By Sujay Solomon, Project Officer zNextGen
I was introduced to zNextGen by a colleague at CA Technologies after she returned from attending a SHARE event in 2010. The concept of a mainframe user group that focused on providing a gateway for those new to the platform was intriguing to me. I soon became a member, and it was one of the best decisions I've made to help me succeed on the mainframe platform. The benefits of being an active volunteer in zNextGen are many, but I'll be highlighting some of the reasons why it has been so useful for me.
When I first started out, I was new to the platform, its tools and programming languages. Before I attended my first SHARE event, I started attending the monthly technical calls that were hosted by the zNextGen volunteers. The calls generally revolved around a guest speaker who spoke about a topic that would be of interest to those of us who were new to the platform. The content of the calls were hit or miss for me based on what I was working on at the time, but it helped me gain understanding of the platform beyond my immediate area of expertise. I noticed that there were a few people on the calls who asked questions I had as well. I started networking with these familiar names outside of the calls, mostly to continue conversations about the questions they had brought up. This interaction grew over time, and we started relying on each other for nuggets of z/OS knowledge. Even if we didn't know the answer to someone's question, one of us would know an expert who had the answer. Networking on this level was invaluable for all of us!
Eventually, I got the opportunity to attend SHARE in San Francisco in 2013, and zNextGen came to the fore again, allowing me to maximize my experience at this event. The benefits of being a zNextGen member when I attended the conference were numerous. With the number of sessions that are offered at SHARE, it can be overwhelming to pick and choose a few to attend. I quickly found out that sessions labeled as "zNextGen track" or "zNextGen friendly" indicated that a particular session was introductory or relevant to zNextGen’ers. I was taken under the wing by one of the zNextGen leaders at the time, and he introduced me to many experts in fields I was interested in. This made my attendance at SHARE extremely fruitful, as I was able to speak with experts to gain a much deeper understanding of the technology that I have to work with daily. I discovered that informal discussions on the history of a technology or its future became commonplace once I met the right people. Not only did this help educate me, but it also sparked a level of interest and passion that can only happen when you feel like you're truly an integral part of the platform. zNextGen enabled me to feel that way during my first time at SHARE.
It’s hard to believe that the mainframe platform has been innovating for more than 50 years! It's imperative that those of us who are new to the platform continue with this history of innovation. zNextGen provides an avenue for us to do just that. It is healthy for both the platform and for the new generation getting introduced to the technology that we have a voice in its direction. Whether it's through raising SHARE requirements or giving us a stage to bring our concerns forward at SHARE sessions, zNextGen has been pivotal in helping advance the platform in a direction that is both functional and appealing to the fast-paced programmer of today.
Sujay Solomon currently works as a product owner at CA Technologies, and he serves as a project officer for zNextGen.