The fact that the iSeries workforce is graying is one of the worst-kept secrets in all of IT.
But with many companies utilizing iSeries hardware in some capacity, the need for youngsters with an OS/400 skill set hasn't waned, even as the majority of those in the IT kiddie pool have been feeding on Microsoft since their freshman year.
"From an iSeries perspective, we have a maturing workforce, so it's really important that we start exposing and teaching the next generation," said Linda Grigoleit, IBM's program manager for the eServer iSeries. "It's really important we get them in here and let them see a bigger IBM than if they were just an intern in a department."
If Big Blue wants the iSeries to hold its place in line, it's going to have to cultivate some of today's best and brightest talent to pump new life into the marketplace. Nobody understands that more than IBM itself, which is why its Speed Team internship program has become one of the most important initiatives in the iSeries portfolio.
An offshoot of the Extreme Blue internship program, which was launched in 1999, the Speed Team is designed to bring some of the nation's blue chip IT students into the IBM fold. By bringing these students in -- with almost 150 participating in this summer's program in Rochester, Minn. -- IBM is hoping to open their eyes to the iSeries, and in the process help shatter the myth that its platform is on the way out.
The students get tossed into team-based projects dealing with Linux, business intelligence, Web Sphere and virtualization. According to Grigoleit, the experience is far more valuable than a normal internship because many of the gains made by these projects end up making their way into Big Blue products, and many of the students end up making their way onto the IBM payroll.
Those sentiments are echoed by Leonardo Letourneau, an IBM software engineer who jumped from the Speed Team to full-time work in September 2003. Letourneau had done three other internships while working on his undergraduate degree in computer engineering at Florida International University, but he said his time with the Speed Team was "very fulfilling" because he got to see the entire process of a project play out. His team worked on a grid-enabled business application that helped Web servers work on other computers.
"It was a great experience. This is a very good program that does get students in," Letourneau said. "Once they work on the Speed Team, they get an idea of the iSeries. You don't really work on it in universities because they like to concentrate on free things like Linux."
Letourneau's jump from intern to Big Blue staffer isn't unique. In fact, IBM said it hopes to make job offers to upward of 70% of the students who participate in its co-op programs.
"This is one way we are helping students who had no idea what an iSeries was [to get involved]," Grigoleit said. "It's amazing how quickly they pick it up. They bring vitality and new perspectives that we at IBM maybe weren't looking at."
Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Luke Meredith, News Writer