By Miles Nosler
Over the last few years, whenever I saw an IBM Smarter Planet commercial on television I wondered what was behind things like Smarter Transportation? Smarter Cities? Smarter Commerce?
Since then I’ve come to understand what the Smarter Planet concept is about – tackling Big issues with smarter, interconnected technologies to improve the way we live and work. But, it didn’t truly sink in until I started crunching some Big Data with an IBM mainframe. Let me explain.
If someone told me I would take the top spot among 4,600 very smart students competing in IBM’s Master the Mainframe contest, I wouldn’t have believed it. But that’s exactly what I did, and now I have in-demand technical skills on my resume that are landing me job interviews.
The contest rules specified that no previous mainframe experience was necessary, so I signed up and actually did better than I anticipated, earning an honorable mention in the competition. I was immediately hooked on the raw computing power of the mainframe and its ability to crunch massive amounts of Big Data.
The contest is open to high school and college students across North America (and in dozens of countries worldwide) and is run in three parts with each designed to get progressively harder.
The first part introduces students to the mainframe and gets them comfortable accessing it remotely. The second introduces advanced commands and system setup techniques, and the third part has students applying these skills to solve a real world business problem.
When IBM announced the 2012 contest, I jumped at the chance to compete so I could add more mainframe experience to my resume. I worked hard to be one of the first 2,500 students to get a 100 percent score on part one, and advance to the second part where I was one of the first 60 contestants to get a perfect score.
The third and final part was the toughest and most exciting. I had to apply my new skills in a real world scenario where a bank migrates Big Data to a new mainframe while keeping its doors and Web site open to customers.
What impressed me most on the final part was the mainframe’s ability to effortlessly crunch this data and get it where it needed to be inside the business. That way, the bank could offer more personalized products and services based on what customers were telling them. Aha! Smarter Banking!
It had taken me weeks to solve this challenge, and I earned the top spot among all of the competing students to get it 100 percent right.
As the first place winner, I won cool prizes including a tablet computer and an all-expense paid trip to IBM Poughkeepsie where they make mainframes.
I posted my freshly-minted resume on IBM’s System z job board and immediately caught the attention of two potential employers looking for candidates with mainframe and Big Data skills. I’ve had two successful interviews so far and expect job offers will soon follow.
The experience I gained competing in IBM’s Master the Mainframe contest provided me with marketable IT skills in a hot job market. I can even tell an employer what Smarter Banking means.
I encourage all high school and college students to participate in next year’s contest. No experience necessary. Check out the official Facebook page for updates.