Thought Leadership: SHARE Expands Support of Its zNextGen® Community

By Warren Harper

zNextGen® is a user-driven community of individuals who are z Systems professionals. The uniqueness of this community is in its ability to provide resources for both emerging professionals looking to gain career-enhancing education and more experienced professionals looking to share their expertise through mentorship opportunities. zNextGen seeks to expedite members’ professional development and enhance technical and personal skills. And, in 2016, members can look forward to continued improvements to zNextGen’s overall community structure.

To start, I should explain what it means to be a part of the zNextGen community. Who comprises this group and how are they involved? What is interesting is that the answers to these questions may be different for each person associated with the community. For those new to the workforce, zNextGen is an educational resource to outline and detail the latest available tools. For those a little more advanced in their careers, zNextGen is a hub to meet and network with peers in the mainframe ecosystem. Or, for leaders in their professions, zNextGen is a community of individuals who can gain great benefits from experienced mentorship.

As the community evolves, we will hone in on these different groups to truly engage each individual. We will develop meaningful and relevant learning opportunities, engage in new and exciting networking events, and supply a clear pathway to being a mentor; after all, these members are the future leaders of SHARE and will drive the continued success of the organization.

zNextGen Virtual and In-person Meetings

Every in-person SHARE event gives attendees the opportunity to meet face-to-face with the peers and mentors they communicate with virtually all-year round. Because the zNextGen community includes people from all over the world, the group meets as often as it can at SHARE events, which open the door to meeting over coffee in the morning, attending sessions together throughout the day and enjoying a night out on the town with dinner and drinks, among other activities. This year, you can learn more about this group firsthand at SHARE in San Antonio, where zNextGen will have a dedicated, robust track of educational sessions, along with a special networking opportunity to kick off the week and a zNextGen project dinner earlier in the week (Monday) for participants to meet up and map out their week together.

Historically, SHARE has boasted more than 500 sessions at each of its two annual events, and some attendees may have felt that these sessions were too highly technical and not applicable to a younger professional generation. But that is all going to change – this year at SHARE in San Antonio, zNextGen has nearly 20 sessions dedicated to new users and emerging professionals, which is a record-setting number! Additionally, SHARE's core zNextGen project team — a group of SHARE members with various levels of professional experience, ranging from new to the industry to quite seasoned — has identified hundreds of other sessions that are beneficial for zNextGen’ers to attend. When planning your weekly schedule for the upcoming event, be sure to look for the zNextGen-tagged sessions to get the most out of your time at the event. Note that tags are associated with sessions in order to make filtering possible within SHARE’s mobile app and the desktop scheduler. This particular tag is considered an "Area of Interest."

Furthermore, the zNextGen happy hour will be a brand-new addition to in-person networking this year, providing a great forum to exchange contact information with peers, use the new SHARE mobile app to arrange meetings, and network with other SHARE attendees who might be able to share a few tips and tricks for the week. The details surrounding this networking opportunity will be announced soon.

In addition to hosting dedicated sessions and networking opportunities, zNextGen will make an appearance at the SHARE Technology Exchange Expo this year in San Antonio. The SHARE booth is getting a makeover and zNextGen will be a significant part of it. The project team leaders along with other members of the zNextGen community will be at the booth to meet you and answer any questions you may have, from how to join our community to where to get the best beer in San Antonio. It will also be a great place to meet new faces while relaxing on comfortable furniture in the booth lounge area and charging stations.

The SHARE booth will also have a Genius Bar where you can meet experts in various roles within the mainframe ecosystem. They will answer your questions and give their opinions on hot topics enterprise IT professionals face today. Everything is bigger in Texas, and the newly redesigned SHARE booth will be no exception!

What Are You Waiting For?

Future zNextGen professionals, I have a few final tips: First, don’t miss out on all the exciting features of SHARE Academy and SHARE in San Antonio. Second, if your manager needs a little encouragement to approve funding for your attendance, make sure to justify your attendance by supplying all of the previously mentioned details and others listed on the Justify Your Attendance Web page SHARE has re-vamped for you.

You may recall from SHARE in Orlando, August 2015, that zNextGen celebrated its 10-year anniversary. That was quite an accomplishment for our community and one that I am very proud of personally and professionally. With the changes we plan to incorporate in 2016, I see this community lasting another 10 years and more. Stay tuned for updates regarding our new role structure and the exciting happenings taking place at SHARE in San Antonio. Cheers to seeing you in San Antonio and making it the best year yet for zNextGen!

Warren Harper has a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Arizona and is currently a product developer for BMC Software, where he started immediately after his graduation. SHARE in San Antonio will be his 9th SHARE conference, and he has volunteered for SHARE in some fashion, informally and formally, for nearly three years. Currently, he is the project manager for zNextGen.

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