'Framing the Future: Part 1 – Seeking and Foundation

Reg Harbeck’s interview of Connor Krukosky

“Everybody I’ve worked with has been helpful, and I’ve been able to learn at least 10 things from the person who I’m talking to at any given point. You know, it’s a great field if you really, really enjoy the mentor-mentee relationship. It’s awesome, I love being able to work with people who are very well-versed in what they do, and being able to learn from them.”

Now that the generation of millennials has been making its way into the workforce for a while, we can next witness the arrival on the mainframe of Generation z, and Connor Krukosky is at the very forefront of this ultimate joining of forces. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Connor for an extended interview, which included the above observation about his experience with mainframe mentorship. During this series of articles, I’ll review and discuss the insights and experiences he shared with me, and relate them to the emerging future of the greatest business computing platform around: that most foundational of platforms, now known as IBM Z Mainframes.

I first encountered Connor at SHARE in San Antonio, in March of 2016, where he was presenting about having purchased a second-hand mainframe and successfully installed it in his parents’ basement. By the following SHARE in Atlanta, he was actively engaging in deep technical and philosophical conversations with many of us SHARErs, and I was impressed with the level of insight and questions he raised. Since then, I’ve enjoyed following his professional and technical journey, which has recently involved acquiring and moving to a house of his own in Poughkeepsie, New York, after accepting an offer to join forces with IBM.

But before I dig into the experiences and epiphanies of Connor’s journey since acquiring his own personal mainframe, perhaps I should back up and explain just what brought him to our ecosystem.

It turns out that Connor really likes old things that still work very well (i.e. legacy). This journey was already underway in his youth when he learned machining skills from his grandfather:

“When I was a kid, my grandfather was a machinist, and so he had a small machine shop in his basement, and I used to love being able to just watch him machine stuff on the lathe, and learn how to use a lathe from him.”

As he grew older, he began seeking other examples of functional hardware – including electronics – that he could collect and experiment with. This is what led to his discovery of a second-hand mainframe for sale on the internet.

Now, if you or I, as experienced mainframers, had the opportunity to purchase one for ourselves, most of us would start considering all the implications, from finding a physical space for it, to power costs, to cabling and connections and attached devices, to operating systems and software, and at some point, if we had any other commitments in our lives, we’d probably think better of the opportunity. But Connor had no such limitations – and he had his parents’ basement and their support and encouragement.

One may well wonder how long it took for them to realize just what they had gotten themselves into when it became apparent that they literally had to dig a bigger opening to get the mainframe into their basement, even after Connor had disassembled it to make it more portable.

You know, when I think “mainframe assembler” I generally think of HLASM and software, but I now have an alternative hardware picture to consider when I hear that term, because that is exactly what Connor became – and a completely successful one at that! Having taken apart, moved, and put the mainframe back together in his parents’ basement, it was ready to run, and his OS of choice was SUSE Linux, which he was able to successfully download and install.

Of course, one of Connor’s greatest strengths, evident in the first paragraph above, is that he is happy to ask good questions and be mentored. And he also knows who to ask – in this case, the good folks on IBM-Main, who immediately took him under their wings and gave him helpful guidance and direction in his journey forward. Connor specifically mentioned such key contributors as Gabe Goldberg and Phil Smith III, who not only informed him: they also invited him in to the culture, and to SHARE!

And so, Connor’s foundational journey was underway, with a mainframe in his basement, a ticket to SHARE, and soon a job at IBM… but we’ll save that last one for the next article in the series.

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