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NIU student tops 4,900 competitors to win IBM Master the Mainframe title

March 17, 2015
Kevin Matesi

Kevin Matesi

NIU graduate student Kevin Matesi will be honored in New York this month as the winner of the 2014 IBM Master the Mainframe contest.

Matesi, of Wauconda, edged out nearly 4,900 competitors in the annual contest that challenges students to demonstrate their mainframe computer programming abilities.

“I couldn’t believe it at first,” said Matesi, who will graduate in May with a master’s degree in computer science. “It’s always satisfying to be recognized for your hard work, but it takes it to another level when it’s an (information technology) giant like IBM.”

To earn the top spot, Matesi advanced through each of the contest’s three rounds. Of the thousands of students who initially entered the contest, only 66 participants made it to the final round.

Geoffrey Decker, instructor in the Department of Computer Science, said in a world where a majority of professionals consider mainframe computer programming inelegant and out of style, Matesi embraces it.

“In the course of his graduate work in computer science, Kevin completed three exclusively mainframe programming classes,” Decker said. “He has the intelligence to assimilate what he learned in these classes, and he put that knowledge to work to take first place in a very important, extremely competitive and internationally-recognized mainframe programming contest. Kevin is the proverbial hot commodity in a world of shrinking – and retiring – mainframe professionals.”

IBM Destination z logoMatesi joins a number of NIU alumni who have demonstrated their mainframe acumen.

Since the first IBM Master the Mainframe contest in 2005, NIU has had two other first-place winners, and many students who finished within the top five.

“The success of NIU’s mainframe program is evident in our graduates who now work all around the world and have moved or are moving into management positions as older mainframe programmers and managers are retiring in great numbers,” Decker said. “The opportunities are certainly out there for those interested in mainframes.”

Matesi is currently interviewing for his post-college career, and he credits NIU for preparing him to achieve his goals.

“NIU has been pivotal in my pursuit,” Matesi said. “They have a great program here, and I owe a great deal to my professors. It’s always great to learn from someone who not only has extensive knowledge of the subject matter they’re teaching, but also has the career experience and passion to teach it. I always felt engaged in the material, and they created a comfortable environment where I could approach them with any questions I had.”

Matesi will travel Monday, March 23, to Poughkeepsie, N.Y., to tour the IBM facilities and be honored at an award ceremony.

by Jane Donahue