The Advent of Generation Z

By Reg Harbeck, SHARE Program Officer

So, I Googled it and was delighted to find on Wikipedia that after the baby boomers, Generation X, and millennials, the next generational cohort heading for the workforce is Generation Z! (Apparently, the millennials are also known as “Generation Y” – or, perhaps “Generation Why?” by some.)

As someone who has been proclaiming the need for a new generation of mainframers since millennials were kids, I suddenly have a renewed optimism about the future workforce for my favorite platform!

Now, don’t get me wrong: we need plenty of millennials on the mainframe too, and as I look around at SHARE I am indeed beginning to see zNextGen bear fruits as the nexus for regeneration of our mainframe workforce. In fact, we need to be exerting an ongoing effort to identify suitably excellent people, invite them in, and mentor and train them to take on the mantle of the IT leadership implicit in being a mainframe professional.

But it’s also time we started genuinely looking to the future again, like IBM did when they first invested so deeply in the creation of the original System/360 mainframe back when the baby boom was just concluding and Generation X were soon to be on their way.

Now, as an experienced mainframer, that means I’m talking about your grandkids, and maybe even great-grandkids. And that’s OK, even if your first generation of progeny were interested in pursuits other than big iron. These things often skip a generation (or two), after all.

This also matters for another interesting reason: if you want to genuinely achieve something well, it is generally necessary to think through it and beyond it, not just “at it.” My favorite example here is the martial artist who puts their fist through a stack of boards or bricks. No matter how strong they are, if they’re just thinking at the surface, they’ll never succeed – they have to think through it to the other side.

So, if we start thinking of forming a new generation of mainframers from the aptly-named “Z” generation, we, too, will implicitly bring everyone else along on the journey, and might just encourage some millennials who have taken detours on the way, to see the value of this excellent career choice.

Here’s to the next generation to make the mainframe great! And now, time to catch a few Z’s…


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