Mainframe Coaching & Mentoring

There is a priceless mainframe computing resource that will, if not properly treated, disappear from your mainframe organization and reduce productivity, increase error and leave you more vulnerable to disaster! It’s a critical resource that your organization relies on every day for your success, but it’s not often considered!

The priceless mainframe computing resource I refer to is the decades of wisdom, experience, context, history, community and system knowledge that exists in the heads of your senior mainframers who are nearing retirement. It’s about to walk out the door!

The good news is, there’s still time to facilitate critical ‘knowledge transfer’ but it should be done on the job and over an extended period. You need to make coaching and mentoring an integral part of your learning culture and your mainframe workforce training program to effect the knowledge transfer that will ensure your mainframe organization’s ongoing success.

Your Z Next Generation cannot learn decades of wisdom and experience through any course. Coaching and mentoring is the only way you can preserve this priceless mainframe computing resource for your organization.

Now, you say, senior mainframers are so busy with their day-to-day work, they don’t have time to coach or mentor people. This is a valid point!

Please consider though, this distinction: Senior mainframers are far too busy to ‘teach’ your Z Next Generation. They are not too busy to ‘coach/mentor’ your Z Next Generation when they take advantage of available coaching/mentoring TOOLS to do the heavy lifting.

And so, after all this preamble, I get to the point: there is a widely used and very successful modern mainframe coaching and mentoring methodology that will take only minimal time and effort from senior mainframers.


  • an extensive curriculum of on-demand, mainframe elearning
  • IBM Digital Credentials
  • your existing Learning Management System (LMS)
  • your organization’s internal communication platform(s)


  1. Senior mainframers simply assign specific sets of on-demand, online mainframe courses to their mentees then let the elearning do the training heavy lifting at the mentee’s pace.
  2. Senior mainframers can check progress and results at any time via the LMS reporting, and keep an eye on any areas of difficulty the mentee may be having.
  3. After days, weeks or months, when the elearning course(s) are completed and/or IBM Digital Badges earned, senior mainframers can set a quick 15-30 minute call or meeting with their mentee to follow up, recap, answer questions, impart insight, wisdom, context and experience.
  4. Then, set the mentee their next set of mainframe elearning courses and other training tasks (docs to read, colleagues to speak with, exercises to complete, etc.).

That is the simple yet powerful cycle to repeat and repeat and repeat!

Senior mainframers don’t have the tedious task of pushing the mentee to complete training. The IBM Digital Credentials that mentees earn by completing the elearning courses provide the proven, powerful motivation and recognition that sees mentees hungrily consume the set training.

The mainframe elearning courses do the time-consuming teaching. Optimally, all the senior mainframers do is pass on wisdom, experience, context, history and community (which in my experience, most senior mainframers enjoy) to hone and polish the mentee’s overall skills and knowledge on your specific system.

(As a wild card: some vendors offer ready-made, mainframe class/webinar PowerPoint decks that are mapped to the elearning courses. If senior mainframers get the urge and have the time, they simply customize the presentation and deliver a powerful group conference-call or webinar or face-to-face class on key mainframe topics that will take knowledge transfer to the next level!)

Bottom line; with most of the time and effort removed from the task, busy senior mainframers are able to achieve priceless knowledge transfer and can coach/mentor one or even multiple young mainframers. Mainframe organizations simply and effectively achieve knowledge transfer over years before the senior mainframers retire, and the priceless mainframe wisdom, context, experience and history is not lost to the organization!

This widely used modern mainframe training method is incredibly simple to implement, ultimately flexible and ultra-low cost! If your organization is not actively ensuring mainframe knowledge transfer, it should be. Don’t let priceless mainframe wisdom, experience, context, history, community and system knowledge walk out the door forever!

Originally published on the AIOps IBM Z Community Blog

Darren Surch is CEO of Interskill Learning, the world's most delivered and most IBM credentialed mainframe training. A 30-year mainframe industry veteran, Darren is one of only two people IBM has ever named ‘Lifetime IBM Champion’ for IBM Z.

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