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Justin Bastin on His SHARE Journey and What’s Next for the Mainframe

Reg Harbeck: Hi, this is Reg Harbeck and today I'm here with Justin Bastin whom I've known for quite a long time, basically since he first started coming to SHARE. He's active in SHARE and all kinds of cool stuff and so Justin maybe I can get you to start by just telling us your background. How did you end up on the mainframe and how did you end up at SHARE?

Justin Bastin: Hi everyone. Well thanks Reg for having me. So actually it kind of starts back when I knew I wanted to be in information technology. When I was about eight years old, my uncle, my uncle Bill, he actually bought us our first Nintendo. So with that Nintendo I knew right there like wow, my uncle made a lot of money to afford a Nintendo and I found out he was a programmer. So I said, you know what? This is perfect. I want to be in IT. So I went into college in Ohio and where I went, they actually had classes in COBOL, AS/400, JCL and data structures. I took High Level Assembler in college so I took all these different classes with a focus. 70 percent of it was on computers, like computer programming; 30 percent was on business, accounting, economics, business development, things like that. So after I graduated, I decided to apply for a job. So I applied for, oh, about 22 jobs and I got seven callbacks.

Reg: Nice.

Justin: And from those call backs, I went on the interviews and I finally ended up with three job offers to me. One was basically a C++ programmer, one was an HTML web designer programmer and that was only a contract for a year; the last one was for a junior z/OS systems programmer so after I went in to be interviewed with all three, I immediately noticed when I walked in that—no offense—you could double my age and add a few years and I was still the youngest guy in the room and so it was interesting because I felt like that was a great opportunity for me to have longevity in this business.

Reg: Oh, yeah.

Justin: And so pretty much at that point, I started out as a junior z/OS systems programmer in 2003.

Reg: Cool. Now you've had a really interesting journey since then in all kinds of neat ways but I have to ask you—not everybody knows this but I know about you—that there are two other people wandering around out there who look just like you. Did did your two triplets go into IT as well?

Justin: That's a good question. Folks like to ask similar questions because we are alike genetically and surprisingly, Jonathan—my other brother—studied IT and he didn’t decide to go into IT. He's in another area but it uses technology pretty heavily but it is not like programming and developing and engineering as I do. And then my other brother went in a completely different area. They both are extremely successful in what they do so in some tendencies, they did do IT and in others, they didn't.

Reg: Interesting.

Justin: Yeah.

Reg: So it was sort of almost random luck that we ended up having you on the mainframe really. Now if you started out as a system programmer in 2003, I think it was another three or four years before you came to SHARE. Does that sound right?

Justin: You're spot on. So I was the junior z/OS systems programmer and for two years, they wouldn't let me touch a production LPAR. I could only touch test LPARs and so as I spent that time over two years they sent me to classes and boot camps. I learned JES2 and all these educational courses. I didn't have an opportunity to go to SHARE. My management would go to SHARE and my most senior colleagues would go to SHARE. Then they met a girl there in the zNextGen project named Kristine Harper and they decided to get her card. So they brought her card back and gave it to me. I decided to ask to go to SHARE and they actually approved it, my manager approved it.

Reg: I've got a big grin on my face and Justin knows why I've got this grin on my face because Kristine Harper turns out to be a tremendously important person in Justin's journey. Kristine of course was one of the two cofounders of zNextGen at SHARE along with Iris Rivera of IBM. Kristine also I think is really cool. For her first SHARE she was in the mother's womb and so then, she came back in her late teens and got really involved and got zNextGen going. One of my favorite pictures is of Justin, Kristine and Iris singing at the JES2 sing-along Thursday night at SHARE in San Diego which was back in 2007. So was that your first or second SHARE in 2007?

Justin: So that was my very first SHARE in San Diego.

Reg: Oh, your first? That is so cool.

Justin: My very first SHARE. And so after my first SHARE basically I started coming back on a regular basis because I was able to go to SHARE, take the information I learned and then bring it back to my shop. I made a point to show my manager and my colleagues “Hey, look what I learned at SHARE this time around.” I did a project and I would also do a trip report. Here's the sessions I went to, here are the top things I took away from it and I would take one of those sessions and I would actually present it to my colleagues. And they all knew already what I was talking about because they were so senior; however, it gave me an opportunity to work on my presentation skills and be able to prove and show the value in coming to SHARE on a regular basis.

Reg: So, did you come right away to the next SHARE? Did you miss a couple of SHARES or did you just start coming back to SHARE all the time at that point?

Justin: Actually I decided to start volunteering in that SHARE—SHARE San Diego 2007—and through that along with all of the work I did to justify it, I've been coming to SHARE ever since.

Reg: Cool.

Justin: I did miss one SHARE, which was SHARE 60th in Orlando, but my son was born so and that was a really good reason to not go to that SHARE conference.

Reg: And of course, it is not just your son. It's also Kristine Harper's son because one of the neat things that came out of this was that you and Kristine got to know each other over a number of years and then got married which is a really neat story and so we're all kind of hoping that one or both of your two sons become mainframers as well. What do you think? Is that something that you are hoping to happen?

Justin: You know what? Ultimately, Kristine and I want them to be happy and do whatever they want. I think one of the great things with SHARE is that it's been around since 1955 and really you're a part of something bigger than yourself so there are times where I think to myself as a current SHARE secretary that if, in the event that my sons decide to come to SHARE when they're older, maybe they'll see some minutes that their dad wrote up or maybe somebody will be around or hopefully I'm still around presenting. Those are the things that I cherish so.

Reg: Sure. Well and of course, the neat thing is you've had the opportunity to do so many neat things in addition to presenting at SHARE. You've been a zNextGen executive. You've been the project manager for zNextGen. You've now been on the SHARE board and we're expecting to see you on the board for a little while longer. Time will tell and so that's all really cool. Now that said as somebody who cares so much about SHARE, you must have some ideas of what you'd like to see happen with SHARE as it moves forward into the future. What are some of your hopes and maybe even plans for SHARE's future?

Justin: Well it's interesting because the mainframe technology develops and it starts to really broaden its reach you know with the advent of Linux on Z and it running on z/VM technology and now KVM, it really has allowed the mainframe to tap into those new audiences that we haven't really been able to reach before. Not every application should be on a mainframe but not every application should be on an x86 server and open on a distributed platform. You really need to take a holistic approach on where you want to place the workload so from that point of view, my aspirations, my dreams for SHARE is for it to be the biggest most influential user group. I mean it’s the oldest user group here in North America and with that said, SHARE in my opinion needs to not only look at how we provide value to our members but at what kind of ways we provide value. Is it through blogs? Is it through vlogs? Is it through this podcast we're doing right now, Reg? So we need to look at recruiting those folks that want to be part of our industry and enable them to be successful.

Reg: Cool. Now one of the big discussions, in fact I had the opportunity to talk to some folks about this in a discussion today, is just the whole idea of modernizing the mainframe and my thinking was, of course, it’s more about humanizing the mainframe. What are your thoughts? We saw a big announcement today at SHARE about this new thing that IBM, Rocket and CA are doing and we got all kinds of other things. What are your thoughts about the modernization and humanization of the mainframe itself going forward?

Justin: You know that's an interesting question. Yeah, with the new initiative called Zowe making really the first open-source project for z/OS. I mean there's—as the gentleman from the Open Mainframe Project said—there's a lot of projects out there, open-source projects, but this is the very first one called Zowe for z/OS which is really important with those three large influential companies, CA Technologies, IBM and Rocket Software involved along with the Open Mainframe Project so that's really critical. When you talk about the humanization of it, you know to be frank, we're in a relationship business. We may be able to sit down and look at 1s and 0s, well not literally, but bits and bytes and be able to program in High Level Assembler, COBOL, JCL, and even Java now on the mainframe but the beauty of it is being able to make those connections, and building your network because without our mentors, without those that have come before us and the ones that are going to come after us, there's really no way to keep this platform going. For me, it’s really about, you know, we're all in IT, right? We're all in technology but to me it’s so much more about the human aspect of it and relationships. I mean do you have kind of the same view on that?

Reg: Absolutely and you know that's one of the joys I get out of doing this podcast is I get to highlight the amazing people of the mainframe. During my career on the mainframe, I just keep encountering these spectacular people because the thing is you walk into SHARE and you look at all these mainframers. They all look ordinary. You know, they look like just normal people and it's only when you scratch the surface and get to know them that you realize each one of these people at SHARE is this deep amazing person, you know, a world class person. They're so worth getting to know but it takes the time and it takes that respect. So I totally agree.

Justin: Oh, well that's great. I'm glad you agree and not only from the standpoint of their stories, the history, and their dreams and ideas but there are some really super intelligent people in our industry. It's amazing.

Reg: Oh yeah.

Justin: So yeah. That was good. This was great.

Reg: Okay, cool. Well Justin I really appreciate you taking the time to do this interview and of course, the timing of it is really neat. By the time we publish it, we might have some new news about you but time will tell. Any final thoughts you have to share with everybody before we sign off?

Justin: You know, really, the platform is here to stay. I find a hard time believing that any technology, regardless what of it is, is just going to simply disappear. You know it's funny. When you talk to an email administrator, you know you don't realize how good they are until what happens? Until it breaks and then that's when their phone lights up. Well guess what? The reason why you don't realize you know as far as how well the mainframe is doing is because it doesn't break. And because it doesn't break or it's not on fire, it's here to last, so it's not on the front page of the news typically.

Reg: Right.

Justin: The other thing too, my last thought I say, is if you understand what companies and what organizations run mainframes, run their core applications on mainframe, you will be able to understand what companies run the economy and run the ecosystem because in the event that the mainframes aren't there, good luck getting money out of the ATM. Good luck being able to do airlines so there's just so many negative consequences without this platform so all around it's a great platform. But it's a great group of people that work on it and that's really the soul of this platform. It comes down to the people.

Reg: Cool. Excellent. Well this has been really great. Thank you so much, Justin.

Justin: Thank you, Reg.