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From Academia to AI: How I Ended up on the Mainframe

By | March 27, 2024

Written by Keelia Estrada Moeller, Marketing Content Specialist at Broadcom Mainframe Software

In 2017–my final year of undergrad at the University of Minnesota–I took an internship at a content marketing agency. At the time, I already had plans to pursue graduate school and further my goals in academia to eventually become a professor. But Ithought, why not see what else I can do with my writing and communication skills?

Little did I know, that internship would become the unexpected gateway to my mainframe career. Within a few months, I was hired as a full-time employee specializing in technology content marketing. I entered the mainframe ecosystem by 2018 as the managing editor of IBM’s mainframe publication (IBM Systems magazine, IBM Z). A few years later in 2021, I helped launch and became senior editor for TechChannel–​​an independent technology communications channel that ties together technical and business sides of the IT ecosystem while spotlighting the human side of the industry. And today, I work as a content marketing specialist at Broadcom Mainframe Software.

A Passion for Mainframe Content Marketing

Long story short, I’ve been in the mainframe world since I was 22 years old. During that period, I completed a Bachelor’s and two Master’s degrees in English literature (yes, two–I’ll explain this shortly) while working 40+ hours a week. As I continued furthering my journey in academia, I simultaneously began to realize my true career passion had been in mainframe content marketing the whole time.

I immediately loved how supportive the community was. I loved learning about and finding ways to humanize the technology. I looked for new ways to shine a light on emerging talent in the ecosystem, highlight the knowledge transfer between new and tenured professionals, and emphasize the mainframe platform’s overarching relevance. Here, I was doing brilliant, challenging, and imaginative work that surprised me every day.

Back in 2019, I started a PhD in English at the University of Minnesota. When I entered the program, I thought I was entering my final phase to venture into academia as a professor. Part of that program involved teaching undergraduate students–but as each year progressed, I realized that although I was a good teacher I didn’t enjoy the work the same way I did working in mainframe. Actually, it wasn’t even close–so last year I was faced with a difficult decision about my future.

Between my mainframe career, teaching, and writing a dissertation on Spanish adaptations of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, I realized academia was no longer sparking joy in my life. Although I had found a unique research area (a must for a PhD candidate), I wasn’t passionate about the work. It was dry, uninspired, and draining. My career as a mainframe content marketer, on the other hand, was everything I wanted and more. I was spreading myself too thin, and didn’t have time for the things I enjoyed–so I decided to bow out of the PhD program with (another) Master’s degree in English. That decision has given me more time to focus on my career, my family, and–for those of you who know about my strange hobbies–training and competing in strongman (see below).

Be Open, Prioritize Your Goals, and Realize Your Strength

So–why did I tell you this story? Three reasons:

  1. Be open to new ideas, because that’s how greatness emerges. My mainframe career happened on accident. I never expected myself to end up here, but I’m so glad I was open to working on new things. Sure, it was scary at first. But if I had never taken a chance on that internship, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t have met the amazing people in this ecosystem, developed this unique career skillset that brings me joy each day, or encountered the colleagues and mentors who are now a part of my daily life.
  2. Prioritize your own goals, regardless of how others may view your decisions. As a woman–especially a young woman in what was long a male-dominated industry (by the way, I’m talking about technology, and academia) I often felt like I had to do everything, all at once, without fail. I worked full time and attended school full time for six years and never once wanted anyone to know I was overwhelmed during that entire portion of my life. I got things done well, and on time–but I didn’t leave myself any hours in the day to think about what I truly enjoyed doing, and what I was doing just because it had to be done. It wasn’t until I took time to evaluate this on my own, and with my mentors, that I was able to come to an admittedly tough decision that finally gave me more balance.
  3. You are stronger than you realize; but you’re even stronger when you’re willing to learn from others. Come on–I had to have something about strength in here. I never thought I’d be lifting stones, pressing metal logs over my head or pulling firetrucks–and yet the sport I’m in taught me just how much I’m capable of. I also never thought I’d be well versed in hybrid IT, generative AI, IT resiliency, and the mainframe platform as a whole–yet, here I am.

But all of this progress happened because of the community of people I surrounded myself with and learned from. In strongman, it was my trainer (who happens to be my brother), my fellow athletes and competitors, and my husband who continuously supports my wild strength endeavors. In mainframe, it was my mentors, colleagues, industry SMEs, seasoned and new enterprise technologists, and more. You have natural skills within yourself, but be open to learning from others to take those skills to the next level.

With that, I’ll bring my musings to a close. If you have any questions, or just want to have a conversation–please reach out to me ( After all, the best part of this ecosystem is the people–and I’d love to meet more of you.