SHARE St. Louis | Compuware | Mainframe Culture
August 13, 2018 Workforce

On SHARE, Change and Mainframe Culture: An Interview with Reg Harbeck

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There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes of an organization as large as SHARE. It takes an abundance of volunteerism, passion and commitment to ensure its semiannual mainframe-dedicated conference is a success.

Reg Harbeck is one of those extraordinary humans behind the scenes. Having been involved with SHARE for over two decades, he has worked on multiple projects for the organization, from security to zNextGen, and served as a board member. But he’s also at the forefront of the SHARE community as a frequent presenter at the conferences, often leveraging his sessions to advocate for delving into and understanding the many facets of our changing mainframe culture.

Many also know Reg as a frequent contributor to IBM Systems Magazine, where his insightful articles often focus on mainframe culture as well, while his interviews with well-known mainframers shed light on the state of the industry and the platform. This time, Reg was on the other side, having been kind enough to answer some questions about SHARE, the upcoming conference in St. Louis and what we should be considering when we look at mainframe culture.

Reg Harbeck | Mainframe Analytics | Compuware | IBM

Reg Harbeck, Chief Strategist at Mainframe Analytics

What’s your history with SHARE?

I started out on the mainframe back in 1987 as a CICS systems programmer. During my first decade or so, I didn’t have the opportunity to go to SHARE. But I met more and more of my colleagues who were sufficiently advanced in their careers so were given that opportunity, so it became something that I really looked up to. I started reaching out and looking for opportunities to go there.

As a frequent presenter, what are you speaking about this time in St. Louis?

I’m going to be doing the zNextGen keynote on Monday afternoon, a presentation called “Ten Thousand Mainframes Today: A Million Tomorrow.” I’ve already written an article around that topic that you can read as kind of an appetizer, but basically I’ll be talking about how the future of the mainframe is really unlimited, we just have to kind of let go of holding it back.

The other presentation, which I also wrote an article around, is “Three Tsunamis and a Boat: The Imminent Mainframe Sea Change.” It’s about how things are going to change on the mainframe before the world discovers the platform has always been there running the world economy and always been the only computer that actually works for that.

How is SHARE changing as the mainframe changes?

SHARE is taking that leap into the future with next-gen leadership. You have mentoring that happens across generations in both directions, so with next-gen leadership you’ll have people who not only mentor but lead SHARE in ways that are going to naturally flow from who they are with a high degree of consciousness of that zNextGen experience.

One of the key things that’s happening is the development of what I would call a professional business technologist who actually has a depth of technical knowledge in addition to their business and people knowledge. I think SHARE is one of the places where that’s actually organically and legitimately happening.

How do you carry forward the historical value of mainframe culture amidst these big changes?

To really understand the value of the mainframe, we have to understand the culture it came from and the people who made it and how that filtered into super scrupulously doing mainframe computing and how that became part of the foundation of why the mainframe works so well.

You can create a tool that is easy to use and conceptually simple, but it still has to live up to the standards of change control, the standards of security, of regulation. The second thing, of course, is the mentoring. Here’s where it’s so important to have experienced mainframers in person at SHARE and at work mentoring people up into the culture.

The third thing is also really important. It’s what people like you and I are doing: writing about it, documenting it while there’s still the knowledge out there to be captured so that it can be shared with current and future people. It’s not just this computer program you wrote that needs to have documentation written inside and alongside it; it’s the whole mainframe culture.

What are you looking forward to at SHARE?

Other than the keynotes and my own sessions, I’ve always enjoyed going to the Technology Exchange Expo. And the draw. I always, always, always enter the Passport to Prizes Giveaway. That is so fun, and the odds are really good and the prizes are great.

But the people: these are my people. When it gets down to it it’s all about people. We forget that sometimes in technology and business. We’ve all heard people say, “It’s not personal, it’s business.” It’s all about people; it’s only about people.

So, seeing the people, going out for meals and beers with them. There are great sessions not just because of the great technical content they have, but because of the wonderful presenters and the insight and the enjoyment you get hearing these people who understand this technology so well and map it in such a human fashion that it just shines.

What should people who are new to the mainframe or SHARE know before going?
There are only about 10 thousand mainframes in the world, only about three thousand shops. That means every single mainframe person on earth is worth millions even billions of dollars of value, and they don’t realize how important and critical they are to the world economy.

Going to SHARE and meeting these wonderful, ordinary, unassuming people, it’s easy to miss you’re dealing with some of the most amazing people on earth. Go in there expecting that and expect that every person you meet is amazing in ways you have to dig a little bit to find out. Get to know the people.

Visit Us at SHARE St. Louis

You can find more details on Reg’s SHARE sessions here.

You can find more details on Compuware SHARE sessions here. If you’re attending, make sure you stop by booth #511 to chat with us. Whether it’s a question about our company and products or what true DevOps means for the mainframe, we’ll have someone ready to share their knowledge with you.

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Mike Siemasz

Technology Writer at Compuware
Mike Siemasz is Compuware's content marketing manager and technology writer, reporting on culture, processes and tools in relation to DevOps and the mainframe.