It was 2003 and I was a young Millennial Mainframer completing my post-secondary education in a post dot-com world. Internships were difficult to obtain and it was looking grim starting a career supporting servers and IT miscellaneous when I was told companies were cutting back and not hiring.

By bloody charm and my frickin’ social tact alone…I obtained an interview to work at the Data Centre for the Canadian Government.

I remember the day I was given a tour on the raised floor computer room, shown tape libraries, rows and rows of severs, and finally the mainframes and then told bluntly my real education hadn’t even started yet.

As like most Millennials, technology and IT came easy to me, but the mainframe and specifically the z/OS operating system initially offered a more challenging and very daunting learning curve. Green screens, TSO, ISPF, JES, OPC/E (now TWS), NVAS, JCL, master consoles, backup consoles, tape drives, Parallel Sysplex…

It truly was a new universe to learn and discover.

After a few months of getting mentored and job shadowing some of the other Operators, I began overseeing some of the facilities myself during off hours. It was during this time that my education with the z/OS operating system really began to suffer as the only time I learned was during breakages and any systems ABENDS. The downtime and instability for z/OS was next to nil.

To combat knowledge fatigue and ensure knowledge transfer I relied on the proactive fail-safe… pestering the more experienced on-day staff with a cornucopia of questions.

Slowly the tips and tricks were passed on to me.

Little local libraries of documentation started to grow.

And my own personal “Captain’s Log” entries became my digital bread crumbs back to solving all re-occurring problems.

When I was transferred as on from Operations into System Programming, I continued using the same tactics as I use today. Thankfully IBM has extensive resources I exhaust before I go “pestering tsunami” on my colleagues.

The IBM z/OS Internet library ( is always a good place to start.

Redbooks ( have the ABCs of z/OS System Programming, and the must-have biblical “Introduction to the New Mainframe z/OS Basics” for glossary of IBM acronyms.

And finally after all the research and efforts on my end have been attempted, opening a Service Request with IBM ( usually resolves the problem.

I always make sure the solution is captured in my notes, personally I enjoy using something simple like my own personal Wiki (

As I continue to down this career path with mainframes I’m always glad to meet fellow Millennials, as this journey can sometimes be a lonely one. That being said, connecting and learning from those close to retirement are also vital. Concepts second-nature to them can take us years. Be ready to flatter your older colleagues to get them talking, and make sure you’re taking notes in order to squirrel away any knowledge they share.

“That’s a sharp tie you’re wearing there Ron!”

Paul Gamble
Graduate of Georgian College, Computer Programmer Analyst program

After doing a four month internship with the Canadian Government, Paul was offered the rare opportunity to work in their on-site Data Centre. Starting out as an Operator for four years before becoming a Systems Programmer rolling out different independent software vendors (ISVs) and different IBM Tivoli products for monitoring and automation to the z/OS platform. Paul enjoys the constant learning the z/OS operating system offers in comparison to other platforms. On weekends you’ll find Paul getting his adrenalin fix by instructing and coaching at the local skydiving drop-zone.
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