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Generation z - revitalize the mainframe


Innovation at enterprise scale | Design Thinking | Mainframe

The mainframe opportunity

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear ‘mainframe’? For many, it conjures up images of big, black machines that need to be hacked in order to save the world. For me, I had no idea what they were used for and in any case, I didn’t want to touch the ‘green screen’. It looked so… old! Mainframes are still very relevant in today’s world; they are still the backbone of most banking, travel, government and retail services we use everyday. If you bought something online or sent some money to a friend, your transaction has probably touched a mainframe!


Despite their importance, companies are finding that retention levels are decreasing in their mainframe teams, especially with their new starters. This is a big issue... think about it! Experts currently working with the mainframe are close to retiring while the next generation of mainframers are changing jobs after a few years. The aim of Generation z is to revitalise the platform and help the new generation innovate within their roles. We do this by facilitating Design Thinking workshops, providing a Gen z Mentorship program and fostering a community of mainframers of the next generation.

Genz workshops

  • Negative stigma of the platform
  • Lack of innovation on the platform
  • Difficult to find help and support
To tackle the first two issues, we travel the world to facilitate Generation z workshops with IBM clients’ new graduates and apprentices. This one-day interactive workshop is split into three parts - technical education, design thinking and innovation on the platform.


First, we discuss the technical aspects of the mainframe. While many participants work on the mainframe, they’ve never had a chance to learn about the basic architecture and capabilities of the mainframe. We explore the world of COBOL, security and performance in order to highlight WHY companies still choose to use this platform. Once you understand the capabilities of this powerhouse of a machine, the answer to this becomes pretty apparent.

Then the rest of the day is all about innovation. Innovation on the mainframe?! Sounds strange I know. By incorporating IBM Design Thinking into the workshop, it becomes a powerful tool to facilitate our understanding of the end user and to come up with new and unexpected solutions. We start off by empathising with an end-user of the clients’ business and map out a typical journey. This can be for a student trying to get cash out from the bank or an elderly lady wanting go grocery shopping. This draws out their pain points and once we define clear problems/opportunities of the user, we go into solution mode. Go crazy with ideas!


We diverge and converge on all potential solutions. The aim is to come out of the workshop with a tangible solution to improve the experiences of their users. Of course, the workshop is only one-day so we cannot delve into iterating and prototyping the idea, but the aim of the day is to inspire new starters on theplatform and innovate together on potentially valuable solutions. It helps graduates on the mainframe to see how the platform is continually changing to meet modern users’ needs and that continuing a career in this sector will be highly valued in the years to come.

Interested? Find out more!

Check out the Generation z website for news, upcoming events and more information about the workshop and mentor scheme. You can also join the Facebook group here and join in the conversation!

Side note: I designed and coded the Generation z website!