When Margaret Brightman heard about the IBM Master the Mainframe contest, she was intrigued and intimidated.
It was an opportunity to learn invaluable computing skills on the same type of system that large corporations and governments use for bulk processing. But Margaret found the idea of working remotely on a multinational’s actual mainframe in New Jersey a bit scary.
“It’s not a simulation like most classroom settings,” the IT Campus student explains. “It’s a real mainframe so there’s the real potential to mess something up.”
Fortunately, that didn't happen. Instead, Margaret and 66 NSCC Information Technology students achieved a 10th place finish in this year’s Master the Mainframe, an impressive achievement according to IT instructor William Cunningham.
“It tells the world our IT graduates can go to work immediately. It also says that Nova Scotia is at the leading edge when it comes to expertise in this technology,” he says, adding that Margaret played a key role in the College’s success. “She was the main reason students participated. She said ‘I’m going to do this’ and encouraged others to get involved. She’s a real magnet for opportunity.”
Master the Mainframe is designed to equip students with skills that lead to computing industry employment. The top-ten finish by NSCC students tells the major players in Nova Scotia’s burgeoning big data industry – CGI, NTT, IBM – that there is a ready pool of talent here that can support their growth. “Traditionally, the work they’ve been doing involving mainframe processing has been done remotely. By exposing our students to the mainframe system through a competition like this, we’re giving industry the option to hire people here without having to go overseas for subcontractors.”
Work and study demands made it impossible for Margaret to complete all three phases of the contest last year, but she’s determined to do it this year, and will be encouraging fellow students to join her.
“The skills I gained will be beneficial to me as a database administrator,” says Margaret. ”Most businesses store their database on a server, sometimes not locally, so you have to remotely gain access. That’s a big part of what the contest was about, so it’s going to have a huge impact on my career.”