Today’s Architects/Michelle Melcher

Michelle Melcher

Enterprise Technology Services Developer II, Navy Federal Credit Union

Embarking on a lifetime of learning

Michelle Melcher - Enterprise Technology Services Developer II at Navy Federal Credit Union

What inspired me to pursue a career in the mainframe was the fact that the information was vast. I would never run out of something to learn. I knew my next career move needed to be something that would give me years and years of learning.... My passion for learning is my driving force. And you can never learn everything about the mainframe as it is ever evolving.”

About Michelle

Today's professionals entering the workplace are no strangers to screen time, but for Michelle Melcher, most of that screen time these days is spent behind an IBM Z® mainframe. A pre-med biology major, Michelle became a bank teller at Navy Federal Credit Union after college, only to find her true calling as a mainframe developer through her organization’s innovative talent-optimization program. She was immediately drawn to the mainframe’s cool technology and, since then, she’s been sailing to success as an Enterprise Technology Services (ETS) Developer for Navy Federal.

The inspiration for Michelle’s journey to the mainframe came when she discovered Grace Hopper, a renowned pioneer in technology and one of the first female computer scientists. Michelle was inspired by Hopper’s groundbreaking contributions to computer programming that had made her a global icon and symbolized the power of women and innovation in computing.

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In addition, Michelle, a self-described lover of learning, counts curiosity as one of her key strengths and she was drawn to the seemingly limitless learning opportunities and challenges the mainframe offers. “My passion for learning is my driving force. And you can never learn everything about the mainframe as it is ever evolving.”

Finding a job you love

Michelle still remembers the day that mainframes entered her life. “I was working in a branch office up in Fayetteville, North Carolina, when I saw something come across our intranet that was an opportunity for a talent-optimization program,” she recounts. The six- to nine-month program retrained employees for the company’s information technology group. “They told us about how mainframe computing powers the global economy,” she says. Mainframe computing immediately intrigued her and led to her signing up for the free Master the Mainframe learning program, which today has evolved into a challenge-based learning platform called IBM Z Xplore.

“What inspired me to pursue a career in the mainframe was the fact that the information was vast,” she says. “I would never run out of something to learn.” While being a branch teller had its good points, Michelle felt as though she’d hit a wall in her career. “I knew my next career move needed to be something that would give me years and years of learning.” How much does Michelle love her new job? Let her count the ways. “I love the problem solving,” she shares. “I love figuring out how to fix something for the customer or end user. I love researching, I love looking up the answer, and I love not knowing it immediately.”

Michelle enjoys challenge, and the mainframe provides plenty of that. These days, you’re likely to find Michelle reading about how a specific mainframe utility works, learning a new programming language, or brushing up on Java Class Libraries. Each challenge is like a mystery, she finds, and leads to a new discovery.

Welcoming Global Mainframe Community

Like many newcomers to mainframe technology, Michelle was surprised to find the large, global mainframe community to be so open and welcoming to new learners. “You have people with decades of experience at your fingertips,” she says. Initially, Michelle found that “it can be overwhelming and maybe a little bit intimidating because these people have so much experience, but they’re all very warm and welcoming and they love to help.”

Michelle has found the global IBM Z and LinuxONE Community to be a rich source of technical content, support and encouragement. She cites the “New to IBM Z” group in the Community as a great place to start building your network. And then, of course, there are online courses available through IBM Z Mainframe Skills Depot and the IBM Z Xplore learning platform to get hands-on experience. Michelle also believes an apprenticeship is one of the best ways to cut your teeth on mainframe technology. “I know there are multiple companies out there that are working [to address] the skills gap, and they’re trying to recruit new talent to fill that gap.”

Embracing the cloud with IBM Z

Michelle sees an exciting future for her career in mainframe technology and is particularly encouraged by the innovation she sees around the IBM Z platform. “When you think about what companies are trying to do right now, which is create a hybrid cloud architecture, IBM Z is a perfect fit for that goal,” she says. IBM Z is optimized for hybrid cloud environments that combine and unify public cloud, private cloud, and on-premises infrastructure to create a single, flexible, cost-optimal IT infrastructure. She adds that today, “We’re talking about maintaining security features for the most important details of our Credit Union members and customers, and then the convenience and cost-effectiveness of using the cloud infrastructure as well.”

Whatever the future holds, Michelle is confident that today’s and tomorrow’s generations of mainframe professionals will be well prepared with the vast amount of education, resources, tools, and community support readily available. “Technology is always changing,” she says. “You’re never going to know everything because something new will always pop up.” Whether it’s generative AI or the next big thing, IBM Z mainframe technology will continue to be in the forefront of innovation powering the world’s economy.

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