A Message from SHARE: Investing in the Next Generation

Harry Williams, SHARE VP By Harry Williams, SHARE Vice President

For 60 years, SHARE has been promoting the idea that by working together, sharing information and practices, defining requirements, and mentoring each other, we can all benefit. Today, we can think of this nexus as the z Systems ecosystem, which is made of IBM, academia, independent software vendors (ISVs), user groups such as SHARE and many others that use the technology. Each member segment of the ecosystem interacts with each other, providing value to the entire ecosystem. For example, IBM continues to invest and improve the z System hardware, and both IBM and ISVs invest in new and improved software. SHARE, meanwhile, continues to serve as a place to exchange information with vendors and other users. However, academia, especially universities, is notably absent from our conversations. Right or wrong, 20 years ago, many professionals in higher education moved from the mainframe to other platforms and few have returned. Client-server was the “in thing,” and, of course, that meant it was not the mainframe, despite its ability to actively participate in such environments.

For the last decade, under various names, IBM has tried to change people’s perspectives. By promoting the idea of three-way cooperation among IBM, IBM customers, and universities, initiatives have been made to provide faculty and students access to the best of IBM’s technology and to provide real world experience through internships. The IBM Academic Initiative today provides software for universities to use in the classroom at little to no cost, including software that runs on z Systems. IBM also provides faculty and students access to a z System to get actual experience using the system. Any faculty member teaching at an accredited institution can join the IBM z Systems Academic Initiative and gain access for their students. Several ISVs have donated licenses for their software for the students to use.

If your company is in need of new technical staff, I encourage you to participate with IBM. Have your company offer internships for local high school or college students. Offer to teach as an adjunct professor at a local university or community college. Offer to host a career day in your office so that students can see what is involved in your job, or simply volunteer to be a mentor to a student. Nothing is as rewarding as helping someone grow and watching them flourish.

One of the battles the z System ecosystem has to fight is the perception that mainframe is boring, and not sexy. To paraphrase the Oldsmobile commercial, the z System isn’t your father’s mainframe. IBM has recognized that. To encourage youth to have fun on the mainframe, IBM has sponsored the annual Master the Mainframe contest to promote the platform.

SHARE has not been idle. SHARE and its members have been active in helping students with z Systems through such programs as zNextGen and SHARE Academic Award for Excellence. zNextGen is a user-driven community of over 1,000 new and emerging z System professionals. Besides participating in the semi-annual conference, zNextGen members have a monthly conference call with presentations designed for both young professionals and those that are transitioning to the platform. zNextGen also has a community forum for open discussion. The SHARE Academic Award for Excellence is an opportunity for students and recent graduates to submit an academic-related enterprise information system project that adds value to an organization’s overall IT goals and mission.

What is SHARE itself doing to help faculty and students? Well, SHARE has provided a reduced registration rate for faculty and students to SHARE events. And at those events, SHARE has hosted meet ups for faculty teaching z Systems to network with each other and industry leaders. However, SHARE understands that the time and financial commitment — even with reduced rates — is often beyond the means of most students and academic departments. The SHARE Board is looking at what else we can do to foster z System skills and a passion for the environment. We are discussing a number of ideas and we would love to hear more ideas from our members.  One idea that we will implement for Orlando is a reduced rate for SHARE Live! for faculty. This will allow the faculty member and their students to watch a select set of some of the best presentations in Orlando from their campus. In addition, they will have access to the archives of previous presentations for six months following the event. This and the potential for discounted access to SHARE archives, are initiatives created specifically to benefit our student and faculty members.

One of the topics often discussed revolves around the skills shortage or the retirement bubble. Some people argue passionately that there is a skills shortage on the horizon and that it is a serious problem; a problem in five to ten years, but one that we need to work on now because the problem takes a while to solve. Others believe equally as strongly that the problem does not exist or is not as extreme as forecasted. In order to understand what is happening in the world at large, SHARE worked with IBM System Magazine to survey both our members and their readers to understand what companies believe will happen in their environment and if there is a perceived issue, along with what they are planning to do about it. We are crunching the numbers and analyzing the data now, but look for the September issue of IBM Systems Magazine for the results. You can pick up your copy at SHARE in Orlando – August 9-14.

I hope to see you in Orlando. I would love to hear your ideas about the topics here or just the future of SHARE and enterprise computing.


Harry Williams is the Chief Technology Officer at Marist College. During his 35-year tenure, the college has grown from a small local college to a regional university, internationally recognized as a leader in using technology to support teaching, learning and scholarship. One focus of technological education at Marist is z Systems. Harry has been active in SHARE for over 20 years in roles such as member of the technical steering committee, Director of Community Enablement, Treasurer and now Vice President. In his copious spare time, he helps his wife with the local food pantry, is the regional chairman of the Masonic Child Identification Program and is active on the District Committee of the local Boy Scout Council.

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