Gifts You Can Give the IBM i Community

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This year, why not give a gift to others and contribute to the IBM i community?

It has been quite a while since I wrote about favorite gifts from IBM. A little over a year ago, I wrote gifts to give yourself. Now, in true trilogy form, because the best things come in threes, I am writing the last article in the gifts series. I guess that means I will need a new themed series.

Whether you realize it or not, you are part of a large, passionate ecosystem surrounding IBM Power Systems and IBM i. The issue we have as a community is that we have a very small group of people contributing to the future of the platform. My challenge to you this year is to give of yourself to better our community. So how can you contribute?

Well, I'm glad you asked! I hope that some of the ideas in this month's article will provide some inspirations.

Around the Office

Your own office environment is the obvious first place to look. If you're reading articles here on MC Press Online, chances are you're keeping your skills current. Are you sharing the knowledge that you gain? Be that team member who not only "knows everything" but also teaches everyone else. When you make those around you better, you become indispensable to the company. Job security through obscurity is a dead end.

Sharing your knowledge can also be the catalyst needed to start the conversation on application modernization. We all have scary code in our applications. Some shops just have more than others. Be the modernization champion for your shop. Talk to developers and managers about creating a modernization roadmap. The key is to remember that modernization is a journey, not a day trip. It's going to take time and planning. Someone needs to start that journey. Be that someone!

Hopefully, you have some young talent in your shop such as a junior developer or an intern. Be a mentor for that newbie. Take someone under your wing and teach them everything you know. Save them from the mistakes you've made in development. Trust me; they'll find new mistakes to make. Building the next generation of IBM i developers is good for your company and the community. If we want the platform to have a future, we must pave the way for it.

In the Classroom

When's the last time you contacted a local college or university? I mean other than to buy tickets for sporting events. Get involved! One of the highlights of my year is attending curriculum meetings at my local community college. As a member of the curriculum team, I can directly influence, within reason, what students learn in class. This helps to ensure that students graduate with skills important to my company. It also helps to keep IBM i in the curriculum at my local college.

I also enjoy speaking to students. Whether I'm speaking to an IT student organization or giving a lecture in the classroom, I find that I learn just as much about the students as they learn about the topic I'm presenting. If you really want to get the pulse of young developers, interact with them. You'll also get the chance to make connections that can lead to recruiting opportunities. Recruiting top talent is difficult; use these types of engagements to your advantage.

In the Community

I'm going to let you in on a secret, just between us. I didn't become an author, speaker, and "expert" because I'm the smartest IBM i developer in the world. At the age of 40, I still have much to learn! I became known in our community because I was willing to share. Our community needs more people willing to contribute their time and knowledge. There are many ways you can contribute. You simply need to find the one that fits you.

Have you considered presenting at industry conferences? If you have the gift of gab, this is a great way to get involved. Submit topics for conferences or even local user groups. I know that these venues are always looking for new speakers. Sure, we all want to attend sessions by the big-name speakers, but we also want to hear about successes in the real world. Have you recently completed a project of which you are particularly proud? Then share that story with others. Once you overcome the fear of public speaking, you will likely find it quite enjoyable.

If standing up in front of your peers is terrifying for you, don't despair. There are other ways to contribute. Are you a wordsmith? If you have a talent for writing, or just want to give it a try, start out with a blog. Get into the habit of posting to your blog regularly, and provide content you consider useful. There will be others who will find use in your knowledge as well. It could even lead to writing for MC Press Online!

The IBM i community is severely lacking in open-source contributors, but that's changing. There are more open-source projects on IBM i now than ever before. IBM is also bringing more open-source technologies to IBM i. For open-source projects to thrive, they need participation. They need people to contribute code, test new releases, give feedback, and submit new ideas. A successful open-source project takes on a life of its own. It's not meant to be simply consumed by everyone. Find a project that interests you and offer your time to help.

One of the simplest things that can be done to contribute to the community is to participate in conversations. There's a plethora of online forums where IBM i is discussed, both positively and negatively. Mailing lists, LinkedIn groups, Facebook, Twitter, and even comments on articles provide a forum for the discussion of all things IBM i. If you find misinformation being stated as fact, jump in and set the record straight. In some circles, IBM i has a stigma of being outdated and incapable of running modern workloads. Be the person to point people to information to the contrary.

Final Thoughts

Take some time this year to consider ways you can give a bit of your time and knowledge to make the IBM i community a better place. I hope that something in this month's article will inspire you to get involved. Without IBM i professionals willing to pass on their experiences to others, the new blood we desperately need will become harder to find. A community is made of people. Be sure to make our community welcoming and keep it passionate.

With that, I wish you all success and look forward to sharing my experiences with you this year.

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