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I am a Mainframer: Richard Perret

By | July 20, 2023

On this episode of the “I Am a Mainframer” podcast, host Steven Dickens talks with Rick Perret, Head of Analyst Relations with Broadcom Mainframe Software.

Their conversation highlights the growing importance of mainframes and how the Open Mainframe Project (OMP) is actively working to raise awareness and bring together professionals from various backgrounds to contribute to the platform’s development and future growth. Rick talks about his involvement with the Open Mainframe Project and the importance of marketing and communication in the open-source community, emphasizing that contributions are not limited to technical skills.

Steven and Rick also explore the misconceptions around mainframes and how the platform will continue to be relevant in the future, playing a crucial role in hybrid cloud strategies and digital resilience.

Rick shares some advice for younger professionals, stressing the importance of doing what you love and appreciating the contributions of those who came before you, as well as learning how to be resilient in the face of change. He also envisions that in the next three to five years, the mainframe platform will be widely recognized for its significance and will be better integrated into hybrid cloud strategies, leading to a more diverse talent pool in the mainframe ecosystem and encouraging younger generations to explore opportunities on the platform.

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Announcer: This is the I Am a Mainframer podcast, brought to you by the Linux Foundation’s Open Mainframe Project. Episodes explore the careers of mainframe professionals and offer insights into the industry and technology. Now your host, senior analyst and Vice President of Sales and Business Development at The Futurum Group, Steven Dickens.

Steven Dickens: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the I am a Mainframer podcast. I’m your host, as always, Steven Dickens. And this week, I’m joined by Rick Perret from Broadcom. Hey Rick, welcome to the show.

Richard Perret: Steve, it’s a pleasure. First time.

Steven Dickens: First time guest, longtime listener.

Richard Perret: Yes, absolutely. I absolutely enjoy the interviews that you do.

Steven Dickens: So let’s get the listeners and viewers orientated. You and I know each other well, but keen to maybe give you the chance to introduce what you do. I know you take a really active role in the community as well as working for Broadcom, so maybe let’s start there.

Richard Perret: Yeah, so what I do for Broadcom is I’m responsible for IT analyst relations as well as open source software, what we call Open Mainframe marketing here at Broadcom. I actually joined in 2018 when it was CA Technologies. At the time that I joined, I was also a affiliated with OMP from the perspective that as part of my responsibilities, it was being part of the marketing committee, if you will. So at that early instantiation of one of the big projects, Zowe and I was there from the start.

Steven Dickens: So there’s lots to come back to there. Maybe let’s double click on the Broadcom piece first. Maybe Broadcom’s a big organization. A lot of people will have known it as CA, the piece from the mainframe. Maybe just start there and give us a little bit of a double click on your role on what you do there for the team.

Richard Perret: Right. So obviously, I sit within the mainframe. Broadcom is a big company. There’s both a semiconductor side, which is pretty well known to a lot of people, well maybe not as well known, but certainly there’s certain component parts that are in everyone’s cell phones, if you will. I’ll leave it at that. Then there’s a software side, if you will, and that obviously initially began with the acquisition of CA Technologies. So what I do here, in particular… When you think of software and Broadcom, there is mainframe, there’s Symantec, and then there’s what we call an enterprise software division, which is really the non-mainframe element part of the business. So in my role, I deal across the different value streams within our mainframe division from DevOps to security, AIOps and ITOM, if you will, and database tools and so forth. But from my role in working with the analyst community of which obviously when you’re wearing your other hat, that’s what you focus on-

Steven Dickens: You get to wrangle me and deal with me.

Richard Perret: I get to wrangle you and a whole bunch of other people. But no, that’s good. I think the analyst relationships, not just from a Broadcom perspective, but when I put my OMP hat on, I started really a process of engaging the analyst community and getting them more familiar with what OMP does. And in fact, in Atlanta, the share event in Atlanta, we had actually a couple of analysts show up and they attended a lot of the sessions that were specific around OMP, as well as we’ve had IDC, Forrester, as well as Gartner attend some of the OMP’s virtual summits. When OMP had the summit last year in Philly, we had Brent Ellis and Katie Norton, Brent from Forrester and Katie from IDC, attend the OMP Summit. They each did a nice writeup about what was covered and that was exciting. As did you, of course, you did a writeup as well.

Steven Dickens: Part of the family. So you touched on the Open Mainframe Project, the OMP. You’ve been with it since the introduction of Zowe. I think…And we talked about it when we were trying to convince you to come on as a guest for this show. You’re like, “Well, I’m not a technical guy, I’m not a mainframe guy.” But my big thing about these communities and the open source movement is you don’t have to be a technical guy. You don’t have to be down and be a coder to be contributing to the platform and contributing to the community. My contribution back to the community is that I host this podcast every month. I’m not a coder. I’m massively passionate about open source on the mainframe and that platform being moved forward, but I’ve got some skills and they’re not coding skills.

You don’t want me writing code, but I would try and help by hosting this. I know you do great work on the marketing committee. Maybe just explain that to the listeners because you are very humble of saying I’m not a technical guy, but I think there’s a lot of value you bring to the Open Mainframe project.

Richard Perret: Well, yeah, and when I say I’m not a tech, well, I’ve done programming. I won’t say how long ago it was, but I’ve done programming in the past. Prior to here, prior to Broadcom, I spent a few years at IBM and spent probably half of that time working at the Watson Research Center dealing with a lot of the researchers there in some highly technical areas from a business development perspective. So obviously, a big part of that was understanding the emerging technologies from there. But most importantly, how do those technologies create value to a business at the end of the day? Even technical people and technicians need to understand obviously that, and researchers, need to understand that the best ideas die unless they show value to someone. And certainly marketing, us as marketers, we’re all about certainly trying to communicate value in the most simple and effective way.

When I think about what we do with let’s say OMP in particular, obviously we try to get the word out. What we’re trying to do, we want to create these vehicles that enable the technologists that are from all the different member organizations or outside. It can be customers that are leveraging different parts of whether they’re involved with open education, whether they’re… Whoever’s in the ecosystem, they have a platform for which they can talk to, podcasts, blogging, presentation at events, all of the different things that marketing does, plus a lot of it is how and why do we talk about things to the marketplace. That often is the tough part, at the end of the day.

Steven Dickens: Yeah, I mean it’s tough. Community marketing is hard. There’s not a physical product. There’s not a kind of… The budget is are challenged, but I think you guys do a great job of getting the message out. As I say, this is my contribution to the community, but I think as a volunteer force with limited budgets, you guys punch above your weight. So maybe let’s spend some time there talking about the types of marketing and things that the project’s doing. I think people may have seen it, they may have seen the Open Mainframe Project on social platforms, they might have seen this podcast. What are you guys doing and how are you really trying to get that message out?

Richard Perret: So there’s certainly things, obviously different levels. They can be from an in-person perspective or virtual. Obviously an event is certainly one of the capstone things that we try to do and those tend to draw a lot of different people. Definitely blogging, there is a blog. Obviously, we have a blog presence on the OMP website. For Zowe specifically, we also have a medium site. One of the things that we actually, Broadcom actually started specific to Zoe because that certainly was one of the ways that people were engaging from that stand and blogging is always something that enables us to dive more deeply right into a specific technology or architecture issue, demo something, show it’s in the realm of the possible or lessons learned. When you think about press, we try to reach out through obviously press releases, the recent donation of the z15 to the project.

Obviously we supported that from a PR standpoint, as well as raising awareness to a broader community that this platform’s available. The mentoring program, that’s a sort of an interesting one. I know you and I tried to get something going a few years back and it just didn’t work out for a variety of reasons. We have a pretty active mentorship and a lot of that’s really the marketing committee folks ride the different people in our organizations to say, “Hey, these are really important activities to bring up the next generation.” So I certainly played a role in making sure within Broadcom that are projects that we have? That might be something that could benefit from some new young talent that’s hungry to learn.

Steven Dickens: Yeah, I’ve always been a fan of the mentorship program to any of our younger listeners who are looking to use this podcast as a way to learn about mainframes and get involved and maybe look to build a path to getting a career. The mentorship program’s a fantastic thing to get involved in over the summer.

Richard Perret: Yeah.

Steven Dickens: We’re obviously closed now for this year, but certainly next year, be looking at that as a way to start your career and get involved for sure.

Richard Perret: We do a lot on social. We, being on… Mail is a lot. Twitter, LinkedIn, that’s really important because that’s where that sort of the next gen of talent, those are the watering holes that they have. So it’s just all part of modernization, if you will, from a marketing perspective for the lack of-

Steven Dickens: And I think that’s the key thing. The fun thing for me about the Open Mainframe Project is we’ve got experienced professionals, we’ve got people who are senior executives. Greg takes and active role, I know, in your organization and number of others do in promoting the Open Mainframe Project, but we’ve also got to engage some of those students and some of those early professionals. I know you are passionate about that. What would you say to those early professionals looking for a career? I know Broadcom does a lot beyond code, you’ve got a whole program there. So maybe just spend a couple of minutes describing that for us, if you would.

Richard Perret: Yeah. And certainly if you’ve had Greg on different things, when you look at who the typical… First of all, there’s a lot of what I would call bias or misperceptions on mainframe. I had a conversation earlier today on this with someone in particular outside of Broadcom. Sometimes what you don’t know, there’s a fear of something you don’t know or there’s just a fear of… Sometimes people just… We’re in a social media, ADD driven world where you tend to see a snippet of something and then all of a sudden that becomes the truth. Look, I don’t have a deep mainframe background. I was not involved with mainframe at all until coming here. Like I said, before I came here when I was at IBM, I absolutely was not involved with mainframe in any deep capacity. Prior to that when I did IT consulting, it was more around IT business analysis and consulting.

So it was sort of removed from the technology more and driving tech requirements based on business issues. So part of it, and this is something we all have to work hard on is let’s remove… We’re all good at removing biases from different perspectives. Well, let’s take that same kind of approach to other things like the technologies and platforms and things that you work with.

Steven Dickens: Yeah, I agree completely. We see a lot of cloud, for instance, is the answer. What’s the question? Whereas-

Richard Perret: Yeah, that’s starting to change though and I don’t want to get into that, but that definitely… There’s been somewhat of a tectonic shift right over the past, I would say, two years on that one.

Steven Dickens: Yeah, starting to see a lot more cloud repatriation, people thinking about where workload should sit, which is healthy.

Richard Perret: Absolutely. Plus you’ll see analysts like Gartner, IDC and others, Forrester, talk about this idea of it’s not cloud or mainframe. It’s cloud and mainframe and that’s a whole different conversation.

Steven Dickens: Yeah, for sure. So starting to think about how we wrap up here, I always ask a couple of questions as we start to come towards the end. The one question, you get the opportunity to go back to chat to young Rick, age 22 years old. I know that’s only five or six years ago for you Rick, but-

Richard Perret: Of course.

Steven Dickens: You get a chance to go back to chat to 22 year old self. What advice would you give? We have a lot of younger listeners on the show.

Richard Perret: Yeah, no, no, no, certainly. Probably I would say buy stock in certain companies. No, I’m just kidding.

Steven Dickens: That’s great. That is actually great advice.

Richard Perret: Yeah. No seriously though, I think of a couple of things. One is this idea of work. There’s a lot of people as they think about work and do they love it or not. I would tell someone early on, follow what you love and make sure you love what you do. Some of these things may seem a little trite, I don’t know, but I started thinking about this. If you don’t love what you do, it causes all sorts of other things that aren’t good things, both mentally and physically to your health, if you will. That would be one thing.

Another thing, and I see this especially being in mainframe, appreciate those have come before. There’s such a… These philosophies around agility, around transformation sometimes take a path of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I think it’s important to really appreciate not only the people that have come before you, but just the dynamics of the environment that was before you. There were things that worked well before and things that have adapted over time. Remember that as you go forward and as you progress and adapt in the future, that would be-

Steven Dickens: We’re standing on the shoulders of giants, basically.

Richard Perret: Right, yeah. Absolutely. And then I think about this one, and this is always something I’ve always remembered this. People, we all have to remember this. Something that you want or need is oftentimes right in front of you and you didn’t see it. I had this story of when I was looking for a boat, I was looking for a sailboat and I live in Connecticut here. I was looking for a boat and I was driving all over the place, New Jersey, up in Maine. I drove up to Maine, driving to southeast Massachusetts, all over the place to look for something. What I ended up getting was just right in my backyard, basically. It was right in front of me. I’d looked at it earlier, sort of dismissed it. But then after looking at all these other things, it came back to, hey, this is what I want. Need is right in front of me. It was right there, right in my backyard. So I think that’s an important thing to remember because we oftentimes can be dismissive, if you look at the way society functions.

Steven Dickens: I think some great parallels there for people that look at the technology choices. It’s always good to check. People are always keen to chase the shiny object and go for the new thing. But I think the analogy that you’re making is that the mainframe often right in front of your face. It’s been here for decades. It does what it does. It does a good job. Why go chase the shiny object?

Richard Perret: Yeah. Look, I’m sa tech savvy as everyone else out there and use all forms of technology, but everything has a role at the end of the day.

Steven Dickens: Yeah, for sure. Well, the other question I always ask, and I’m interested to get your perspective, where do you see the mainframe platform three, five years out? We know they’re going to be a z16, moving to a z17. So I’m not trying to get that next box, but trying to understand why you see the platform maybe beyond that horizon.

Richard Perret: Right. So let me start with this one. Maybe it’ll sound somewhat controversial, but we will have no more of these… My predictions, we will have no more of these I Am a Mainframer podcasts. Let me tell you why though.

Steven Dickens: We need to rebrand the show. Is that what you’re telling me?

Richard Perret: No, no, no, no. Because I think in five years, the world will see the platform for what it is. And so shows like this… I know this is not going to come, but it seems like this won’t matter because people see the platform for what it is. It’s not like we’re here trying to talk about why this platform exists, why it’s great and so forth. That, to me, would be a good thing.

Steven Dickens: Building obsolescence, making unemployed by making the platform-

Richard Perret: There you go. There you go. I think five years from now, people are already starting to see the risks of increased and more intense digitization and how it’s exposing organizations to additional risk and the need for being more resilient, if you will. Look, you look at things like generative AI, great. I’m very supportive of it and excited about it, but it also has the potential to drive a lot of misinformation, missed decisions and therefore, these are things we need to be… How that plays out, who knows? But I do think at the end of the day, people are going to see the need, as you get more digital, the need to be more resilient. To be risk managed becomes really important.

Steven Dickens: Yeah, I agree. I agree 100%.

Richard Perret: I think those are two big things I see. Hopefully five years out, the platform is going to… How the ecosystem or that which surrounds the platform will look.

Steven Dickens: I couldn’t agree more. Planned obsolescence, try and get me out of a job of the podcast host. All joking aside though, I think we’re going to see that specificity around the platform become… We’re already seeing it. It’s becoming part of that hybrid cloud strategy, the strangeness of where the platform was maybe 10 years ago and the unusualness of it. We’re not seeing that.

Richard Perret: And I think to that point, and I’m hoping that we’ll see a more meaningful shift in the talent pool where there will be more people who are next gens, and next gens can be anyone from someone graduate out of college to someone who’s mid career working on the platform. And therefore, by better understanding it, you’re more open to all of the modern and open things that you can do with the platform. Obviously, much of what the Open Mainframe Project is trying to drive.

Steven Dickens: Yeah, couldn’t agree more. Well, Rick, this has been a fantastic conversation. Thank you for jumping on.

Richard Perret: Of course.

Steven Dickens: Always a pleasure.

Richard Perret: Same here, Steve. Take care. Thanks.

Steven Dickens: You’ve been listening to the I am a Mainframer podcast. If you like what you hear, please click and subscribe and we’ll see you next time. Thank you very much for listening.

Announcer: Thank you for tuning in to I Am a Mainframer. Liked what you heard? Subscribe to get every episode or watch us online at Until next time, this is the I Am a Mainframer podcast, insights for today’s mainframe professionals.