Four Ways to Help Millennials with the Mainframe

Thank you for all the comments on the mainframe and millennials blog entries from the previous weeks found here, here, and here. Validation of millennials’ struggles inspired this hopefully helpful blog.

Since the mainframe environment is so big, it is critical to help all the new people coming into it. Big data and mainframe integration projects, as well as mammoth business solutions projects, create an environment where new people can get lost.

It is vital that the veterans of many projects help the new people understand how mainframe projects work. Use the following four ways to help everyone with their new mainframe duties—especially the millennials since they don’t have any experience with these types of big projects with big data.

  1. Help them understand the “shared” design of mainframe systems. The mainframe environment can be very confusing, interconnected, and complex. Help the millennials understand that mainframe projects are always about sharing resources, data and interfaces. Projects from 30 years ago interface with new mobile cloud applications, or analyzing legacy databases’ social data with Java code working the company website customer service system. There are many projects and many application code processes. Mainframe data is so integrated that an update in one application file or database can cascade and impact many other systems, applications, and customers.

    Having experience only with smaller separated or silo-ed systems, millennials need to understand the importance of following standards and conventions, as well as researching procedures within the mainframe projects. By following these conventions, the data, services, and resources are shared more effectively.

  2. Help the millennials understand the many mainframe standards and procedures. Just like every computing environment, the mainframe has standards and procedures. Unfortunately, due to its longevity, every project on the mainframe could have several, or sometimes a wide variety, of different standards and procedures. Understanding the different standards and procedures will help the millennials and everyone working on the mainframe grasp the business processes better. For example, learning how the numeric codes for various business conditions are used in one project, yet realizing how the next project enhanced those codes is critical for a better understanding and encoding of new or changed business situations within their new project.   

    Also, understanding security standards, source code dependencies, and code promotion procedures to production are vital for smooth operations. Using one of the recent past projects’ standards and procedures as templates eliminates reinvention, lets the millennials concentrate on researching the business problems, and develop the next new code base correctly and efficiently.

  3. Provide consistent encouragement, feedback and direction. The IT environment these days is fast paced, very dynamic, disruptive, and diverse. Cross currents of issues are complex and provide contradictory directions and ideas. Add IT political battles and budget constraints and you may have a hostile environment that can be tough—especially for someone that is new to IT environments. Add in that everyone thinks they can do a system better on their own UNIX or Windows system, and you’ll see the new mainframe millennials have it extra tough.

    The millennials’ efforts can get lost within the big data mainframe environment. They want community and to collaborate and contribute to the IT efforts. Involve them in the standards procedures to help collaborate with the business user community to shape their future. Monitor and provide them with feedback on their frustrations, comments, and ideas. The IT environment has always been tough and today being thrown into the all the mainframe cross current complexities can be maddening. Make sure to help the millennials through it all.

  4. Provide a description of how the work fits into the bigger mission. We all want to have our work to be meaningful, but unfortunately within the big complex mainframe world this can sometimes be quite difficult to realize. Through your discussions make sure to mention how the work fits into the overall business success. Make sure millennials understand how users interact with the data and how the different data values and elements fit into the many different applications. Discuss the importance of the data solutions, the processing flow, and how their projects help evolve business systems from the current state to prepare for the future state of the business.

Remember when you started your first IT position and how unsure you were?  By helping the new millennials in your company or department, you will be making your job easier by leveraging their fresh perspective. Remember the new millennials grew up with the Internet. They will be taking IT and the mainframe to the next level.


Dave Beulke is a system strategist, application architect, and performance expert specializing in Big Data, data warehouses, and high performance internet business solutions. He is an IBM Gold Consultant, Information Champion, and President of DAMA-NCR, former President of International DB2 User Group, and frequent speaker at national and international conferences. His architectures, designs, and performance tuning techniques help organization better leverage their information assets, saving millions in processing costs.

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