When old technologies become obsolete, it stands to reason that the occupations supporting them die off as well. One sees little demand these days for blacksmiths, coachmen, phone-booth cleaners, ice delivery men, or people to stand on your roof and hold your television antenna.
But what happens if the technology in question is still alive and kicking, and reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated? That’s when you have experienced veterans in the field slowly retiring and going away, with no new replacements coming in, due to the misconception of obsolescence. After all, who wants to study and prepare themselves for a dead career?
Regrettably, that’s precisely the dilemma facing mainframes.
“I’m Not Dead Yet!”- Old Man In The Cart, Monty Python & The Holy Grail
As the article “Running Your Mainframe In The Era Of Baby Boomer Retirement” points out, for years now many pundits have been declaring the death of the mainframe, citing new tech advances such as the cloud as the instrument of servers’ ruination.
Mainframes aren’t going away, and they need tech professionals to run and maintain them
Considering how often mainframes have been reported dead (despite all evidence to the contrary), is it any surprise that mainframe programming doesn’t rank up there on the list of Hot Careers With The Brightest Futures? Consequently, there aren’t hordes of new programmers lining up eagerly, ready to take up the torches from the boomer generation.
Mainframes are NOT going away. So what do we do?
The best way to combat misconceptions is with the truth. One only needs to reference IBM’s sales figures to see that mainframes still have a viable part to play in today’s IT scene. Be it with blogs, white papers, even talkback comments on articles about mainframes, it’s easier than ever to get the word out.
A simple visit to learn.org can educate the curious about how to go about getting a degree in mainframe programming. There’s everything there from a list of schools to starting salaries, training options, and job duties.
We live in an age where graduating college with a degree is no guarantee of an instant job, but the field of mainframe programming is eagerly looking for fresh faces and new blood. But for that, you need to fire up people, and you do that by …
There’s a difference between a job and a career. A job is well, just a job; simply a way to earn enough money to pay bills, put food on the table, and keep a roof over your head. A career is a long-term investment where in addition to the above, you also grow in skills and proficiency and have a better chance of making some difference or having an impact in your chosen field.
Mainframes need promotion as an evolving, enduring concept, one that allows a lot of room for innovation and advancement. That’s the best way to bring in more mainframe programmers. Mainframes should be seen as a platform that facilitates experimentation and creativity, giving them a “sandbox” feel. The sheer processing and storage power of an in-house mainframe certainly has advantages over networks of virtual machines located off-site.
Rather than looking for new faces to keep an old technology wheezing along, recruiters should look for people willing to think outside the box and discover new ways of leveraging the power of this still-viable technology.