IBM i Skill Building At The OCEAN
May 6, 2013 Dan Burger
Each summer, IBM midrange shops in Southern California mark the date on their calendars when the OCEAN User Group Tech Conference will be held. This year it is on Friday, July 19. For some shops, this training and education opportunity is exactly what’s needed: convenient and cost effective.
This year there are a total of six educational tracks and 30 sessions that include topics such as: power programming, Web programming, mobile and Web applications, infrastructure, SQL and DB2, IBM i modernization, and new technology. The subject matter experts who are leading these sessions are among the best and brightest in the IBM i community. A session grid can be reviewed here.
Christi Samo is the senior director of applications for large retail chain based Southern California. She manages a staff of 11 people who are cross-platform trained to work not only in the IBM i environment, but also with Oracle and Microsoft systems. She describes her department as a lean team where multiple platform skills are essential. People may not be hired with all those skills, but they are expected to acquire them.
That takes a willing-to-learn employee and a company that invests in IT skills.
“Training and education is important, but you have to have funding to back it up,” Samo says. “I have determined that the value we get from the OCEAN Tech Conference and the information our staff has access to is valuable compared to what it costs.
“We also take advantage of other training opportunities that are more application specific. We send people to vendor user group training ops. We send some staff to COMMON when possible–when our work schedules, the COMMON location, and our budgets are right for us.
“I encourage our staff to learn and enhance their skill sets and warn about becoming complacent. I want them to grow with the company and within the job. To do that, they know they have to grow their skill sets.”
Carole Comeau has run an IBM midrange-oriented employment agency in Southern California for more than two decades. She’s very aware of the skill sets that companies are requiring and the obstacles that job seekers face in the current market.
“Although some people see age as a barrier to getting a good job or a new job, I genuinely believe that it is not a matter of age, but a matter of energy, of keeping your skills up to date and constantly learning. Companies want to hire people who are flexible in what they can do–yes, two employees for the price of one–and individuals do a much better job of interviewing if they have the confidence that comes with having added a valuable and marketable skill to their repertoire. I have not seen a requirement for an RPG programmer in the last five years that does not ask for something else–HTML5, PHP, Java–in addition to RPG.”
On the efforts that go into producing the annual tech conference, Perry Mills, president of OCEAN, says the biggest challenge is finding companies that have not been involved with OCEAN and making them aware of the educational opportunities the user group makes available. Mills has worked on the IBM midrange platforms for more than 25 years and has been with OCEAN since its inception.
“We have a database of 800-some names. Many work at the same companies, so that’s different than 800 companies, but I know there are many more companies we are not reaching. I think we are hitting just a fraction of the people we could be hitting,” he says. “I’d like to see IBM help us out a little with this.”