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zNextGen: Shaping the Next Generation of Mainframers

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SHARE’s zNextGen Project is a user-driven community of more than 1,000 members from 24 countries that launched in 2005 to provide the resources to help new and emerging IBM Z system professionals advance their skills and careers. Members are a mix of experienced delegates looking for new skills and newer delegates fresh out of college, though SHARE Project Manager Hemanth Rama, a software engineer at BMC Software, says most are recent college graduates. He says the zNextGen group plays a key role in shaping emerging IBM Z system professionals by offering in-depth introductory sessions and hands-on labs at SHARE events and monthly online webinars.

The zNextGen introductory sessions and labs are specifically tailored toward emerging IBM Z system professionals, and they come in a variety of formats — technical, career advice, forum discussion, and more. Many group members have mainframe and non-mainframe skills, including knowledge of HTML5, Node.js, and Python. Some of the most popular sessions are basic introductions to various topics such as ISPF, SDSF, RACF, and others. These sessions, under expert guidance, offer an excellent opportunity to learn new skills and earn a certificate or badge. Rama adds that at SHARE events the group usually hosts more than 20 sessions. zNextGen also offers monthly webinars on the last Thursday of every month to demonstrate new features and technical information.

Rama says zNextGen also recently collaborated on the digital badging program, a SHARE-wide recognition initiative. The badges showcase an accomplishment and are shareable across social media platforms and websites. “More badges are being rolled out, including ones that the zNextGen-er can earn while attending SHARE events,” Rama adds. “Details are forthcoming.”

Rama says, “At SHARE Phoenix, we scheduled a marathon debugging introduction series. We had four to five sessions in the series, from an introduction session and an interactive problem control system session, to a debugging program check and practical debug with system trace session. The sessions in this series covered a complete A-Z on debugging.” He adds, “In fact, it was just announced that one of the sessions in this series has won the best session award from the zNextGen project.”

At SHARE Pittsburgh, Rama recommends attendees check out the introductory sessions on performance and capacity — “z/OS Performance and Capacity Fundamentals for Mainframe Rookies” and “RMF Basics: Hitchhiker's Guide to RMF SMF Post-processing — as well as the sessions on Zowe — “Happy Birthday Zowe! A Year in Review and 2.0 Vision and Roadmap” and “Zowe 101 - Redefining the Way We Interact with z/OS.” He adds that the zNextGen project opening and keynote, “Someone Old, Someone New, Knowledge Borrowed, z/Big Blue,” is not to be missed, as attendees will hear more about the group and its initiatives. The sessions also cover best practice training ideas, creating development plans, and the benefits of on-the-job training.

Rama says for SHARE Pittsburgh, the group plans to offer more introductory sessions in a series, since they were so well received in Phoenix. “We’ve reached out to some of the industry experts in the performance and capacity areas, and we are excited to offer the best introductory performance session series at SHARE Pittsburgh. This action-packed series of sessions offer excellent opportunity for novices in performance and capacity area to amp up their careers,” he explains.

Rama notes, “I attribute my success in the field to two things — college for laying a solid foundation and SHARE for continuous education.” Each SHARE event is an opportunity to discover new tools and products, meet the people creating these products, and engage with those professionals. The zNextGen group is just one component within SHARE, and it provides everyone a unique opportunity to learn new skills and hone their abilities with z/OS.

Interested in learning more about SHARE’s zNextGen project? Learn more here.

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