Thoughts from SHARE Sacramento 2018: Bringing the Mainframe to the Millennials
On Tuesday, I gave a talk at SHARE that was designed to spur conversation. The topic was Millennials and Generation Z. Specifically, how to find and train them. Typically, the conversation that this creates comes in the form of Q&A with the audience. Plenty of people share their own experiences, point out their assumptions, and generally react to my lofty claim that “Millennials are people too.”
However, what I wasn’t expecting was that a very new type of discussion would take place later that day at IBM’s z Skills table. One of the things I had said struck a nerve with certain members of the audience – admittedly by design. A point that I made when responding to more than one question was that it was our job, as part of the Z community, to make ourselves known to the generations who do not know about us. It’s a rare phenomenon in tech for the younger talent to be unaware of a powerful platform, and with the roles reversed, some common stereotypes were kicked into play.
At the expo hall, this conversation was starting. One of my earlier attendees was voicing his concern about my point. Why should so much of our efforts be spent to reach out, when those lazy kids weren’t doing anything to find us? Rather than try to change his mind, the IBMer listening to his plea suggested he find out for himself – let’s talk to a few young mainframers and see how they respond to the idea!
What followed was a very engaging 40 minutes where both the young zNextGen members and seasoned veterans shared perspectives. To save another 40 minutes of reading, our final thoughts converged when we imagined the perspective of a recent college grad who was the unwitting subject of our debate. To them, ignorance was bliss. They could go on the rest of their life never knowing about all the doors that could open for them with experience working on Z. The cost to them would be so little. But the cost to us threatens to be insurmountable. If we were to stop trying to find young talent, the skills gap would ultimately grow too large, and our industry’s innovation and progress would halt. Avoiding recent graduates is not a luxury we can take. It is all our responsibilities to change the way we talk about the mainframe – and be inclusive of as large a community as we can find. Or else the kids will just pass us by.
Thank you to everyone involved volunteering at SHARE to make such a conversation possible. Because of the events SHARE and its sponsors put together, the entire Z community can come together to share these ideas that would otherwise never get out.