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Students will compete to “Master the Mainframe” during three rounds of competition.
Students will compete to “Master the Mainframe” during three rounds of competition.

Master the mainframe

Photo by Brian Wilcox

IBM competition coming to UD and open to all students

In our increasingly technologically-focused world, industry relies on mainframe computers for their speed, reliability, scalability and unmatched security. Mainframe experts earn starting salaries ranging from $70 - $85,000, and data intensive applications such as the “internet of things,” blockchain, big data analytics, cybersecurity and more are driving up the demand for mainframes and mainframe skills every year. 

The University of Delaware will be offering Blue Hens the opportunity to test and improve their mainframe skills by competing in IBM’s Master the Mainframe (MtM) Competition for the first time this year. MtM is a global three-part competition open to all universities. UD’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics has partnered with JPMorgan Chase (JPMC) to co-sponsor the competition at UD. The competition will take place from Sept. 9 through Dec. 31, 2019 via the MtM website. MtM is free for all UD students interested in learning skills that are in high demand from employers, showcasing their talents on a global stage and having the chance to compete against students from universities around the world.

“Currently, there is a high demand for mainframe developers as expert developers are retiring from the industry,” said Benjamin Kniaz, executive director and chief technology officer of card servicing at JPMorgan Chase. “We are in need of entry level talent to continue to drive these critical roles at the firm. Through our collaboration with the University of Delaware, we have the opportunity to utilize IBM’s Master the Mainframe competition to create a pipeline and interest for mainframe development among entry-level talent and continue to drive forward the critical work we do at the firm.”

Carolyn Levine, professor of accounting and chair of the Department of Accounting and Management Information Systems (MIS) at the Lerner College, said teaching UD students about different systems helps prepare them for future employment.

“Mainframes are still one of the fastest, most secure and most cost-effective ways to process large numbers of transactions and are used by over 70% of Fortune 500 firms,” Levine said. “Rather than pitting distributed against centralized computing systems, students at UD can be exposed to both. With an MIS degree and participating in Master the Mainframe, our students will be prepared to provide the technology support to any organization they might join in the future.”

In this competition, students will work at their own pace to complete challenges, each with increasing difficulty. JPMC will have subject matter experts available to aid participants during regularly scheduled on-campus meetings throughout the competition. IBM will provide additional ongoing support to participants through a Slack channel. 

Part 1 of the competition gives participants the chance to “Learn the Basics” of accessing a user interface, programming a mainframe and what differentiates the mainframe from other platforms. In Part 2, they will learn how to program with languages such as JAVA, C, COBOL and REXX, as well as work to navigate the mainframe environment using advanced commands, system security tools and system navigation tools. Finally, in Part 3 students will use scenarios that experienced systems programmers encounter to delve deeper into the mainframe. Part 3 will put contestants to the test and identify those with the most drive and determination to Master the Mainframe. 

Undergraduate students who successfully compete in Part 3 of MtM will have the opportunity to interview for a Global Enterprise Technology (GET) Immersion internship with JPMC. Participants may also be eligible for independent study credit and should email Barbara Cullis at bcullis@udel.edu for more information. Cullis is the faculty program director of GET and an MIS instructor. Students will also earn digital badges from IBM for skills developed in Parts 2 and 3.

“ ‘Big iron’ is not going away any time soon,” said Cullis, referring to an IT nickname for mainframe computers. “Mainframes have been around for decades and have evolved to remain relevant. The mainframe’s advantages over servers in response time, transaction throughput, scalability and particularly security, make it the ideal blockchain host. This presents an opportunity for all UD students interested in working in large global enterprises. There are many jobs available requiring mainframe skills which employers are clamoring to fill.”

There will be an information session held on Tuesday, Sept. 17 from 5:00 - 6:30 p.m. in the Atrium at Alfred Lerner Hall. Interested students should register via HandShake. Students who decide to compete should register for the competition on the Master the Mainframe website.

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