OCEAN Conference Emphasizes Higher Education, Lower Fees
June 1, 2009 Dan Burger
Let’s begin by saying IT training and education programs increase production. Measuring increases isn’t as easy as measuring widgets produced in a factory each year, but employee production is quantifiable. Those who believe training doesn’t have a strong return on investment can’t be looking at their ROI on employees without training. The frequent excuse that training is expensive is why the OCEAN User Group of Southern California has slashed the registration fee for its annual technical conference to $120 for members and $220 for non-members.
The conference is a one-day event with a schedule that allows attendees to take up to five classes with a range of topics that include RPG, Web development, IT management, business intelligence, security, PHP, EGL, XML, and both i and AIX infrastructure. There are 40 sessions, a professional development keynote address by IBM, and a vendor expo with 30 companies participating. The event is scheduled for Monday, July 20, at the Hyatt Regency in Irvine.
Bob Langieri, president of OCEAN, told me that in planning for the conference the user group, he took a hard look at the economic climate. “This is a major commitment and the main source of income for the organization that allows us to bring in speakers throughout the year,” he says. “We have to stick with this, even though conferences aren’t drawing as many attendees as they have in the past.” (COMMON and other recent educational conferences have had attendance cut by approximately 50 percent in 2009.) “We felt we had to lower the price. If by lowering the fee, we can get more people, it will work in our favor. Our mission is education, and I think this is a critical time for members to get their skills up to date.” The registration fee was $275 in 2008.
Langieri describes the working environment in IT today as being far different than the environments of 10, 20, and 30 years ago. Skills that were learned then lasted much longer. Now if you haven’t stayed current with skills, the company is at a disadvantage in the global market and job security for IT professionals is at risk.
Companies that used to rely almost 100 percent on the AS/400 are more multi-platform than ever. They are supporting applications that are developed in a variety of environments. A developer with a single skill is not as productive as one with multiple skills, particularly in areas such as VB.Net, Oracle, PHP, SQL, business intelligence, and Web services. And that list can easily be expanded to include LPARs, AIX, Unix, and Linux.
In the current issue of the OCEAN User Group newsletter, Langieri wrote an article titled Whose Career is it Anyway, which expanded on his thoughts about investing in IT education. You can find it on the OCEAN Web site by clicking on the “Latest Newsletter” link.
Bob Tipton has been plugged into the IT industry for many years and has especially strong connections within the AS/400 community. His focus as a consultant, educator, and author is on organizational transformation, which, in his words, involves “improving the way businesses operate, the way people interact, and how technology is an enabler to all of that.” His keynote presentation at the OCEAN tech conference will examine innovation as a means to keep competitive edge.
“That, by nature, means looking at things a little differently and considering different options and possibilities,” Tipton says. Organizations change or transform one person at a time. “There’s no magic pixie dust that can be spread over an organization that can make the people change. You need to focus on the people, and then the organization changes.”
The business world has been noticeably changing since the arrival of the 21st century. Organizations need to adapt to the changes and the individuals employed at those organizations need to adapt as well. This is particularly true in IT, which is at the epicenter of the transformation.
“In order to remain relevant and employed in this market requires thinking like you are a product instead of an entitled IT person with a long history with a particular platform or technology,” Tipton advises.
It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee. Whether you are managing a department or managing your career, it’s not getting any easier. Your job is difficult and it is competitive. This is no time for cruise control.
“You have choices,” Tipton says. “You can continue to do what you have always done and fight it out or look to be innovative and keep your edge. Innovation is important no matter what you are doing–whether you are an RPG programmer or President of the United States.”
At the core of Tipton’s message is basic competency. Being competent requires the ongoing acquisition of skills and putting them into practice. It requires desire and discipline on an ongoing basis. You can see how this applies on an individual basis, but it also applies to managing a staff and creating an environment conducive to this.
“A lot of people think they are not creative and therefore cannot be innovative,” Tipton says. “Innovation, like anything else, has a process associated with it. There are steps, tools, and approaches that can be learned. You can learn to be innovative.”
Unfortunately, you can also learn to stifle creativity and idea generation. It’s often mentioned by both employees and employers when asked about frustrations in the workplace and obstacles to progress. Often ideas are not encouraged or are not offered because it puts people in a situation that is different than the way things have been done before.
Attending a one-day conference is not a game-changer. It won’t immediately make anyone a subject expert or a fountain of creative thinking any more than one trip to the gym will prepare someone for a triathlon. But as Langieri says, this is a “jumpstart” to the things that will pay off.
And speaking of pay off, the $120 registration offer is only available until June 30. After that, the fee is $220 for members and $320 for non-members.
A complete list of session abstracts and a roster of speakers is available on the OCEAN Web site by following the “Technical Conference” link.