SHARE Student Career Day: A Student Perspective from an IBM’er

By Troy Crutcher, IBM Z Academic Initiative, Master the Mainframe Program Manager

SHARE, the first-ever enterprise IT user group, strives to deliver important avenues of professional growth for the industry today. SHARE’s vision is to enable its members and partners to continually shape the future of the enterprise technology ecosystem by providing education, networking, and influence. 

I have been a volunteer at SHARE for about five years now as the IBM representative for the zNextGen Project. This community is user-driven and consists of over 1,000 Members spanning across 24 countries. Their mission is to put professional and developmental skills into the hands of its members through use of webinars, newsletters, and SHARE Student Career Day. 

In the past, SHARE Student Career Day has consisted of bringing in roughly 10 to 20 students from local colleges, introducing them to the zNextGen team, hosting a few informational sessions and sponsoring a lunch. This day normally wraps up around 1pm and students are free to go on their way. 

For SHARE Providence this past August, I was approached by SHARE to see if I would be interested in leading a bigger than ever before SHARE Student Career Day. Of course, all I could see were dollar signs, as it takes a budget to run something like this on a grander scale. Stepping up to the plate were SHARE, Rocket Software, LEAD-IT, and Microfocus; as well as IBM.

Next, we assembled a team that was comprised of representatives from IBM (myself), SHARE, and Rocket Software. Meeting weekly since March, we were able to set up an entire day centered directly on students. As a member of the IBM Z Academic Initiative team, my main responsibilities center on developer and student activities; so, this fit right into my wheel house. At the end of the day, we were able to attract 63 students spanning 16 different universities; some of these students came from as far as North Carolina. 

The day started off with a two-hour hackathon run right out front of the main ballroom where the keynote was taking place. Our expectation was that since we had roped off an entire area of the main floor, set up our own registration booth and ran a leaderboard for the competition, SHARE attendees would take note and pay attention to the next generation of mainframers. We nailed that one right on the head! The attendees kept asking how they could get their hands on some our students for on-the-spot interviews. 

After the Hackathon, students were given presentations by students in the Open Mainframe Project. The Open Mainframe Project is intended to serve as a focal point for deployment and use of the Linux operating system in a mainframe computing environment. The students could now see a much different side of mainframe computing through these presentations; as the hackathon had the students using IBM Z.

During lunch, we brought in 10 early tenure zNextGeners to mingle with the students. This was a very informal session where the “speakers” would talk about career paths, technical matters or general advice about career hunting since most of these were older students.

Leading our last presentation was Andy Youniss, CEO of Rocket Software, hosting a panel discussion with his early tenure employees. Andy is always amazing at keeping people engaged and constantly thinking about the topics at hand. This new hire panel was not just about them talking about the company’s technology, but about career aspirations and how to continually evolve oneself through their career journey. 

After spending most of their day sitting, we were able to bring these students into the tech expo area. This was the area where all vendors were exhibiting. By bringing in a select number of vendors early, the students got the opportunity to chat with each of them; while scoring some amazing swag in the process. The plexi-glass mainframe was set up in the IBM booth, and students got a firsthand look at what the inside of a mainframe actually looks like. 

Remember that Hackathon we did at the beginning of the day? It was now time to announce the top-three winners! 

  • Jonny Lazarte, Bergen Community College
  • Akeem Brooks, North Carolina A&T
  • Dan Snyder, New Brunswick

All in all, it was a very successful day. This proves that with the right people and an exceptional amount of work, anything is possible. What is the future for SHARE Student Career Day? I guess you’ll have to find out in Sacramento!

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