As the mainframe industry faces a looming skills gap, there’s also a pervasive lack of awareness among IT students that a career in mainframe is a possibility. That’s why SHARE’s Student Career Day is such an important initiative.
Misty Decker, Program Manager for the IBM Z Academic Initiative, collaborates on the educational activities at SHARE conferences, where students have the opportunity to learn about the mainframe – for many of them, for the first time – and network with mainframe professionals.
Vernon Sarumi, a student at Sacramento City College, attended SHARE Sacramento this spring, where he learned about the mainframe and even placed third in the Hackathon competition. We caught up with Vernon to hear what he thought of the event and his plans for the future.
Can you describe your educational background and your path to studying network administration?
I’ve always had a really deep interest in technology. That probably started when I was pretty young. I remember paying $100 for my first virus removal back in the days of Windows 95. As a kid cutting lawns for extra money, $100 was definitely a high price to pay, but I was really interested in the technology. That kick-started my interest, and I started working on and building my own computers.
I’m currently in the network administration program at Sacramento City College and looking to get employed in the networking field.
What was your experience like at SHARE Sacramento this year?
Misty Decker came to speak at my Intro to Computer Science class, and she invited us to be part of the SHARE event. That’s what led me to attend. I thought it sounded really interesting, like something I didn’t want to miss out on. The opportunity to connect with a lot of employers in the area was exciting.
Being at the conference was my first time having any exposure to z/OS and the mainframe – ever. Because of that, it was a really rich experience for me. One of the first questions I asked Ms. Decker in class that day was, “Will this event work for newcomers?” She said absolutely, and it did. There was plenty of staff on hand to answer questions.
It was a fun experience, overall. To place third in the Hackathon competition was something I never would have expected. Going into the Hackathon, I didn’t know anything about it other than that we’d be given a sign-in, password and a set of tasks to accomplish regarding the mainframe. I pretty much just used the knowledge I already had from working with computers and married that with the instructions I was given.
Did attending Student Career Day make you think differently about your possible career paths?
Being at the conference sparked my interest in mainframe and broadened my perspective, for sure. It’s definitely interesting work and something I’ll be exploring in the future as a result of the conference.
During the Hackathon, we sat there for probably two and a half hours, tinkering away, doing different tasks and repairing sectors. We were following a prompt. It seemed like really interesting stuff. Although my primary focus right now is networking, I’ve also considered the possibility of going down different avenues. Mainframe is definitely one of those avenues now.
What would you say to any students thinking about attending a SHARE event in the future?
I would tell students that they shouldn’t be intimidated by learning something new and stepping out of their comfort zone. It worked for me and it will definitely work for them. I doubted myself a little since I was never exposed to the mainframe, but had I given into my reservations, I would have missed out.
I credit a lot to Misty Decker: After hearing her presentation I felt much more confident about attending, and I’m glad I went. These events are great because they provide an opportunity for more students to get involved in the mainframe.
Join us for SHARE Academic at SHARE St. Louis to network, attend employer panels and compete in the Master the Mainframe hackathon. To register for SHARE St. Louis, August 12-17, visit event.share.org/register.