One of the more unique aspects of being a Millennial Mainframer is working on teams with coworkers far older than ourselves. While this generational gap impacts day-to-day life in a mainframe shop in meaningful and significant ways, our older coworkers, contrary to popular belief, were at one time themselves young IT professionals learning the mainframe platform. I was reminded of this fact during IBM’s Pulse Conference when one of the speakers saw a group of Millennial Mainframers sitting together and commented that he felt “like he was back at an IT shop in the 1970s.” In that light, it is quite useful for us to consider our elders’ experiences as young mainframers and perspective regarding the evolution of the mainframe platform. Of course, many of the Baby Boomers grew up with the maxim “never trust anyone over 30,” meaning that we need to need to take their thoughts and advice with a healthy dose of youthful skepticism.
In 1964 (the very same year that Jack Weinberger penned the aforementioned Boomer maxim in the San Francisco Chronicle), a Italian-American college student studying Electrical Engineering in New York state began to get nagged by his mother. While this student dreamed about moving west (out californee way), his mother wanted him to think about something more practical, like an IBM co-op program in the Hudson Valley. After much gnashing of teeth, this student relented, which gave him the opportunity to work on the ferrite cores of the System 360 (the original predecessor to the System z mainframe). Rather than experience the Haight or the counter-culture of the 1960s, this “magna summa cum nada” student (named Nick Donofrio) began a 44 year IBM career that brought him into “the primordial ooze” of mainframe computing.
In the following 40 minute talk to younger IBMers during the announcement of the zEnterprise, Nick Donofrio recounts his views of the past, present, and future of mainframe computing. Despite having a length longer than the 30 second attention span of the average Millennial, this speech is worth a listen, as it is the best message I have ever heard for communicating the unique value of mainframe computing. So fasten your seatbelts and hit play. Heck, as a millennial, you’re a master multi-tasker anyways, so feel free to fire up DrawSomething on your favorite iOS or Android Device while devoting your ears to Nick Donofrio.
What are your thoughts? Do you feel blessed? Did Nick inspire you? Do you want five honorary doctorate degrees? Do you agree with his thoughts on the mainframe? How do you plan to build on the mainframe’s legacy? Let’s hear you in the comments!