ECU students make career connections at IBM event

Alex Vilkomir, a graduate student at East Carolina University, listens to speakers during the IT Career Connection event.

Students interested in careers in information technology gathered for the first IBM IT Career Connection event Saturday at the Murphy Center at East Carolina University.

The College of Engineering and Technology along with ECU Career Services helped put on the event that focused on mainframe computing.

“The IT landscape is changing,” Dr. Harry Ploehn, dean of the college, told students in his greeting. “It’s banks. It’s insurance. It’s revenue. It’s more than just IT.”

As such, representatives from banks such as Wells Fargo and First Citizens attended the event, looking for students to take internships and to choose their companies for their future careers.

“We need people we can bring in and train,” said Annette Stanley of Wells Fargo. “We desperately need them.”

Annette Stanley, of Wells Fargo, talks about mainframe computer applications.

The employers explained that businesses that have mainframe computers have an aging workforce that will be retiring soon, creating jobs for those who want them.

“You have a unique opportunity in front of you,” said Jessie Harris, a senior talent acquisition consultant with First Citizens.

And for anyone thinking that mainframe computers are old-fashioned, think again. Harris said about 95% of debit and credit card transactions go through a mainframe computer.

“The general perception is that mainframe is some old, dusty machinery in the corner that nobody wants to deal with,” Harris said. “The reality is that mainframes are not going anywhere. It’s probably the most powerful piece of computing hardware that’s out there, but it’s just not the sexy thing.”

Jeff Bisti from IBM said mainframe computers affect billions of people, providing not just a job for graduating students but a bright outlook for the future.

IBM’s Jeff Bisti speaks to students about careers in mainframe computing.

“The opportunity for advancement is huge,” he said.

Christy Schroeder, a Z skills offering manager with IBM, said the company’s clients are looking for “the talent to move their systems forward into the next generation.” She said the IT Career Connection — the first such event the company has put on — was designed to match those clients with students looking for careers.

“I want students walking out with opportunities to talk to employers about internships, co-ops and full-time jobs, and I want those employers to walk out knowing they have a pool of resources that they can tap into to fill their mainframe positions,” Schroeder said.

Schroeder said mainframe computers provide workers a job that is constantly evolving and changing, and one that is important to businesses.

“If you touched an ATM today, if you’re making airline reservations, if you booked a hotel, if you were shopping at one of the largest retailers in the world, those transactions are all going through a mainframe system,” Schroeder said. “That’s why it’s so vital to get the people to support these systems.”

The 50 or so students who attended the event had the chance to meet with employers as well as to put their mainframe computer skills to the test during a simulation.

“I’m still not sure about mainframe, but it’s interesting to see some of the old technologies that were around many years ago reappear now and are very popular again,” said Alex Vilkomir, an ECU graduate student who attended the event.

For more information, visit ECU Career Services at

About 50 students participated in the IT Career Connection event Saturday.

Dr. Harry Ploehn, dean of the College of Engineering and Technology, welcomes students to the IT Career Connection event.


— By Ken Buday, University Communications