What Works for the Latest Mainframe Generation at IBM
To learn what works best for the latest hires, we talked with four IBMers about their current job roles and what resources are key for them in their careers
Clockwise from top left: Marcos Figueiredo Jr., Shin Kelly Yang, Elisabeth Stahl, Elizabeth K. Joseph,
By Dava Stewart09/01/2020
Closing the skills gap and appealing to new mainframers is a priority for the IBM Z® community. To learn what works best for the latest hires, we talked with four IBMers about their current job roles, what sparked their interest in the mainframe and what resources are key for them in their careers.
From Storage to Z: Marcos Figueiredo Jr. Embraces Z for Good
Although video conference calls may be a new way of working for some, they’re business as usual for Marcos Figueiredo Jr., an offering manager for Linux® on IBM Z and LinuxONE™, and data serving lead. “Even under normal circumstances, my day usually involves a series of calls with IBMers in different locations and from different disciplines,” he says. Along with staying in touch with people across the organization, Figueiredo does market research so that he can understand potential trends around data-serving topics.
A Natural Transition
Figueiredo didn’t begin his career working on the mainframe. “When I joined IBM as an intern, my focus was on IBM Storage,” he says. He notes that the first storage system he was exposed to at work was the one attached to mainframes, which naturally created some interest in IBM Z. As he expanded his skills and knowledge about storage, he also became interested in Linux running on mainframes. “While I was never directly working on them, the synergy of my work with mainframes was always one of the best parts of my job,” he says.
About a year and a half ago, Figueiredo decided “it was time to embrace Z for good.” He began looking for a position within the IBM Z division. “Today, I’m more interested in mainframes than ever before,” he says.
The Key to Success: Good Mentors
Figueiredo says that mentors have been a key to his success, assisting him with everything from understanding how to navigate the hypercomplex organization as a whole to broadening his vision of leadership and the challenges associated with it. “My mentors helped me focus on finding the right skills to progress in my career and taught me a great deal about IBM culture,” he adds, “especially in terms of giving back.”
Although he began his career with a solid foundation in the form of a degree in computer science, his mentors helped him expand his skill set to include business operations as well as the technical aspects of his work. “During my early time in the company, I had the opportunity to shadow senior technical experts in real client engagements,” he says. From those experiences, he had the chance to learn in ways that traditional courses or training couldn’t match.
Figueiredo is focused on the future, both in terms of who will be the next generation of mainframers and what clients will need moving forward. “The most satisfying thing about my work is the ability to directly and indirectly shape how the next generation of mainframes will look and learning how clients are using our technology to solve very complex problems,” he says.
Shin Kelly Yang on Launches, Connecting and Job Satisfaction
As both IBM Z offering manager for data and AI and IBM Z Open Data Analytics for IBM z/OS®, Shin Kelly Yang’s workdays are full. Her role requires that she stay current on events within the industry, new partnerships in the tech world and more. When Yang is informed, she can follow up with client engagements and facilitate conversations. “I spend a lot of time updating myself on current events to ensure our future vision is on track,” she says.
“I wanted to be able to give back the advice that I was able to get.”
A Launch With a Big Impact
As an offering manager, Yang partners with clients and helps them transform their business by infusing AI into their workloads. She didn’t begin her career with IBM as an offering manager, however. “IBM z13® launched in January of 2015, and I was four months into my job,” she says. One aspect of her first job that came as a surprise was learning how vast and pervasive the IBM Z world is, as well as how much people rely on it. “That was when I felt the impact of my work,” Yang says.
That launch early in her career also allowed Yang to meet people from all over the mainframe community. “The months leading up to the launch were some of the best days,” she says. “Everyone pulled together and was able to deliver an amazing set of capabilities.” Because Yang enjoys understanding the technology and delivering information about it in layman’s terms, she moved from her early role as a software developer/tester into an offering manager role. That move also means she’s more integrated into the Z launches, which she enjoys.
An Important Mentor and the Value of Giving Back
Yang’s career path was influenced a great deal by a mentor who was a director of client success. This person helped her understand how development work was connected to client feedback. “I used her experiences and started thinking about my development work through the eyes of the client,” says Yang. Her mentor also helped her see the variety of career paths available. Later, when Yang began to explore her options, her mentor helped her connect with people who could supply information and assistance.
Through the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) program (ptechnyc.org/), Yang has had the opportunity to mentor two high school girls. “I wanted to be able to give back the advice that I was able to get,” says Yang. “This is some of the most rewarding work that I have done."
Connecting and collaborating are the most satisfying aspects of Yang’s work. In practical terms, these collaborations mean that her offerings are adopted and exposed to more people. “I love when I’m able to connect pieces of my work to another person’s work. In my job role now, my connections are usually people who want to partner or leverage my offering.”
Elizabeth K. Joseph on Open Source and Mentorship on the Mainframe
A s a developer advocate for IBM Z and IBM LinuxONE, Elizabeth K. Joseph is primarily focused on Linux. Her work involves engaging with the community and developing technical materials, step-by-step tutorials and presentations to help developers understand how to develop for Linux on IBM Z.
The IBM Z team approached her with an opportunity to fill a role in the ecosystem team. They wanted someone who could speak to people who had limited exposure to the mainframe but who would find value in the platform.
“I spent almost 15 years as a Linux systems administrator on a mix of on-premise and cloud-based distributed systems, so the mainframe was quite a change for me,” she says.
“From the cabinet doors to the central processors, everything is beautifully and thoughtfully designed so the mainframe can excel at processing data.”
The opportunity was appealing for several reasons. “What really drew me in was the increasing amount of open-source software development happening in the mainframe space,” she says. She has spent her career working in open-source communities, including software testing in DevOps environments.
People who work on the mainframe often have strong feelings about why it’s special, and Joseph is no exception. She says that as a hardware geek, she immediately began digging in when she started at IBM. “From the cabinet doors to the central processors, everything is beautifully and thoughtfully designed so the mainframe can excel at processing data,” she says.
“It’s also something we don’t talk much about on a technical level, so when we had the IBM z15™ and IBM LinuxONE III release back in September 2019, I made sure to share everything with the community, from specifications to cool photos,” says Joseph. As it turns out, she’s not the only “hardware geek” in the community.
Mentorship is particularly important for people like Joseph who have spent time working in open-source settings. “I’ve relied heavily upon my network of open-source contacts,” she says. She’s also found value in having mentors who work at a variety of companies. “While it’s great to have mentors in your own company, I’ve found that our bonds are stronger and the relationships last longer if it transcends our employer,” she says. The mentoring relationship can continue more easily if either party changes jobs when the bond is outside of a single employer.
The combination of teaching others and working with open-source communities bring Joseph the most satisfaction. She says that many people with traditional Linux backgrounds have little knowledge about how mainframes work. “While I’m learning everything there is to know about IBM Z, I’m making an effort to share all of the interesting and exciting tidbits,” she says.
Sometimes people working on open-source projects struggle to get the resources they need, but Joseph says, “it’s incredibly satisfying to see open-source projects start building for IBM Z with the Linux VMs that my team can provide for the LinuxONE Community Cloud.”
Elisabeth Stahl on Innovating to Meet Client Needs
Elisabeth Stahl, Distinguished Engineer, IBM Systems Client Experience Centers, spends a great deal of her time working directly with clients to create new strategies, architectures, products and services that are innovative and provide a competitive advantage. She is the founder and CTO of the IBM Systems Co-Creation Lab (ibm.co/321hUKk), which allows IBM experts and clients to work together in a virtual, side-by-side environment.
From the very beginning, Stahl’s career has been focused on how Enterprise Systems can help clients. She began working with IBM in, as she puts it, the “home of the mainframe,” Poughkeepsie, New York.
“I’m passionate about helping others. That’s why I gravitate toward assisting organizations with their challenges as well as mentoring and coaching my colleagues.”
A Broad Perspective
From development to technical sales and marketing, Stahl’s career has spanned many areas across the organization, giving her a broad view of what clients want. In addition to working in numerous areas within IBM, Stahl says she’s gained an important global perspective through working with professionals all over the world.
When it comes to what’s most appealing about working on the mainframe, Stahl lists several aspects, including performance, security, scalability, availability and resiliency.
Security and Additional Benefits
“One area that I find especially compelling these days is the focus on mainframe security with frameworks that include pervasive encryption and Data Privacy Passports,” Stahl says. The focus on security helps protect clients from the risk of a breach. Along with her enthusiasm for the security that the mainframe provides, Stahl says she is also “very excited about the ability of any organization to get the benefits of the mainframe, whether that means a smaller footprint on-premise or mainframe as a service in the cloud.”
Emerging Technologies, Mentoring and Problem Solving
Along with working directly with clients, Stahl spends some of her working hours mentoring and coaching other technical professionals across the IBM organization. She enjoys the challenges that mentoring and coaching present. The combination of working on emerging technologies and mentoring colleagues allows Stahl the opportunity to solve problems. “I’m passionate about helping others,” she says. “That’s why I gravitate toward assisting organizations with their challenges as well as mentoring and coaching my colleagues.”
Stah’s team provides workshops and consulting on use cases and technologies to co-create new business models. Leading projects allows her the opportunity to get out of her comfort zone and continue to learn while using the skills she acquired as a math major in college.
Regarding advice for others, Stahl says, “Make sure you take those breaks. My best ideas come when I walk my dog around the block.”
Vivek Kinra on IBM Hybrid Cloud Hyper Protect Services
When Vivek Kinra, program director for IBM Hybrid Cloud Hyper Protect Services, joined IBM two years ago, he brought along an extensive background in cybersecurity. His depth of knowledge and rich experience in the industry helped him see the value of the mainframe when it comes to data privacy, security and confidential computing.
The Day-to-Day Work
During a typical day, Kinra works with a team composed of offering managers along with sales and business partners. Their goal is to refine the strategy around products, and make sure that strategy aligns with what customers need and the market demands. Kinra has other responsibilities as well. “I also spend a good amount of time on market and competitive analysis,” he says.
Those analyses serve two main purposes, says Kinra. First, they help him and his team make sure their offerings are aligned with the problems currently faced by the market, and that there are a good number of potential customers facing those problems. Second, analyzing what competitors are doing allows his team to differentiate how IBM can address client problems using technology the organization has mastered over time.
Hybrid Use Cases Appeal
“When I heard about the opportunity of bringing the mainframe into the cloud, and looked at hybrid use cases that combined cloud and on-premise approaches to focus on security offerings, I got very excited,” says Kinra. The possibilities, particularly the security offerings, that the hybrid approach allowed were ultimately the reason Kinra chose to join IBM.
“The overall computation power, the robustness and reliability for critical business applications, make the mainframe most compelling,” he says.
Kinra says that his time at IBM has proven there was good reason for that early excitement. “I’m even more excited to work in this area than when I started at IBM,” he says. “In the last two years, I’ve come across many other interesting hybrid cloud and security use cases when IBM Z and LinuxONE are the best technology options.” IBM’s continuous investment in confidential computing appeals to experts like Kinra and is seeing very good client adoption.
“It’s amazing to build cutting-edge offerings on a server—the mainframe—that some people outside IBM think of as a legacy server,” says Kinra. He says people outside the company don’t always realize “that the mainframe is still a very powerful server and is now completely refreshed, bringing next-level data privacy, security and resiliency via Hyper Protect cloud and on-prem offerings, and now offers fully cloud native workloads.”
Although some people who have worked with the mainframe, or who were at least aware of its capabilities never doubt its power nor consider it a legacy server, there are others who simply aren’t aware of the advancement in IBM Z mainframe technology. “In my many conversations in professional networking settings or at conferences, when we discuss the Hyper Protect use cases, especially in the financial services of digital asset platform markets, people are amazed and excited to learn the offerings addressing these use cases that are run on IBM LinuxONE,” says Kinra.