Jerry Edgington: Volunteering Pays It Forward

Like many others in the mainframe world, SHARE DevOps Project Manager Jerry Edgington loves to work out technical challenges. He says that the mainframe faces a big perception problem: that it’s outdated. One way to overcome that perception, Edgington adds, is to demonstrate how it can be modernized going forward. This has been one of his main motivators as a SHARE volunteer. He explains in a previous SHARE’d Intelligence interview that mainframe-only tools can be costly for many businesses, but with open source tools, firms can update their systems at a lower cost and allow developers to create software using an interface that many are already accustomed to using.

For example, after becoming a volunteer and project manager for the DevOps track nearly four years ago, Edgington discovered there was a lack of build tools for z/OS. “I learned about a ‘new’ tool called DBB (Dependency Based Build). I decided to prove z/OS can use open source to build and deploy z/OS applications, using Jenkins and Git,” he explains. “So, I called the open source project zJenkins, which is currently available at Github. The open source project could not have been accomplished without the contacts and knowledge I obtained through SHARE.”

Goals Can Guide Volunteer Efforts

When you love your job like Jerry Edgington does, it’s easy to consider what you do as play rather than work. That enthusiasm carries over into his volunteer activities with SHARE. He attended his first SHARE event more than 25 years ago and became a regular attendee in the late 1990s. Many of his recent SHARE activities are the direct result of Rosalind Radcliffe’s encouragement, he says. She’s a distinguished engineer for IBM and the chief architect for DevOps and CLM for enterprise systems. “My reason for volunteering was all Radcliffe’s fault, in a good way. I was in a DevOps session asking questions, and afterwards she said I should not only volunteer with SHARE, but become the project manager for the DevOps track. I’ve been doing it ever since,” he explains.

At the start of his nearly four-year volunteering journey with SHARE, Edgington outlined some goals. His first goal was to learn more about DevOps and how it can transform Z systems. “This goal has been achieved many times over, plus the additional bonus of all the contacts I’ve made, since becoming a project manager,” he says.

The second goal was to overcome his own fear of public speaking. “With the support of many SHARE volunteers, I’ve improved to the point of winning the Best User Session award in Phoenix, and I got up on stage for a keynote speech during the same event,” he says. “But the best part of volunteering at SHARE for me is networking and meeting people, where it doesn’t matter what their titles are, because they’re always willing to help.”

Radcliffe helped Edgington see what DevOps is supposed to be and how it relates to Z systems. “She also helped me fine-tune my sessions, as well as my work as a speaker. She advised me that presentations should be mostly pictures, not words, as the audience has a tendency to read the words and not listen to the presentation,” he explains.

Challenges Make Volunteering Worthwhile

Leading DevOps comes with its own challenges, Edgington says. “I believe we need to modernize Z systems development,” he explains. “But one of the challenges has been keeping the DevOps track fresh and still remain product agnostic. This limits what gets presented at SHARE events. Another challenge has been the direction of DevOps tools for Z systems. One camp wants to integrate Z systems into the common landscape and the other wants to reuse existing tools. There are pros and cons to both directions.” He adds that Z systems development needs to be modernized. One example of this would be to move from a non-linear to linear source code manager in order to increase productivity and improve workflow.

Edgington says that the DevOps group and its work can help with the generation gap for Z systems developers. “To me, DevOps is the next big leap in Z systems development, enabling the zNextGen developers to quickly learn the platform,” he adds. “However, I think there are still two areas that need to be addressed with regard to the generation gap. First on the technical side of Z systems, there’s been a lot of work done to help fill the gap with regard to developers, but I don’t see much with the system side. I also believe DevOps can help in this area as well. We can use the techniques and tools to build and deploy the Z systems operating systems.” Edgington explains, “The second one, which can be harder to accomplish, is changing the mindset in DevOps. For instance, I’ve encountered a lot of resistance to switching to an IDE over TSO/ISPF, because they think they are faster in ISPF.”

Edgington is passionate about modernizing all development. “Z systems development shouldn’t be treated any different than any other development, it is just a big server,” he says. “To me, that helps with the generation gap for Z systems developers.” This is one of the main reasons he continues to volunteer with SHARE.

Volunteer Your Passions

Edgington says finding what area you’re passionate about can lead you down the right volunteer pathway. He adds that attending sessions of interest and talking to people at those sessions can point you in the right direction. “Talk to project and program managers, and you’ll discover that you have a lot to offer, even if it’s just a different point of view. It’ll be worth it,” Edgington says.

He has one regret: “I only wish I’d volunteered with SHARE sooner in my career. To me, volunteering helps pay it forward. I’ve had many mentors in my career, and volunteering with SHARE is my way of paying it forward.”

Interested in volunteering with SHARE? Learn how to get involved here.

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