IBM i is unique in many ways, but the community that supports it really sets it apart.
My favorite part of having a regular column here at MC Press Online is that I have the opportunity to write about almost anything I like. Politics is a hot topic right now, but I simply will not go there. Instead, I want to focus on my favorite aspect of the IBM i, the people. Maybe it is because it is summertime and the sun is shining outside my office window, or maybe it is because conference season is in full swing. I just get excited when I have the opportunity to interact with other IBM i developers in person.
I’m just returning from the COMMON Annual Meeting in New Orleans. Overall, I think it was a great event. While I don’t have official numbers, attendance seemed better than previous years. Of course, I had the opportunity to catch up with old friends in the IBM i community. I also met many new faces at my sessions, in the expo, and just walking the halls.
I love conferences. In a world of digital interaction, there is still nothing that compares to looking someone in the eye and making a connection. I have made many connections over the years that have been invaluable, and they all started with a handshake and a conversation. In fact, my current job came from getting to know the people working for my company at conferences.
I have one more conference this summer. This one is in Southern California, and who doesn’t like SoCal in summer?
I wish I knew everything about IBM i development, but I don’t. Luckily, I learned from the best in our industry. In fact, I still do! No one knows every nuance of development on our platform. Lucky for all of us, those who are experts in certain areas of our industry, myself included, love to share knowledge with others.
I have some experience in different development ecospheres, and no other platform’s marquee names will go out of their way to answer your questions or teach you something new like ours will. In our community, you can go to an IBM i event and stop your favorite author, the lead developer of the RPG compiler, or even the Chief Architect of the operating system and pick their brain. I see it happen all the time. It happens to me all the time. We are happy to do it.
There are experts to be found virtually as well. IBM’s own RPG Café is a great place to look for answers. The mailing lists on midrange.com are another great resource. I follow many of these lists. Some lists, such as the RPG and Web Development lists, I contribute to. Others, especially the more hardware- and OS-related lists, I just read in order to learn. Both of these resources are free and full of useful knowledge.
The other part of the IBM i community that makes it great is you! The people of this community are unlike any other IT community in which I have been involved. IBM i professionals are passionate about our platform almost to a fault. They believe IBM i and RPG are ideal for business applications, and I agree. Many of you have spent your entire career building business applications. I bet many of those applications still run to this day. Some of those applications could use some modernization, but that is a topic for another day.
Most developers outside of the IBM i community don’t understand the pride that comes with building and maintaining an application for 10 or more years. They usually have to rewrite, or at least overhaul, their applications every so often because the new version of language X comes out and their code no longer works. Many know very little of business processes or how an industry works. They gather requirements and crank out code.
IBM i developers are usually experts in their business in addition to being programmers. Their employers often rely heavily on their knowledge of the business to help formulate solutions to business problems. This makes them valuable to the business.
A change is happening. I see it at every conference when I am presenting. I see it in my own office as I build my staff. I see it in discussion forums, emails I receive, and conversations with other IBM i experts. The new generation of IBM i developers is emerging. It has been a long time coming, and many have cried that it would never happen. It has. It is a wonderful thing.
It’s no secret that the average IBM i developer has been on the older side for a long time. Perhaps some have become content to just write applications the same way they always have. But more and more young developers are coming up in the ranks. Companies are going out and finding development talent and bringing them into the fold. With this new talent has come new ideas.
It’s a very exciting time! This is when the community will mold the next generation of IBM i professionals. If you are not involved in the IBM i community, get going! Start sharing your knowledge. Join discussion boards or mailing lists. Offer to speak at a local college about IBM i and the need for developers in the industry. Bring on interns or entry-level developers and teach them the system. The future is in your hands. Let’s get started!