SHARE Academy – modern COBOL Development

As the pace of new technology advancement continues to accelerate, IT professionals must take every opportunity to enhance their education and develop new marketable skills. This was precisely the goal of this week’s event at SHARE Academy—a volunteer based organization dedicated to the advancement and education of today’s technology professionals.  The winter edition of SHARE Academy took place in Sacramento, California.  Ed Airey, product marketing director for the Micro Focus COBOL solution; took the opportunity to join in on this event and recap some of its highlights.

A Little Background

Twice annually, SHARE offers its members and attending delegates the opportunity to advance their IT knowledge by attending a full week, mainframe focused technology conference. The conference brings together domain experts, industry luminaries and many IT professionals and partners across the mainframe ecosystem. The SHARE group delivers a multi-faceted set of topics designed to challenge its delegates but also drive new thinking, collaboration and skill development across its community. The start of every SHARE week begins with SHARE Academy—an intensive, full-day technology course designed to build new skills through in depth lecture and hands-on labs.  For the first time ever, SHARE Sacramento offered a new subject for its members, Modern COBOL Development—a course designed for COBOL, Java or .NET developers and dedicated to hands on programming using modern tools and practices.  This SHARE Academy course, sponsored by Micro Focus—an industry leader and pioneer in COBOL technology–was delivered by legendary COBOL instructors, Scot Nielsen, Michael Bleistein and Chris Glazier whose combined technology experience surpasses seventy years.

Why Modern COBOL?

For many enterprise shops, COBOL continues to live and operate at the center of IT. Countless core business systems continue to rely on COBOL technology.  Whether in banking, retail, insurance, logistics government or manufacturing, it is likely that you have interacted with a COBOL-based system at some point in your day. It’s for this reason that many organizations are looking for new ways to modernize trusted business systems, rather than replacing them—effectively, bridging the old and the new together. Herein lies a great opportunity for the smart developer—should they take it.  For the 13 attending delegates at this weeks’ SHARE Academy, their top reasons to attend this modern COBOL development course included:

– To learn new programming skills
– To better understand what’s possible with modern COBOL
– To build new skills using modern IDEs – such as Visual Studio or Eclipse and
– To work with COBOL alongside .NET and Java

Whether a Java or .NET programmer, working with COBOL can open the door to new skills, new responsibilities and a new career. As discussed during this week’s class, organizations, across the globe, are looking for versatile developers with both COBOL and modern language skills—developers that can help move their core business systems into the future.  This course sought to show what’s possible using modern COBOL tools and technology.

Course Highlights

Course instructors wasted no time and began to quickly discuss and show the many aspects of modern COBOL. In many ways, it was a whistle stop tour of all that is possible using modern COBOL tools, technology and practice. Some of these topics covered included:

– Getting Started with Modern IDEs – Visual Studio & Eclipse
– Intro to OO COBOL Programming
– Intro to Managed Code Frameworks
– Mixed Language Development – Working with COBOL, .NET and Java
– Modernizing the COBOL User Interface
– Intro to COBOL Unit Testing
– COBOL, REST and Web Services

Throughout each class module, delegates had the opportunity to learn but also put into practice new skills and techniques shared by their instructors. Each delegate was assigned a dedicated workstation to complete in-class lab assignments. The majority of class time was dedicated to hands on instruction using instructor-led assignments and workbooks. For the quick study, the instructors also offered additional self-paced material allowing such students to move through certain course concepts faster.  The flexible and fast-paced nature of the courseware created a busy day for all, but also provided great interaction amongst attendees.

When asked about their experiences on the day, some delegates shared that the content and knowledge provided by the speakers was highly valuable to their current role and future business needs. Others attendees referenced that the lab assignments were challenging but provided the necessary ‘hands on’ experience with the technology. Others found the opportunity to engage with the presenters, pose questions and discuss complex technical issues very useful.

At the end of an eight-hour course, most were a little weary, but all wiser for the great technical experience. Most expressed interest in continuing their education beyond the classroom.

Future Education

For those wondering if additional modern COBOL development courses (similar to SHARE Academy) will be arriving soon—Watch this space.  A new technical education series is on its way designed for COBOL, Java and .NET developers alike. You’ll have an opportunity to listen, learn and put to practice modern COBOL development concepts from the comfort your home or office location. We welcome your input as well, so please post your topic suggestions to the Visual COBOL forum.  So, stay tuned.  You’ll hear more about this new technical education series in the coming weeks.

It’s Your Turn

But for those that just can’t wait and who are eager to dive right in, there’s plenty of take-away material from SHARE Academy to help you get started. Such materials include:

– A hard copy of the latest Micro Focus book titled Visual COBOL: A Developer’s Guide to Modern COBOL
– A complete Modern COBOL courseware set of presentation modules, hands-on exercises and self-paced projects
– A fantastic library of developer guides, technical tutorials and documentation references
– A FREE one-year student developer license to Visual COBOL Personal Edition
– Access to a variety of COBOL research materials through the Micro Focus community

In addition, with access to the online forums through the Micro Focus community, asking for help or searching for samples couldn’t be easier. So, what are you waiting for?  Now is a great time to build on your technical talent, learn a new language and develop a lasting and rewarding career in today’s digital age.  The next step (and opportunity) is yours—take it!

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