Thought Leadership: The Mainframe Ecosystem from the Perspective of a zNextGen’er

By Holden O’Neal, Deputy Project Manager zNextGen

My first exposure to the mainframe occurred during my high school computer science courses. My instructor encouraged the class to participate in the Master of the Mainframe contest sponsored by IBM, and many of us, myself included, jumped on the opportunity to play around on a super computer. After graduating from high school, I proceeded to pursue a degree in computer science at North Carolina State University. During my undergraduate degree, I accepted a position at SAS Institute as a student intern for the zSeries R&D Testing Team. Upon graduation, I was unable to stay on the team due to head count constraints and was offered a position on the SAS Development Team, which I eagerly accepted. A new challenge and career path unfolded before me: Becoming a programmer on the mainframe platform.

My new manager was the one who initially told me about SHARE. As a long time attendee, he encouraged me to attend my first SHARE event, and I was both excited for the educational opportunities and admittedly anxious about the networking aspects. Surprise and curiosity filled me when I read the abstract for the zNextGen keynote session. It seemed as though it was designed for someone in my exact situation — I wondered if it was too good to be true. During the keynote session, the room was polled for any attendees willing to chair a zNextGen session throughout the week of the SHARE event. Having already planned to attend a session that needed a chair and wanting to get more involved in this community of my peers, I volunteered. I then went on to attend several introductory sessions given by industry professionals that contained content that was immediately applicable to my daily work.

The past two years of working on the mainframe platform as a developer have not only changed my perspective on enterprise computing but also my take on all modern computer platforms and the programming practices being used to create their applications. Through my experience with writing Assembler and C on the mainframe, I have gained an appreciation for the thorough and robust programming practices and their importance in ensuring superior software solutions. The mainframe ecosystem has evolved over the decades to meet the rigorous and ever-changing demands of governments, worldwide corporations and banks. SHARE continues to play a very important role in the pursuit of the platform's growth and development, and the SHARE community and events provide a place for the industry’s greatest minds to collaborate and work on leveraging the world’s most powerful platform. I aim to pass on this understanding to those around me to help others appreciate how important the mainframe ecosystem is for us all.

Holden O’Neal is a deputy project manager of zNextGen. Currently, he works for SAS Institute as a zSeries R&D Software Developer. His daily work consists of writing and maintaining C and Assembler code to support the SAS Programming Language on z/OS. In his free time, he enjoys backpacking trips, world travel, training martial arts, and spending time with family and friends.

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