‘Framing the Future: Part 5 – Sentimentors

Reg Harbeck’s interview of Connor Krukosky

“Welcome to the mainframe world!”

You know that’s not part of the log-on screen on any production mainframe system. The corporate lawyers made sure a long time ago that nothing could be construed as inviting unauthorized people to log on to the system of record for the world’s most important corporate data and processing.

And, we mainframers have adopted a similarly cautious attitude about allowing outsiders in to our systems or trusted colleague circles. Most mainframers have closely-guarded stories about that person who didn’t quite “get it” that spent just long enough working in our mainframe environment to leave behind a massive clean-up task – and we’re even careful not to discuss that person with anyone we don’t completely trust.

Given such a cautious culture, not to mention that the large majority of us are pretty deep introverts to begin with, one might expect that any newbie trying to join us might experience pretty solid resistance.

Unless one considered the effect of being able to ante up with one’s own mainframe, and having the kind of inquisitive personality that so many of us recall manifesting at the beginning of our careers. Then, like Connor, you might just get grandfathered in rather than having to say “uncle”. (Not to suggest that it’s all relative.)

I’ll admit, I was genuinely surprised when Connor told me, “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.” Yes, it’s all true, but to hear him tell it, it’s like he’d showed up like a long-lost son at a family reunion and been welcomed with open arms.

Well, there is something to that; we have all been waiting for the hiring of a new generation that we could mentor, as our careers have advanced and management has squeezed more and more budget dollars out of the mainframe workforce to fund the increasingly expensive distributed systems, even as the mainframe has continued to handle the lion’s share of essential corporate data processing. So, when someone whose credentials are written all over him shows up and starts asking the kind of questions that the folks at IBM-Main actually like answering (instead of having to say, “Did you look up the answer before asking?” all the time), a connection is made.

Of course, being able to look up the answer in great depth is both a skillset and attitude, as well as a facet of the mainframe environment, where everything is built to work very tightly together, and then documented exhaustively and publicly, from the Red Books to various software and hardware documentation to … wait for it … the POO! And while it’s no “Winnie” it is a winner indeed for a young, technically-minded treasure hunter.

“Well, because the standard’s out there, you can access that information. And even, you know, the Principles of Ops, if you really want to learn how these machines work, just read a few thousand pages of that, and you’ll know everything about it.” OK, Connor, if you’re into that, and not just in the place of counting sheep to deal with insomnia, you really are one of us.

“I started digging through the z13 one a while ago, I was kind of waiting for the z14 one, which I believe is, you know, that’s been out now. Yeah, I’ve started digging through it a little bit. It’s quite different.”

But here’s the cool thing: Connor is already mentoring back, helping us understand how to support and encourage other people to figure out whether they might have a bright future on the mainframe:

“And you know, I’ve even had people from SHARE come to me and ask, “I’ve got kids, how do I get them into this stuff?” And I say, “You can’t. What you can do is suggest it to them and see if they’re interested, but let them do what they love.””

For example, he had one woman tell him that her son is learning guitar and wants to be in a band. Connor simply responded, “Well, support him in that, but also make him realize that until it becomes a job, it’s just a hobby, and you need to be able to care for yourself and live out a life on your own as well. But don’t stop that dream and that hobby, don’t stop. Just make sure that you can support yourself as well.”

And so the journey continues, and we won’t stop believin’ in the future of the mainframe culture either, especially with inspirational next generation colleagues like Connor to join in the mutual mentoring and move the mainframe into the future.

Thank you, Connor!

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