, Eisenpress decided to try the modification out on his own machine at Columbia. It was successful.
“It was a big win for us,” he explained in a recent interview. “And it hooked me on SHARE.”
The story is emblematic of the types of interactions that Eisenpress would come to have over the next four decades, and to the enduring value that SHARE membership continues to offer mainframe professionals, he said.
“It's a place where you go to take advantage of all the education, networking and influence,” he said. “It’s about making contacts you can turn to if you have technical questions, but it's also about establishing personal friendships and long-term relationships. You can't do that with a webinar.”
Seven years later, in 1978, Eisenpress was asked to become a SHARE volunteer after he had organized a “Birds of a Feather” session that drew 50 people to discuss source code maintenance for SMP/E. Eventually, he would be a part of several SHARE efforts, including the Software Service Task Force, which evaluated opportunities for improvements to the quality of mainframe software service.
He later held the role of Publications Editor, in which he oversaw Proceedings submissions and White Paper development, and later Manager of Requirements, overseeing the requirements process, in which SHARE members submit improvement requests to IBM.
Over the years, Eisenpress personally observed the growth of SHARE in membership and maturity. Event attendance climbed into the thousands, which eventually meant bigger venues, lodgings and promotional support.
Even with all that growth, SHARE has been consistently committed to maintaining a culture around collaboration, education and community. Eisenpress said he’s particularly encouraged to see a younger generation of mainframe professionals joining the fray, through programs like zNextGen.
“It’s great to have them as part of the community and the culture. There are some things that the younger folks do differently, and we can all learn from them,” he said. “We even have a new generation of leaders on the Board, so it feels like everything's progressing in a positive direction.”
Eisenpress is now the Mainframe Systems Manager at the City University of New York, and his role within SHARE has shifted. In the past four years he’s served as SHARE Secretary and then Treasurer, and is now again the SHARE Secretary. He said he’s continually grateful for the opportunity to shape the policies and culture of the organization.
“I like being part of the efforts to make SHARE a better organization and to make it succeed and thrive. To bring my experience with the organization, my viewpoint and my ability to analyze the decisions we make as a Board,” he explained.
Being part of the Board has also been a learning experience in itself, as it’s allowed him to step into a leadership position and think about issues that wouldn’t normally cross his desk in his day job. For example, SHARE is constantly thinking about the best way to deliver value to its members, he said, and working through that process has been “mind-expanding.”
Eisenpress suggests that newer SHARE members make the most of their opportunity to learn from the community, including its Board members.
“We all started as just another member of the group, but we on the Board try to get out and be visible, and we want to know what people think about things,” he explained.
Overall, new members would benefit from taking advantage of SHARE educational opportunities, including those that might not seem immediately applicable to their job.
“Maybe look at security sessions even if you’re not directly responsible for security, because it's good to know about,” he said. “Look for something else that's interesting to you personally. There are a number of professional development sessions that can be quite valuable.”
To that end, Eisenpress said his 40-plus-year run with SHARE has been valuable not just for technical knowledge, but for the valuable connections and unique professional experiences he’s had along the way. In some respects, his journey could be a model for younger SHARE members to follow as they chart their own personal path through a career in mainframe.
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