Those who do not know us very well may describe us as nerds. We work on a machine that very few people really understand, we don't understand many of the problems "other" IT people have (simply because we don't have them) and we speak a language that sounds like Klingon to outsiders. We go back so long that even OUR heroes have THEIR heroes.... I recently read a blog (Virtualization in the Time of Myth) from IBM's Bob Rogers (not exactly a teenager) where he talks about things even he had to learn from "the elders". I have even heard people whisper the words "He/She is a Mainframer, so....", almost in an apologizing way.
We are often also known as the "quiet bunch". Doing what they do best, keeping the mainframe humming 24x7, 265 days a year. But in real life, this unfortunately often means we are not heard when we are warning (based on experience) people for "missteps", when we advise them to look at certain aspects of IT management and change control etc. This has to change. We have to change... Its way outside our comfort zone, but trust me, it's worth it. So here are my 5 "soft" tips to be a less nerdy, more socially accepted mainframer:
Compliments: In my personal life, I have often experienced that he/she who does the best job does not always get rewarded. So I started doing something my manager calls "shameless self-promotion". I don't brag, but I DO tell people if I did something I am proud of. And I thank others if I think they deserved a sincere "thank you" with a CC to their manager. And I know it's appreciated.
Share knowledge: If you have attended a seminar, "did" a few sessions and return to the office, create a 5 slide powerpoint presentation on some of the topics and findings and share them with colleagues. Avoid the hard-core mainframe stuff, but do add things on Big Data and other trends. It demonstrates you are willing to share knowledge and are aware of more than just mainframes
Constructive feedback: Too often, we say things like "NO", "BUT", "Can't do", "Impossible". So if you think you are asked to do something that will wreak havoc, start your sentence with: "I understand why you are asking this and at first glance, it sounds like the right thing to do. How do you feel about this alternative?".
Ask for advice: People will often see you as "The Elders". You have knowledge not many others have. It shows courage when YOU ask someone to explain something to YOU. Ask your distributed peers, your managers and others (when appropriate) how THEY feel about thinks like Cloud, Big Data, BYOD etc. Not with your arms crossed, but with real interest and an open mind. You'll be surprised.
Make the right noise: Once you DO feel you need to step up and tell people things really can be done different, do so while you are showing your hand palms and look people in the eyes. Raise the tone of your voice slightly and understand that we are all in this to make our companies successful.
And mainframers really DO know how to make the right noise. I attended a CA Expo in Israel lately and wanted to make sure all the other attendees were aware of the fact that there were mainframers in da house. So I asked the 60 odd people in the room to make a bit of noise when a speaker was introduced, or when a session ended. And they did!! 3 or 4 times, the doors opened and people looked around the corner wondering what was going on in that room with the sign "Mainframe", on it... There are more CA Expo's coming up across the world. To find out when there is one near you, check here. For an overview of CA Expo's in EMEA, click here. Most of them have great mainframe tracks. Looking forward to see you there!