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Jack Woehr

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

SHARE -- Chatting with Pamela J. Taylor

August 25, 2009

Pamela J. Taylor is the current president of SHARE . That's an elected post (every 2 years). She works for the subsidiary of a Fortune 50 company.

PT: I've been a mainframe programmer, a Unix programmer, managed a mainframe development team. Currently, the group that I work for is focussing on innovations, industry trends, new opportunities for commercial software.

JW: What's a trend you might look at?

PT: We've been looking at virtualization, cloud computing, and software as a service. The connections between them, the differences, how companies are going to consume them.

JW: What made you run for president of SHARE?

PT: I'm passionate about it. There's something in SHARE that's very special. People are able to come to these events and not only consume the formal sessions, but what happens between the sessions ... engagement with their colleagues. Professional associations are formed, comparing notes, understanding problems that might come up with technology they are about to employ. It's face to face in parallel with the virtual community. We're looking to expand in the virtual community since that's where the younger generation is more experienced.

JW: The younger generation is a big concern in the aging mainframe community.

PT: Our zNextGen is a huge success story. Some come to the event. Some engage online. They have monthly conference calls. They started with 35 people gathering at a SHARE event to see if there was anything worth pursuing in forming a community, and they've grown it phenomenally. They're up to 550 members now. This is global, not just the USA.

JW: How was attendance this year?

PT: At our Austin meeting the first quarter, we took a hit, down from 2008. But there's an uptick here in Denver, around 1300 people onsite. That's encouraging. Business recognizes that the economy might be coming out of its doldrums, and recognizes that the content here helps them do more with the same resources.

JW: One vendor was cynically humorous with me yesterday about the numbers of vendors, speakers and IBM employees relative to "ordinary attendees".

PT: Many of the speakers are really attendees who are talking about their personal experience. Many vendors are active and take leadership in user organizations. There's a whole IT ecosystem out there, and it's made up of technical professionals, the organizations that employ them, the vendors who are innovators and participatory in the community. You can't decouple the various parts of the community, it doesn't appreciate how things fit and work together.

Those of us in the leadership positions started off as ordinary attendees seeking to enhance our personal skills. Sometimes it's about soft skills as much as about technical skills, about management skills. SHARE provides a sandbox where you can learn those things in a safe environment under the guidance of mentors, an environment that has no impact itself on your career, no risk, no impact on your day job.

JW: What's changing in your the content of your presentations over the years?

While we do have a core basis of mainframe sessions, we have expanded and are looking to expand our scope: virtualization, Linux, solution architect. We're repositioning how we deal with storage management. We've had a program for many years, but the problems in the industry go beyond how you manage the storage devices and what you do as a DBA. How do I manage all this information I've got? How do I put a lifecycle in place? How do I comply with legal requirements for information I may keep 7 to 75 years and recall it on demand? All the things we've had sessions for years about, but now we're trying to reposition and have broader content in that area.

JW: What really is going to happen as the generation that grew up with mainframes retires and gets beyond the consulting years? Is there enough of a workforce to keep the huge portions of America's and the world's business and government running that depends on mainframe architecture?

PT: I don't have a crystal ball, but I'll tell you what I've observed.

First, the vendors are making the systems easier to run and manage. You don't have to write operating-system-level code to maintain mainframes anymore. For example, vendors like CA (formerly Computer Associates) are putting the human experience in the mainframe environment in terms of the way the current generation thinks of things. Highly 21st century on-screen workspaces. Indications what the performance is, where the hotspots are, what needs attention, and what workloads are running. Chris O'Malley, the GM of CA's mainframe business, showed in his keynote session here how you can drill down in their environment from a hotspot alert. You never see a green screen, only a business-oriented view that allows you to make changes tentatively and see what the effect on performance would be, and then execute it if desirable.

CA also has a program to hire young people to develop the operating characteristics for that environment that their peers will find intuitive.

JW: What are burning organizational issues for SHARE?

PT: Our big burning issue is getting our online, year-round community up and running. We want to have a much more engaged year-round online community, and we want to build that quickly. Our members are still active in IBMMAIN but we're now using Wikis and discussion forums for our internal SHARE matters. When we open this up to the general community we want to make sure the tools are in place for year-round engagement with subject matter experts.


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