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Blog | DEI | Diversity & Inclusion | Equity & Inclusion

My 360 Journey into the Mainframe World

By | September 15, 2023

Written by Yarille Ortiz Kilborn, Senior Project Coordinator at the Linux Foundation

I am Yarille, a Senior Project Coordinator at the Linux Foundation, working on the Open Mainframe Project. When I started working for the Linux Foundation, I didn’t expect to come full circle with my childhood.

I was an only child for most of my childhood. When I was four, my mother turned into a single parent. She was a hard-working mom and a network administrator working for a company that wrote computer programs for colleges and universities. She would take me to work with her on my days off of school.

I remember walking into the building in the very early morning. Before anyone was there, we would first stop in the breakroom for a cup of coffee. We then entered the “locked refrigerator room,” as I called it. It was a huge, bright room with rows of big machines. I always made sure to have a sweater on because it was so cold inside.

The refrigerator room was always loud, with a humming, buzzing sound. I remember the big machines having “wheels.” I would get so excited when she let me type commands for her on a computer and change the wheels on the device.

The machines I worked on as a child were IBM mainframes and DEC Vax systems. My mother also used to have me help her print reports and type in commands to back up the systems the programmers would use. I had no clue 

what I was doing, but I felt cool and important doing it. I loved days off from school because I loved getting coffee from the breakroom, I loved going into the refrigerator to change the wheels, and her coworkers always gave me candy, all things a kid liked. 

Helping my mother as a child made me want to pursue a career in programming. I just knew that it was a path that would always be useful and one that would be around for years to come. As I grew older, I deviated from my original plan. I began working for places like MLB and tradeshow management and became a Lobbyist. All of that still somehow brought me to where I am today. 

I have come 360. I have worked with the Open Mainframe Project for two years and deal with open source on the mainframe daily. In fact, earlier this week, I was at Open Mainframe Summit Las Vegas, which was part of Community Day for IBM TechXchange. 

From Zowe to COBOL, working with these projects brings all of those memories back. I knew I was right. Programming, coding in general, was a skill that would be essential for years to come because 35 years later, it is still around and a necessary element for innovation.

Today kicks off Hispanic Heritage Month, which is September 15-October 15. I am proud to represent Hispanic Women in technology and open source. When my mom started at her company, she was the only Hispanic woman. She was my role model and showed me the value of hard work and ethics. Now, I’m excited to pass that passion on to my daughters.