Blog > December 2019 > The Millenialization of the Mainframe – Catering to Emerging Mainframe Professionals

The Millenialization of the Mainframe – Catering to Emerging Mainframe Professionals

The mainframe remains a critical component in the IT ecosystem for many enterprises, whether in-house, outsourced to a GSP, or in zCloud. Yet the market is experiencing a shift, and mainframe infrastructure support has arrived at a generational pass-of-the-torch. The most seasoned mainframe professionals are reaching an inflection point in their careers, in which they will no longer be participating in the daily workforce. The problem? There isn’t a cohort of fully experienced mainframe pros waiting readily in the wings.

In the mainframe world, this is a known generational gap. The seasoned mainframe pros approaching retirement have decades of work experience and training, but have lacked next-generation professionals to pass that expertise on to. In other technology areas—networking, RDBMS DBA, etc.—there would be another generation (ages 35-50) between the seasoned and emerging pros, ready to take over. However, that cohort came up in the era of the client server, so those jobs attracted the bulk of the talent. Today, they are proficient on legacy client servers and perhaps the cloud, but not the mainframe.

As a result, there is a trough in potential mainframe professionals to step into positions becoming open. However, the mainframe isn’t going away. It’s still the backbone for several industries, from travel to banking to logistics—so the gap must be bridged. As they say in physics, “nature abhors a vacuum.”

The Mainframe Opportunity

Many emerging IT professionals have identified the mainframe’s generational gap and see it as an opportunity. For example, on a recent customer visit, I met a young professional at a regional bank in Texas. He had graduated college with an IT degree—including coursework in web services, Java and cloud—and had self-selected to become a systems programmer for the mainframe. Working at the bank, the young man recognized that the mainframe is exciting—it’s a tremendously powerful platform and performs everything he learned in his academic work: it runs Java, dispatches webpages, has TCP/IP connections and more. The young pro also noticed that the seasoned mainframe professionals were retiring. He saw the chance to become very valuable, because 1) the mainframe runs the most important programs and applications at the bank, and 2) if he excelled, he would receive good compensation, job security and the chance to work on exciting projects.

When I visit conferences, I keep hearing stories like this one, and it gives me reassurance. After college, young IT pros are realizing they could be a) one of 10 thousand graduates trying to get a position at a new wave technology start-up or web services provider—or b) they could be one of 10 pros who have contemporary IT skills and mainframe competence applying for well-compensated, open mainframe positions.

Even so, it’s on the organization to attract, retain and leverage emerging mainframe professionals. This may require a few changes—from the tools, utilities and applications they use, to work-life balance within the organization.

Modern Mainframe Expectations

Emerging pros come to mainframe opportunities with a different set of expectations. Seasoned mainframe professionals are used to being chained to a desk, working with a 3270 mainframe emulator, and using PF function keys to page up and down. The new generation, on the other hand, grew up expecting a different experience when engaging with technology. To meet modern needs, enterprises must provide:
  • A graphical user interface that is friendly and easy to adopt
  • Availability anytime, anywhere, so employees can work outside normal business hours
  • Mobility, so employees can work from a laptop, phone or tablet, and the user interface will conform itself to perform on any platform
To deliver on these demands, enterprises must adopt mainframe tools that offer modernized interfaces, mobilized availability and externalized data through publicly documented APIs. What’s more, these APIs must be regular and familiar—like the APIs exposed from modern applications and cloud services—so mainframe content can be integrated into dashboards or control consoles, as if it were being dispatched from a window server or cloud server. ASG delivers these capabilities and the experience emerging mainframe pros expect with our ASG-PRO/JCL solution and Eclipse plugin for JCL. Organizations must make sure they are set up for the future of the mainframe—with the right tools and the right people. 

Explore ASG-PRO/JCL by visiting this product page. Learn why JCL tools are essential for elevating your DevOps and attracting new talent by reading this blog post.
To go even deeper on this topic, watch "Millennialization of the Mainframe and Beyond" on our webcast channel.