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First-Time Event Attendees SHARE Their Perspectives on Phoenix

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The SHARE Phoenix event drew a record 380 first-time attendees. First-time attendance has risen steadily, from 214 at the 2017 San Jose meeting to 320 in St. Louis in 2018. Before their arrival, first-time attendees received a dedicated email to help them navigate the Phoenix event, and a “roadmap” with suggested sessions, such as “Early Professionals Pursuing Mainframe Careers? Absolutely!” and “Hybrid Cloud for IBM Z Systems with Live Demo.” They also had an opportunity to attend one of two orientation sessions to help them prepare for the week-long Phoenix symposium.

Sheila Rodgers, senior software engineer at Erie Insurance Group, said her first SHARE experience was great. “I loved being among all the mainframe people,” she said. Rodgers noted that two past SHARE attendees helped her select informative sessions before she attended. She also highlighted the opening remarks of former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly during the keynote, adding that the energy in the room was amazing.

Sonya Carr, mainframe infrastructure RACF Security and Controls Support at Ford, agreed, stating that the event was “quite a rewarding experience.” She added that Kelly was “awesome to hear,” particularly how he persevered through “obstacles to accomplish a goal that pays off in the end.”

Kevin Flanagan, mainframe infrastructure architect at GM, took advantage of viewing the technical agenda beforehand to pick out sessions he wanted to attend, noting he had a particular interest in finding sessions on IBM® z/OS® Connect Enterprise Edition. “I was surprised by the number of offerings,” he said.

Carr noted the openness and willingness of SHARE volunteers and attendees to share their knowledge when stopped and asked. The event was a “great atmosphere for learning,” she said. “I was completely blown away that everyone was there at SHARE as volunteers, and everyone was willing to share their technical skills and knowledge. This truly motivated me to give them my undivided attention and soak up all the knowledge I could in one solid week.”

Carr said the interactive learning for zEscape and Security Guru, as well as pervasive encryption and security labs, were her favorite sessions, explaining that pervasive encryption was “a delight and a new path to venture into at SHARE Phoenix.” Moreover, she plans to look further into using IBM Health Checker for z/OS, updating policy and standards to testable compliance, and working with DoD STIGs for mainframe security. Carr also plans to share her new knowledge with her colleagues.

Rodgers recalled that Tom Ross’ session on the COBOL upgrade was the most useful, as her offices need to upgrade the COBOL compiler. She said those sessions outlined everything her staff needs to do to upgrade the compiler. Rodgers added that staff will not have to make programming changes but merely compile their programs. She also said that Ross explained that the new compiler would improve performance.

Rodgers also reflected that she would like to see more sessions dealing with COBOL, like tips, techniques, and how-to discussions. One session she expressed interest in seeing would be how COBOL can generate JSON and how to code this in a program.

Despite some concerns that several z/OS connect sessions he attended did not provide the information he was looking for, Flanagan enjoyed the sessions on MQ, DFSMS, CICS, and general system debugging with Level 2 support experts, as well as the Rexx labs and sessions. Flanagan also pointed out that Websphere Liberty (and its offshoots) were a highlight for him during the convocation. He plans to point some of the newer folks in his office toward the Rexx sessions to help them gain a better understanding of how to work with it on z/OS, as he delves deeper into debug knowledge, blockchain, Zowe, TLS, and container information he obtained at the Phoenix gathering. Flanagan noted he was intrigued by the Virtualz offering to save licensing by moving work in process to another LPAR, which was new to him.

Rodgers, Carr, and Flanagan are looking forward to their next SHARE events and highly recommend attending. Flanagan added that the ability to download sessions and “reSHARE” them is a fantastic opportunity. They all advise first-time attendees to look through the agenda and select the sessions they plan to attend before they arrive. Rodgers indicated that the SHARE mobile app helped her keep track of which sessions she had marked to attend, and kept her organized throughout the week.

SHARE’s next event takes place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, August 4-9 at the Lawrence Convention Center. Learn more here.

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