Message from SHARE: Engage Our Future Leaders

 By James Erdahl, SHAREwide Program Manager

The SHARE zNextGen Project recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary. From its inception, the main purpose of this project has been to bring together people who are new to z Systems. While the project volunteers are busy working to provide introductory sessions at every SHARE event, they also sponsor the zNextGen community. This community has over 1,200 members in more than 25 countries who meet the last Thursday of each month via a WebEx conference to discuss both technical and leadership subjects.

During SHARE in San Antonio, the zNextGen volunteers expanded their scope to engage more individuals. They added a social event prior to the SHARE Welcome Reception, and to continue to keep everyone engaged, they moved the Wednesday Project Dinner to Monday. Finally, they concluded the event with a social activity for everyone to debrief from the week.

These additional activities worked as tools to enhance engagement during the event. They also made me reevaluate what other tools can be used to engage new hires, and I have several thoughts. As many new hires are coming directly out of school, they are familiar with how to gather knowledge, but they may not feel comfortable in the workplace. They know how to learn new skills, but not how to apply the skills they already have. They were hired for the skill sets gained in the collegiate setting, but will not have the complete z/OS experience. To combat these barriers, we have to evaluate how to exploit what they know and figure out how they can best support a special z/OS project. As a new system programmer, my computer operator experience was used to implement a new concept: automation of the syslog.

It’s also important to identify skills that the new hires already have — possibly from an internship or other involvements — and have them use these skills to create a z/OS process. Although the project may not be a priority, it can give them a sense of ownership over what they have accomplished while learning the z/OS disciplines along their journey.

As experienced learners, these zNextGen'ers also know how to present. Encourage them to conduct lunch and learns for other teams, providing information on basic topics, such as what’s new in JCL. Not only will they learn the topic better, they will meet other employees in the process.

Invite them to a local user group meeting. Work with them on engaging with other professionals in the area. And of course, bring them to the next SHARE event with you. At least have them join the zNextGen Community and attend the monthly WebEx meetings.

When I was an active military officer, I had a sign on my desk saying: "If you ignore your soldiers, they will go away." As many of us have been busy bringing in new people, don't stop with the recruitment — engage them.

James Erdahl is currently working as a systems architect as a member of U.S. Banks Mainframe Storage Team.  Many of his duties are centered around storage replication and protection using EMC Technologies. Throughout his 41 years of professional experience, he has spent most of his time as a mainframe systems programmer, contracted out to maintain operating systems for many companies throughout the Midwest. He currently volunteers for SHARE as the SHAREwide program manager, assisting the zNextGen and DevOps Projects, as well as the requirements team. 

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