My participation in the “Master the Mainframe contest” was a great experience. Not only did I get exposure to mainframe technology, but I was able to relate my skills to various parts of the contest.
I became aware of the contest in my last semester at the University of South Carolina. There was a class that one of my friends mentioned to me that he had taken. Mainframe Systems, a new class the previous semester. I decided to register for the class, but I didn't anticipate doing anything creative. When the class started, the professor promoted a contest (Master the Mainframe contest 2012), which consisted of three parts. He wanted the students to participate as a learning experience and get exposure to mainframe technology. I didn't even know what a mainframe was when I signed up for this class and participating in a contest seemed a bit overwhelming, considered along with my other course work.
The contest began by downloading a 3270 emulator and registering for a USER ID for logging on and off a session. Part one of the contest was pretty straightforward. There were extensive screen shots and directions on what we needed to do. The main objective was to get comfortable with navigating the mainframe user interface and learn some basic mainframe concepts. When I first logged on, I was in shock at the screen display (black screen with green text). It reminded me of a command prompt window, but I was quite intrigued. To complete part one, I had to submit a REXX script that consisted of an allocated dataset for my USER ID and a member that I had to create using ISPF commands. The most difficult aspect about doing the tasks in part one was not being able to use my mouse. The ISPF commands were pretty cool and real handy once I adapted to their functionality. Also the GUI (Graphical User interface) was something I've never seen, but it was pretty neat navigating between screens by using commands.
Part two was really challenging and took some time to complete, since I was taking five additional classes and working. I found it very difficulty to put a lot of time in this section which consisted of extensive systems programming (advanced commands, system setup and advance system navigation) and application developing (C, JAVA, COBOL, assembler and REXX) tasks. I was up to the challenge and confident since this part related more to my skills set. I was able to complete part two successfully. But along with that came stress from debugging errors I encountered and various syntactical errors in my code. After completing this section, the information I'd learned about the mainframe, (its infrastructure and functionality). I knew this was the direction I wanted to take my career path.
While I started to prepare for part three, I realized that I would not have enough time to complete it. Since it was the end of the semester and final exams were approaching. So I decided to pass, but I did look over the description and it was something I could have completed if I had the time. The IBM Master the Mainframe contest is a competition that really makes your mind work and wonder. I encourage every technology major to participate in this contest.