A day in zSeries – Nicole Covey

Another day in the life of a zSeries software support specialist… Wake up… bowl of cereal…. Depending on your mood and how hungry you are you possibly have another… if you’re really struggling you may even consider one more but you talk yourself out of it because that’s just greedy. Then comes the drive to work… sometimes you get to the office and feel lucky to be alive because you’ve had a close encounter with someone who is just way too keen to get to work. That, however, is about the only part of my day that is predictable. In my role you never know what is around the corner, it’s the thing I like most about my job, every day is different.

I am currently a zSeries Software Support Specialist here at IBM. zSeries are our big mainframe servers and It’s my job to help keep our mainframe customers up and running. This involves helping them with any queries they have with their mainframe software and also investigating any issues they experience to help get them back up and running as soon as possible. You can probably guess from the last half of that sentence that sometimes the job is very high pressured and stressful! Headache tablets are kept in the top drawer for those days that you wish you hadn’t got out of bed. (Let’s be honest it doesn’t matter how much you like your job we all have those days!)

We use PMR’s which are Problem Management Records to manage client queries/issues, these hold all the data on the client contact and the reason the PMR was raised, including product and release levels, any diagnostic data and times and dates of the incident. PMR’s also contain all the communication between us and the customer as well as all our findings during our investigations.

When talking about a day in my role, typical is probably not the best word to use. The process is the same, I look at PMR’s, talk to customers and look through diagnostic data such as system memory dumps and trace data, but each PMR is unique and different. Z is such as massive product, I’m constantly coming across new things and sometimes things that I’ve never heard of! Even my colleagues, some of whom have been working on Z for longer than I have been alive (which they love me reminding them of) are coming across new things every day.

Looking through system memory dumps is where all the fun lies, we use a tool called IPCS and it looks like the Matrix, just a mass of green HEX code on a black screen. The feeling of satisfaction you get when you solve a problem has got to be one of the perks of the job. You get a great sense of achievement when you see a problem all the way through from gathering the problem description, investigating (the fun part) and providing the customer with a solution.

Z has a bit of a reputation for being a ‘Dinosaur’ product, it’s been around for a very long time – I kind of like that though, dinosaurs are awesome. This does mean however that a large number of our z people are retiring which means it has become challenging with there being only three of us in Front Office UK support, but it is also a great opportunity for me to continue to grow my skills and become more competent. It’s like how my mum taught me to swim; chuck me in the deep end and I’ll learn quickly. Personally I think she’s lucky I’m not now terrified of water and will never trust her again (it took a while).

The funny thing is I never planned for a career in technology. In fact, before I came to IBM I had very limited technical knowledge (OK – I’ll be honest, I had absolutely none!). Five years on, I wake up every morning and drive into the office knowing that I have a challenge ahead, it keeps me on my toes and keeps me developing. As an added bonus I don’t hate Mondays. Well, I don’t love them, I wouldn’t even say I like them because no one likes Mondays, but I enjoy what I do and that’s all you can ask for.

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