Students Master the Mainframe with IBM's Support

Marist Students Excel in Worldwide Skills Competition

Through its longtime partnership with IBM, Marist College has been providing students with enriched learning experiences and professional opportunities. This collaboration has also paved the way for students to utilize IBM’s industry-leading technology: The mainframe.

Primarily used by large corporations in the banking, finance, healthcare, insurance, retail, utilities, and government industries, these versatile computers are highly reliable and have played a central role for decades. Mainframe computers are used for operations such as data and transaction processing, enterprise resource planning, and industry and consumer statistics.  

Marist Students Master the MainframeTo introduce a new generation of prospective students to the exciting and evolving world of enterprise computing, IBM has teamed up with Marist once again to bring students the Master the Mainframe Competition. The contest is hosted at high schools, colleges, and universities around the world and gives participants hands-on coding experience by challenging and developing their skills.

“IBM runs this contest in a large number of countries, so there are a lot of opportunities with this program,” said Professor Angelo Corridori, the Director of Enterprise Systems Education at Marist. “The conference Marist was affiliated with was for North American students in the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico. Progressing in the competition offers an interesting chance to meet people from all over the world; it’s a chance to put your skills up against other people’s skills.”

No experience is required to compete in the contest, as it is designed for students with little or no mainframe experience. Three hundred and thirty Marist students entered IBM’s Master the Mainframe Competition in Fall 2015, an 83% increase from the previous year. The semester-long competition is comprised of three levels that increase in difficulty as the participant progresses.

“It’s very significant that we had such a tremendous turnout,” said Corridori. “If you compare our participation to other universities around the country, we really stand out. Technology is becoming more and more prevalent and everyone should know these technologies so when a problem comes up, they can pick the right tool to solve it.”

In Part One: Breaking the Ice, IBM provides contestants with screenshots and directions on the basic workings and concepts of the mainframe to help acquaint them with its different aspects. Part Two: Practical Experience utilizes the skills learned in Part One and gives contestants extensive programming and application developing tasks; they also learn multiple operating systems associated with the mainframe. The most challenging stage comes at Part Three: Real-World Challenge, where students are given tasks and challenges taken from real life situations encountered by programmers in the field.

“Academically, participating in Master the Mainframe could potentially open the door to students discovering that they have a genuine interest in using these technologies,” said Corridori. “Marist offers an enterprise computing minor, so this could influence what they want to do with their career. The mainframe is an important technology that runs businesses all over the world.” 

Once a student completes Part Three, he or she becomes a “finisher.” Marist had 13 finishers last semester, among them was Weon Yuan ’16, a Computer Science major who had no prior experience working with the mainframe. After completing the contest, Yuan has gained valuable skills that he can use in the workforce after he graduates. 

“I will be working at IBM in Poughkeepsie after this semester, so having learned the mainframe skills will definitely help me in my career,” Yuan said. “Not only will I become more familiar with the projects I will be working on, but I will be at an advantage over my peers from having the head start in learning how to use the mainframe.”

Robert Mitola ’16, another Part Three finisher, credits the Master the Mainframe contest with giving him “a new understanding” of a variety of mainframe software. Based on their experiences, Yuan and Mitola “would definitely” advise future students to participate in the competition, especially if they are curious about the mainframe and its role throughout industry.

“Students will learn as they proceed through regardless of their background on mainframes, so they’re guaranteed to gain important skills,” explained Yuan. “Also, corporations and firms are always looking for people with mainframe skills. Students will likely have a better chance getting a job if you were to participate in Master the Mainframe.”

In the past, Master the Mainframe students have gone on to earn scholarships, win awards, and become involved in significant projects and organizations. Corridori is impressed with the work the student finishers did and trusts that they will move on to significant positions after their time at Marist.

“In terms of a job or a resume, the fact that you are participating in the conference is an interest to employers, especially if you are a Part Three finisher,” said Corridori. “Once you make it that far, students can pretty much guarantee that they’ll have a job. Master the Mainframe is a fantastic program that everyone should be taking advantage of.”

Written by Emily Belfiore '16

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