New Conference Riveted on RPG and DB2 Education
January 29, 2007 Dan Burger
Not everyone believes that continuing education and training is necessary or that it provides a return on investment to businesses that emphasize it with their IT staff. That’s an unfortunate reality in today’s workplace that is more prominent today than it was 10 or 20 years ago. At the same time, the opportunities for those seeking to expand their abilities and add value to themselves as employees have more choices than ever before. It’s as true in the System i world as anywhere else. For some folks, it’s not a matter of whether to get more education, but which choice to make in going after it.
Jon Paris and Susan Gantner have been instructors in the System i community long enough to recognize the changes that have occurred in technology and in the perceived value of training and education. If you know anything about Paris and Gantner, you know they have long-standing reputations as RPG experts and educators on that topic. They are also entrepreneurs. RPG training is their business.
“Susan and I have been appearing at seven U.S. conferences (national conferences as distinguished from regional or local) each year for some years,” Paris says. “Add to that about eight or so large user group events and 20 or so private classes each year and it adds up to quite a large number of students–tens of thousands over the course of time.”
Obviously, this husband-and-wife RPG tag team is not new to this field.
What is new is an organization called System i Developer. Paris and Gantner, along with another RPG guru, Paul Tuohy, and one of the top DB2/SQL brains in the business, Skip Marchesani, are the backers of System i Developer, a company that plans to organize training and education forums that, they say, will complement events such as IBM‘s Tech Conferences, the COMMON user group, DevCon, and several other independent organizations, including conferences sponsored by local user groups. The folks at System i Developer believe their event fills a specific niche.
“The standard System i events have to dilute RPG and DB2 topics with coverage of system administration, Domino, Java, and other subject matter,” says Paris. “Several of us felt that the RPG and DB2 developers–the people responsible for the majority of mission-critical System i applications–were getting lost in the shuffle. We decided to do something about it.”
“The RPG & DB2 Summit grew from a realization that there was a need for smaller, shorter, and far more focused educational events alongside the more generalized conferences that offer a wide range of topics for a diverse audience,” Gantner says. “We still believe in and continue to support the more traditional conferences, because we don’t see them as our competition. We believe the real competition is ignorance and inertia.”
Complacency plagues many organizations that are running System i hardware. In a fast-moving world, it’s not hard to fall behind in terms of technology and skills.
“‘Good enough’ has become our own worst enemy,” is how Paris describes the pervasive attitude in many organizations. “Too many shops continue to use baler twine and chewing gum on their old RPG III applications because they are ‘good enough.'”
Gantner makes the point that “education is often the first expense on the chopping block and as a result there is far too little training of any kind available for many System i folks. RPG developers are often the last to get a chance to learn how to exploit the power of their language and database.”
With RPG and DB2 the sole focus, the crew at System i Developer is hoping its RPG and DB2 Summit will become the conference of choice for both individuals and organizations that believe in maximizing these particular skills. Paris says the Summit will combine “a rigorous RPG and DB2 curriculum, a focus on practical skills that can be immediately applied to a developer’s daily work, accessible instructors, and plenty of opportunities to network.”
RPG programmer skills have changed greatly through the years. As Gantner points out, “today’s RPG language, when utilized to its fullest, is barely recognizable as the same language that many people learned to use on the System/36 or System/38.” The agenda at the RPG and DB2 Summit, she emphasizes, is “focused on modernizing application development techniques, tools, and practices that exploit all that RPG and the System i has to offer.” In other words, the System i and RPG have evolved well beyond their limits of 5, 10 or more years ago. In many instances, the skills have kept pace with the capabilities.
The way the Summit will be organized and presented, Gantner says, is based on experiences and lessons learned while she and Paris participated in and staged other conferences over the years. “Our conference format acknowledges that people learn in different ways–by hearing and seeing, by doing, and by talking to others in similar roles,” Gantner says.
The Summit begins March 20 at the Palace Station Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. The keynote speaker will be George Farr from the IBM Toronto Labs, and the agenda includes four simultaneous educational tracks–three with an RPG focus and one devoted to DB2 and SQL topics. Other guest speakers include IBMers Shantan Kethireddy and Tom McKinley, and iSeries Innovation Award winner Scott Klement. Two half-day workshops–one with an RPG focus and the other featuring SQL–are scheduled for March 19. They are separate from the Summit agenda and set up for the day before the main conference begins.
In addition to the session topics that that were chosen for their specific value to RPG and DB2 developers, Gantner believes the networking opportunities will make this conference special. “Due to the focused nature of the event, you know the other developers you meet are working in the same general arena as yourself and facing many of the same challenges,” she says. “Peer exchanges are far more valuable in this environment and often last long beyond the conference.” One of the guarantees she makes is that instructors will “share the conference with the attendees. They will be approachable and available in and out of sessions–during conference meals and breaks.”
The advance registration fee for the Summit is $950. That offer expires February 10. After that date the registration price becomes $1,150. The fee for a half-day workshop is $175. Hotel rooms are priced at $89 per night.
You can register online for the RPG & DB2 Summit now.