IT Works: Interview with John Prehn, an 18-year old mainframe engineer

Eighteen-year-old mainframe engineer John Prehn speaks to Cliff Saran about his path into IT.

From a very early age John Prehn wanted to work with computers. The 18-year-old has recently completed training on mainframe computer systems and works for Danish IT company KMD. He spoke to Cliff Saran about his path into IT.

When did you first take an interest in computers?

My interest in computers started at a very early age, I believe I was six years old. At that time my family had just bought a home computer. When I was around eight years old a classmate figured out a way to alter some computer games, making them easier. I thought that was very interesting. I think that's what started my interest in knowing what's behind the scenes of computers.

What was the first program you wrote (or first serious project you did yourself)?

I read a book called Getting started with Visual Basic when I was 12, which had several examples of small programs. I believe my first project was to make an address book. The first useful program I wrote changed the background on Windows, at certain intervals. I believe Windows XP didn't have that feature at the time.

How did you end up with a job in IT?

I was so certain that I was going to work with computers that I started at a technical school to become a data technician (working with maintenance and operation of Windows servers, primarily). I applied for the apprenticeship at KMD and after some interviews KMD agreed to let me continue my training, once I had completed school. After a year at KMD, my boss told me that KMD was looking for a trainee in the mainframe department.

Why do you think mainframe skills are important?

I believe it is very important to be knowledgeable about mainframes, because they serve such an important job in the IT industry. Most people don't realise it, but many of the most important workloads are handled by mainframes, with great success. Banks and financial companies are extremely reliant on their high stability and extremely fast processing times. Many people are blind to the fact that mainframes even exist, and I believe this is because server farms have had a great boom in media coverage, simply making them overshadow the superior mainframes.

How do you hope to use these skills in the future?

Last year, I attended the mainframe "school", hosted by CA Technologies. The purpose of the school was to give people, entirely new to the mainframe, a starting point in their career. I hope to be able to stay working in KMD. Over time, I'd like to become an administrator. I have no plans to return to Windows, that's over for good!

Where do you see your career progressing over the next 10 years?

Currently, I'm participating in the Mainframe Academy, hosted by CA Technologies, which is really helping me develop my skills needed for my career.

What advice would you give to school children about working in IT?

I would definitely suggest that you try to think out of the box, not just taking the same work as everybody else. Try to find an area of IT that you enjoy working with and where there is room to develop and become very talented. It was mostly luck, and being at the right place, the right moment, that led me to my job, but I would suggest that you try to pursue just exactly the thing you want. You don't always find happiness in doing the same as everybody else.

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