February 22, 2010, 8:51 PM — Q&A: Kristine Harper
The leader of zNextGen, an offshoot of the IBM user group Share, discusses its efforts to recruit and retain young professionals for careers in enterprise IT.
Why do young people currently entering the enterprise workforce need a user group of their own? As a young female working on the mainframe, I have found that there are very few opportunities to network and socialize with peers in the business because of the age difference. I think the chance to network, communicate and socialize for educational and professional reasons is very appealing for the zNextGen mainframers out there. When a new enterprise computing professional enters this workforce, it is encouraging to have this support group to share their own experiences with, and to learn from others' experiences as well. It can be overwhelming to dive into a mainframe career, so building up a support system that includes mentors, friends and resources is very important.
Can a group like zNextGen really help attract the younger generation to IT? Sometimes it's hard to remember that zNextGen began "simply" as a project of Share. We still are. However, the impact of zNextGen has reached beyond the Share spectrum. I wouldn't say that zNextGen necessarily has the power to influence one's career decisions. However, once that decision has been made, zNextGen certainly can be a new mainframer's guide to networking, communication and educational outlets. Knowing that there is a whole group of new mainframe professionals out there like you can be very encouraging.
How does it go about doing that specifically? Despite what some people may think, my generation does have ambition and the desire to face challenges. I find that many of us new mainframers have this inner drive and desire to learn something new every day, to figure things out. As my generation discovers this career path, they get excited about finding a career that satisfies and feeds their desire to learn and excel. Granted, it's not for everyone, but I think that is certainly one thing that makes this career appealing -- the fact that it is not a stagnant line of work. There is always something new to learn, and you are constantly being challenged to grow.
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