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Partner TechTip: In Tough Economic Times, How Can You Get Training?

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In the current recession, education is often the first thing cut from the budget. We find this reaction not only shortsighted but completely insane.


We at System i Developer are professional educators in the business of training IBM i developers via both onsite classes and conferences such as the upcoming RPG & DB2 Summit. We also have years of experience working with companies that have excellent ongoing training programs and companies that don't, and we've seen the differing degrees of success of those companies.


So how can you get training for yourself or your staff when the times are against you? The first step is to be able to articulate the payback.

For the Organization

If you're an IT manager, continually training your staff isn't a luxury. It is essential for both staff retention and profitability.


According to HR Magazine (Susan J. Wells, 4/19/2001), companies in the top quarter in training expenditure per employee average 24% higher profit margins than those that spend less. A case study done at Motorola showed that every dollar spent on training paid back $30 in productivity gains within three years. That's an ROI that any company should embrace! An IBM white paper offers more ROI information. 


It makes sense. Productivity gains derived from using advanced tools—such as modern IDEs, SQL performance monitors, or modern RPG and SQL coding techniques—allow you to get much more done with the staff you have. Plus, you are more likely to deliver applications that make everyone else in the organization more productive, increasing the company's profitability.


You also need to ensure that your valuable developers stay with you. The cost of replacing a skilled developer is many times higher than the cost of training. Although training your developers is no guarantee they will remain with you, research by the American Society for Training & Development suggests that companies with excellent training programs have only a third of the number of employees who plan to leave within a year compared with companies with inadequate training.


Besides, as Zig Ziglar says, "What's worse than training your workers and losing them? Not training them and keeping them." 


Your business needs your developers to be the absolute best at what they do.

For the Individual

How many new tools, languages, and techniques have you learned in the last five years? A common answer is, "None. My company won't pay for education." In that case, you might consider leaving this article on your manager's desk! 


We think it's even more important to ask, "Whose career is it?"


It is certainly shortsighted for your management to refuse to train you. But isn't it at least as shortsighted to leave your career in the hands of the company? If the last few years of downsizings and offshoring have taught us anything, it should be that it is a rare company that puts loyalty to employees as a top priority.


You need to ensure that your skills are up to date to protect yourself against downsizing. And should you still be unfortunate enough to lose your job, training makes you far more employable. Faced with 20 candidates equally skilled in RPG, DDS, and CL, which do you think a prospective employer would select? The one who also knows newer technologies and has an online IBM i application that demonstrates those skills? Or the candidate who has spent the last 15 years developing 5250 applications in warmed-over RPG III?


What skills should you have as a minimum?

  • Modern RPG IV—subprocedures, use of C and Java functions from RPG, embedded SQL, XML processing, etc.
  • Modern development tools such as IBM's RDi
  • A modern Web programming language such as PHP, Java, or .NET, plus the ability to interface them with RPG business logic
  • HTML, CSS, and JavaScript


One of the great things about many of these modern technologies is that they can be installed on your PC. You are not dependent on someone loading software on your IBM i. Education is also readily available in all of these areas.

Don't Delay

Whether you are an employer or an employee (perhaps even unemployed), training is critical to your future. The uncomfortable truth is that you are responsible for making it happen. Yes, we would love to have you attend the Summit or invest in onsite classes, but there are many other ways to get educated. Whatever you choose, don't wait. Your future starts today.




Jon Paris and Susan Gantner

Jon Paris's IBM midrange career started when he fell in love with the System/38 while working as a consultant. This love affair ultimately led him to joining IBM.


In 1987, Jon was hired by the IBM Toronto Laboratory to work on the S/36 and S/38 COBOL compilers. Subsequently, Jon became involved with the AS/400 and in particular COBOL/400.


In early 1989, Jon was transferred to the Languages Architecture and Planning Group, with particular responsibility for the COBOL and RPG languages. There, he played a major role in the definition of the new RPG IV language and in promoting its use with IBM Business Partners and users. He was also heavily involved in producing educational and other support materials and services related to other AS/400 programming languages and development tools, such as CODE/400 and VisualAge for RPG.


Jon left IBM in 1998 to focus on developing and delivering education focused on enhancing AS/400 and iSeries application development skills.


Susan Gantner's career has spanned over 30 years in the field of application development. She began as a programmer, developing applications for corporations in Atlanta, Georgia, and working with a variety of hardware and software platforms. She joined IBM in 1985 and quickly developed a close association with the Rochester laboratory during the development of the AS/400 system. She worked in Rochester, Minnesota, for five years in the AS/400 Technical Support Center. She later moved to the IBM Toronto Software Laboratory to provide technical support for programming languages and AD tools on the AS/400 and iSeries.


Susan left IBM in 1999 to devote more time to teaching and consulting. She co-authored one of the most popular System i Redbooks ever, Who Knew You Could Do That with RPG IV? She and partner Jon Paris make up Partner400, a consulting company focused on education and mentoring services related to application modernization. Susan is also part of System i Developer, a consortium of top educators on System i technology who produce the RPG & DB2 Summit events. Its members include Jon Paris, Paul Tuohy, Skip Marchesani, and Susan Gantner.



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