Mainframe Master Innovations

Chapter 5

Mainframe Professionals and Innovators

The original thinkers who brought us the mainframe weren’t experienced computing professionals–they had to invent the context that today’s digital natives now take for granted.

Among those pioneers were people whose most important contributions pre-dated the 1964 announcement of the System/360 such as Turing, von Neumann, Busa and Hopper. There were also the pioneers of the mainframe, notably including Thomas J. Watson Jr., Dr. Fred Brooks and Eugene Amdahl. And there were the countless front-line contributors to the technology, culture, experience and results that gave us modern electronic computing and its numerous great achievements, from moon landings to global electronic commerce.
No list of these figures, both public and hidden, can possibly be complete, and so those individuals who receive the spotlight must be allowed to represent the countless many others who have supported them and been their colleagues. Santalucia has encountered many outstanding people in his 50-year mainframe career. “You know, with all those years of working at IBM, I had the pleasure to work with some very, very smart and powerful people. You know, some of the names some people might remember are people like Irving Wladawsky-Berger, Nick Donofrio, Steve Mills. These are leaders of the senior management team. I was very lucky to have the opportunity to work with, with all of them. And even their leader Sam Palmisano, had the opportunity to work with him when I was just starting in the business.”
Specific to mainframe security, Marshall recalls a sampling of the amazing cohort that has made mainframe security great, from the authors of ACF2 (Barry Schrager, Eb Klemens, and Scott Krueger) and the founding father of RACF (Eldon Worley) through many others who are mostly still active and at various places in their careers, such as Mark Nelson, Isha Powers, Greg Boyd, Walt Ferrell, Mark Wilson, Carla Flores, Ron Colmone, and a list that continues on – a veritable who’s who of the SHARE Security Project.
Greg Lotko, General Manager of the Mainframe Software Division at Broadcom, elaborated on the important role of the people of the mainframe: “So there's the people that I think many of us have heard of that, you know, some of whom I've had the opportunity to work with, but, you know, when they started out in their careers, they were just like the rest of us, right? We were all committed to a platform. We were passionate about our businesses and our, and our work.
Some of the names Lotko includes on his list of luminaries include:
Charles Wang,
who formed the largest ISV around the mainframe
Vern Watts,
one of the founders of IMS
Don Haderle, Curt Cotner, and Pat Selinger,
Db2 experts
Barry Schrager, Eb Klemens, and Scott Krueger
or ACF2


Education and training for the future!

Growing concerns about the shortage of mainframe experience

The mainframe has been a crucial part of enterprise computing for decades, but the skills gap in this field is becoming increasingly concerning. Many experienced mainframe professionals are retiring, and there are not enough new professionals to fill their shoes. This is making it challenging for organizations to maintain and operate their mainframe systems, increasing costs and security risks. Organizations need to invest in training and development programs to upskill their existing workforce and attract new talent to the mainframe field.

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Vanguard’s self-paced training offers several benefits to individuals and organizations seeking to improve their security posture. First, it allows students to tailor their learning experience to their individual needs, pace and schedule. This means they can prioritize areas where they need the most improvement without wasting time on content they are already familiar with. Second, self-paced training is often more cost-effective than traditional instructor-led courses. It also allows for remote learning, which is particularly important in the current climate of increased remote work.

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But you look and they all started their career somewhere as well. They were all just trying to, to innovate and drive value.

“And today we have people like Nakesha Newbury and Kevin Shuma in the Datacom space, Sheila Miller in the IDMS space in CA 1 Flexible Storage and Disk. There’s folks like Mark Warren and Perry Jones.”

— Greg Lotko, General Manager of the Mainframe Software Division at Broadcom

Other highly experienced mainframers on Lotko’s list who continue to make important contributions include Mary Ann Furno, John Pinkowski, David Helsley, Greg MacKinnon, Ron Colmone, Russ Teubner, Todd Gagle, Venkatauday (Venkat) Balabhadrapatruni, Chris Crone, Larry England, Matt Hogstrom and Brett Morris.
“It takes people at different points in their careers. We have many distinguished engineers with deep experience and skills in the mainframe space that grew up in CA or one of the companies that got acquired by CA and formed CA, now Broadcom Software. But we're also continuing to attract individual top talent from across the industry. So, so some of these people have been with us for a long time, others have come to us from elsewhere,” Lotko adds. 
“These are people that you see out at the conferences, not just up on stage but mixing with you at breaks, talking to you about technology, helping you drive your businesses forward. And I mean, look investing in the people that support this platform and bringing a new generation of talent in, that's the way forward.”
The torch is now being passed to a new generation by great mentors and educators, among the most outstanding being 
 who has a family history with IBM. “So I remember dad as an elevator operator at 590 Madison Avenue. … I clearly remember him because he said Thomas J. Watson got on the elevator one day that he took him up to where it did whatever floor was, Junior, whatever his floor was. And in the conversation, he was a very personable man. They would greet each other amicably. And he found out my father had a college degree and he was kind of perplexed. Why are you running an elevator? … He said, well, it's the best job I can get. Yes, I have a college degree, but I'm looking all over town. He gave him a card. He said, take this to the x floor and tell them to put you in the draftsman program. And that, that was in 1955, 2 years before I was born. And from there, he went on to programming and he was at IBM for 23 years.”
Not only does Seay have a family history with IBM and a passion for the mainframe, but as an African-American educator, he has a heart for those students whose potential, like that of his dad, might go unrecognized but for the efforts of leaders such as himself. He has consequently been at the forefront of developing a new generation of mainframers just on time for previous cohorts to begin retirement on a large scale.

What are his motivation and method? In his own words, “My great grandfather was an escaped slave. He ran away from the plantation, found the union lines, got a rifle, fought for his freedom, got $1,000 pension and then set up a community in Alabama and put himself through what's called, and his wife, to what's called Normal School, which was this fast track to educate teachers. 

“And that's where HBCUs [Historically Black Colleges and Universities] come from. And they were educating black people for decades when nobody else was. And all the talent in the black community was focused in the HBCUs. Both athletically and intellectually in the HBCUs. That's where it was. 

“And so fast forward to hear the opportunity here. And I want to skip a lot of the history just to bring us to right where we are now, the relevance of the HBCUs. I preach this. And you've heard me say this many times: the HBCUs can be a major solution to the skills problem in mainframe, the mainframe sector of energy, they can be a, I'm not going to say they can be the total solution. Maybe they could, I don't know how many of you can get engaged, but they can certainly be a major, a major solution. … 

“The story is always the same. The kids are easy to sell. This will get you a job, this will get you a good paying job. You got their attention, they're there. There they are. And then the companies come but guess what? The companies just don't need mainframe people. They need ten of everybody else to every Mainframe person they need. So, they come to the campus to get the mainframe people. They say, guess what? They got a good product here. Oh, we got network people, we got ops people we need, we got developers we need, in the non-mainframe space and that's the way it is at all the schools.”

Complementary to this are the efforts by all the other members of the mainframe ecosystem, from IBM’s Z Xplore and Broadcom’s Vitality programs to the various mainframe educational organizations such as ProTech and Interskill Learning, and of course user groups such as SHARE with its zNextGen Project.

The journey continues, and as new generations arrive on the mainframe, they will continue to inherit the greatest and most innovative business computing platform in history, for generations to come.