By Andrew Grzywacz
SHARE in Atlanta is fast approaching, and this year’s Academy is replete with several can’t-miss events and keynote addresses on what’s exciting, new and essential in the mainframe world. The CICS Immersion track looks to be one of the landmark sessions of this summer’s SHARE Academy, as attendees can look forward to a full day session of in-depth technical training on CICS programming, internals and debugging.
That’s why we sat down with one of the track’s venerable instructors, Ezriel Gross, to get his thoughts on the state of the CICS programming scene today, what drew him to mainframes and SHARE in the first place and what he sees as the future of the industry.
To begin with, when did you first join SHARE and become involved with CICS? How did you get your start in mainframes?
I’m not sure of the exact year, but I first joined SHARE in the early 90s. SHARE 75 was my very first one, where I gave a presentation about user experience (which I actually won a best session award for!). I only sporadically visited SHARE over the following years, but then became a full volunteer in 2009 and have been involved with it – and presented at it – ever since then.
Like many others, I got started on this path back in school. I graduated from Queens College with a degree in Computer Science, then went to get my first job in mainframes system programming in the mid-80s. I had a lot of great, different but equally fulfilling experiences between then and now: performing system app programming for some companies, or configuring IBM CICS tools for IBM customers.
Speaking of CICS, then, what brought you to starting this new CICS Immersion track for SHARE? Is this something you and the other instructors started of your own volition, or was it something that others had been asking for?
I suppose it was a little of both. For one, there’s a really large CICS community in Atlanta, so there’s definitely a local demand and interest in something like this. But the main driver, and something that we’ve seen become more problematic in the last few years, is that there just isn’t a big push in CICS education anymore.
We’re already facing a shortage of resources, with a lot of older CICS programmers moving into retirement. Younger programmers already don’t have many options for CICS education, meaning they enter the industry without the same knowledge or skills that their predecessors had – and now those predecessors are leaving, too. So, the new programmers have to just trust their systems will continue running smoothly. Because if it doesn’t, then what are they going to do?
And CICS Immersion is designed to be the answer to that?
Yeah – it’s not going to be an all-in-one solution, of course. You can’t distill a year or several years of CICS education courses down into a single day. But what we can do is provide a more in-depth technical discussion of CICS programming, internals, debugging and essential tools and practices – far more information than you would get in a regular one-hour session. It’s more of a class than a straight presentation. It’s more interactive, it gets attendees more involved, gives them more time to absorb the information and ask questions, so they walk away not only knowing more about CICS than they did a day ago, but also knowing that it’s not impossible to learn more. And, if we can inspire attendees to take what they’ve learned at CICS Immersion not only back to their jobs, but as inspiration to pursue more long-form education courses down the line, then mission accomplished.
For a day of in-depth CICS programming training from Ezriel Gross and our other knowledgeable IBM instructors, click here to register for SHARE Academy. The CICS Immersion session runs from 8 am to 5 pm on Sunday, July 31 as part of SHARE Atlanta.