'SHARE is the Guardian of the z Systems Ecosystem': An interview with Harry Williams, President of SHARE

SHARE recently wrapped up its summer conference in Atlanta. Harry Williams, the new president of SHARE, recently reflected on the changes taking place and the goals he is setting for the user group.

How long have you been a SHARE member and what drew you to the organization?

Williams: I attended my first SHARE in August 1985, SHARE 65 in New Orleans. It was overwhelming. Here I was a kid from a small town and a small school, and there “they” were — thousands of experts on hardware and software of all kinds. It was a blur.

Growing up, I was someone who took something apart to see how it worked: door locks, bicycles, clocks, toys, et cetera. You name it, I would take it apart. At SHARE, I found a group of people who did the same thing with VM and MVS. Though it was intimidating, I recognized early on that SHARE was a great way to connect with people I admired, and where I was welcomed and made to feel at home.

What has been the biggest change you have noticed during the time you have been a member?

Williams: SHARE itself is smaller in attendance, but our breadth of topics remains larger — and grows larger with each new event. In 1985, many, if not most, shops were solid blue, solely IBM hardware and software. Today, that is not true of anyone. We all have to interoperate with lots of other systems. All of the broad technology changes of the last 30 years apply to SHARE and what we deliver today. We used to mail tapes of open source software that today we share online. Back in 1985, small teams worked on White Papers to provide guidance and direction. Recently, during SHARE Atlanta, our attendees worked collaboratively with the IBM Redbooks team to develop a live redpaper — “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About IDCAMS But Were Afraid to Ask” — which is markedly different from how we’ve worked in the past, yet yields the same result of sharing user experiences.

What goals have you identified for tackling during your term as president?

Williams: There has been a lot accomplished in the last several years and we need to continue on that trajectory. We are in the middle of our strategic planning and have not yet finished prioritizing everything, but some goals include becoming a 501(c)(6) tax-exempt organization so that we are responsible with our funds, expanding the SHARE Academy brand with intense one-day training classes, continuing to work cooperatively with other associations such as the Open Mainframe Project, IDUG, and GSE, and finding new ways to collaborate with our vendor partners in order to provide even greater value to our members. We are still a member organization and engaging our members and increasing membership are important. We view SHARE as the guardian of the z Systems ecosystem and will continue to work to protect it, promote it, and enhance it.

What were some of the sessions that members were most interested (or you found most interesting) during the summer event?

Williams: To single out one is difficult. User experience presentations are always the highlight of an attendee’s event experience because it involves hearing what happened in some other shop, not what the vendor says should happen but what actually happened -- the good and the bad. On Monday morning, we recognized Ezriel Gross for the Best User Session, “CICSplex SM — A Minimalist Approach,” which he presented in San Antonio this past winter.

If I had to pick a couple from Atlanta, I would include: both keynote addresses, Shane Snow on storytelling and driving innovation, especially his story about the game “Bigger or Better” that he played as a child, and Randy Frerking and Richard Jackson from Walmart who spoke conversationally, telling about bringing DevOps to Walmart; Connor Krukosky’s talk about his experience as an 18-year-old buying a user z890 and getting it to run; and, the Open Mainframe Project panel where current interns talked about porting Linux open source software to a LinuxONE system running the latest SLES or RHEL system.

The wonder of seeing someone exposed to large enterprise systems for the first time is a joy to behold. Another highlight from the Atlanta event was working with the zNextGen leaders to provide mentors for first-time attendees. Finally, we tried something new this summer, with the support of IBM and Rocket Software, in hosting a Hack-a-thon during the event which brought even more excitement to the SHARE Technology Exchange Expo. Of course, SHARE isn’t all dry technical systems: The PowerPoint Karaoke session, where presenters struggle through unknown topics, always leaves the audience laughing… though I’m still not sure what cockatiels have to do with cybersecurity.

How are you planning to follow up on these areas (of interest) in the coming months leading up to the next SHARE event, scheduled for March 5–10, 2017 in San Jose, California?

Williams: We will be offering a great set of sessions in San Jose, including a SHARE Academy class on Sunday and EXECUforum on Monday and Tuesday. The annual EXECUforum program has been more successful than we could have imagined, and we look forward to continuing to provide a space for enterprise IT leaders to connect and share experiences. Lastly, I hope to continue to reach out to other associations and find ways to work on common issues as well as have the Open Mainframe Project interns back — though this likely will not happen until the Summer 2017 event in Providence. 

SHARE's next event will take place March 5-10, 2017, in San Jose, CA.