Millennialize the Mainframe: Q&A with Compuware Recruiter Leigh Ann Ulrey
In a recent blog post about the changeover of the mainframe workforce to Millennial developers, Compuware CEO Chris O’Malley opined: “For years, pundits have predicted that a generational shift in IT would spell doom for the mainframe. But just the opposite is true. The current generational shift in IT is driving a major mainframe renaissance.”
At Compuware, we’ve seen that generationally driven renaissance gain momentum in a number of telling ways. You can read about each of them in our “Millennialize the Mainframe” blog series via the below links:
- A Modern Mainframe Development Perspective
- Transferring Technical Skills
- Ending the Skills Shortage
- Innovation with Java and Eclipse
For a perspective of how Compuware goes about finding Millennial mainframe talent, I spoke with Leigh Ann Ulrey, responsible for Compuware’s Global Talent Acquisition. Ulrey is the first and last touchpoint for candidates in Compuware’s recruitment process, giving her a unique vantage point of the generational changeover between retiring mainframe experts and Millennial developers.
Q. Let’s start with Compuware as a company. What has changed since you started nearly four years ago?
Ulrey: It’s completely different. We are a 40-year-old company behaving like a startup. This transformation has not only affected our culture, but it’s reignited the passion, energy and the focus that we all have. It went from people not really knowing what anyone else did in the company to everybody knowing what all of our roles are. We all know we’re working towards the same vision: to be the best mainframe software partner and to bring the platform up to modern times.
Q. When did Compuware start taking seriously recruiting Millennial developers?
Ulrey: It was something that a few individuals who understood the mainframe skills shortage within the development organization talked about, but it wasn’t absorbed as a main priority from an executive level. It wasn’t until we became a standalone mainframe software company that we got a lot of executive power behind those evangelists and people started believing how important it was.
Q. What makes mainframe development interesting work for Millennial developers?
Ulrey: One of the most common themes is they’re looking for a challenging and an interesting job. The deep-level programming that they do here, and the fact that they’re walking into a platform and a programming language they don’t know, that’s an interesting problem for them. The daily activities that they do once they do get on-boarded are all about problem solving.
Q. How do you explain the importance of the mainframe to Millennial developers who are unfamiliar with it?
Ulrey: We stress it’s the most powerful platform that exists. It’s secure, reliable and fast. You can compare the strength of a single mainframe to how many servers it would take to add up to that strength. And then talking about the types of customers that use it—banks, government institutions, insurance companies, large retailers. The biggest players in the economic world rely on the mainframe. When you explain it from that perspective, we’re the superheroes in the background making sure the world continues to run.
Q. What do you tell Millennial developers who are inexperienced in mainframe development and unsure of how their programming skills would transfer?
Ulrey: Compuware’s stance is that technologists are polyglots, so candidates with strong logic and technical aptitude can be taught any programming language. We also embrace continuous learning and training by in-house experts. New hires are paired with a mentor to help them throughout their career with us. Compuware tools are also an aid to Millennials because they’re designed for a new generation of developers. Our tools are also the crux of what makes Compuware an exciting place to work because we actually use them in our own development. Not only are we making it easier to train our Millennial new hires by eating our own dogfood , but we are transforming the industry with innovative tools and thought-leadership regarding mainframe modernization.
Q. What is competition like for Millennial developers entering the mainframe workforce?
Ulrey: Competition is increasing for our candidates. In general, tech talent is a competitive area for companies, too. The nice thing is Compuware has something really good to sell to the next generation. We have almost everything a Millennial looks for in a company of our size, and we’ve worked really hard over the last four years to build a strong presence on certain college campuses. We have great marketing outreach from a company perspective and that really helps us be top of mind. As soon as they talk with us almost everybody’s interested in what we do.
Q. What advice to you have for Millennial developers interested in joining Compuware in its mission to mainstream the mainframe?
Ulrey: Read our marketing material, especially any information Chris O’Malley puts out there, to understand what we’re all about. Really what we’re looking for are people who have a lot of project based experience. They can articulate a project they’ve done and understand the different phases of the project, the different challenges or decisions they had to make. At the end of the day, we’re not looking for similar programmers. We’re looking for software developers with really strong logic skills. Because we have such a great training program it’s really easy to onboard virtually anyone. We take people who are really talented from a technical perspective and have strong logic skills and are willing to learn. Those are really the qualities we look for.
Is Compuware right for you? See our current open positions here.
Photo by Liv Martin and Chad Morgan