Learning From Experience
June 6, 2016 Dan Burger
I’ve got good news and bad news. I’ll give you the good news first. We’re never too old to learn something new. The bad news? Don’t ever expect to graduate. Learning is a never-ending process, or at least is should be. Taking breaks from learning is a good idea, but calling it quits is not. My mother used to tell me: What counts most is what you allow yourself to learn after you think you know enough.
While attending the COMMON Annual Meeting and Exposition a couple of weeks ago in New Orleans, I met with Kevin Mort and Manzoor Siddiqui. Mort is the immediate past president of COMMON and Siddiqui is the executive director. COMMON, as you may or may not know, is an organization for IBM i professionals. Officially it’s dedicated to IBM Power Systems professionals, but realistically it consists almost entirely of people with careers tied to IBM i. The ambition that pushes COMMON and most professional organizations can be summed up as more education for more people.
The more education part of the equation is the easy part. COMMON has plenty of volunteers who are willing to share their subject matter expertise with the IBM i community. The harder nut to crack is reaching more people. The total attendance figures for the past eight years have hovered around 1,000 to 1,100. That includes 60-plus vendors, most with two to four representatives and some with many more; 100-plus speakers; the volunteer workers; and, of course, those who are there for the continuing education. It’s not a large number compared to the 100,000-plus IBM i installed base.
COMMON wrestles with its goal of reaching more people.
One of its most successful strategies is the virtual conference it’s been organizing and presenting for several years. Attendance at the last virtual conference was more than 1,000. The next one is scheduled in three weeks on June 28. Another one is planned for the end of the year. The virtual conferences are free and COMMON membership is not required to register.
“It allows people who may not know about COMMON to come and see what we have to offer,” Siddiqui says. “It provides value, grows the community, and enhances the careers of our members, while being free for everyone in the IBM i community.”
Both Siddiqui and Mort believe the virtual conference is helping COMMON engage with IBM i professionals who are not members. Budgets for education and training and travel are not what they used to be. A virtual conference is a way to bring value to members as well as non-members who don’t attend the annual conferences. Some audience overlap occurs, but it’s relatively small, Siddiqui says.
One feature that’s been popular with the virtual conference is a chat function that allows attendees instant message with one another and with the session speaker.
The virtual conferences, along with a monthly schedule of webinars and webcasts, put educational programs in front of the COMMON membership (and sometimes the IBM i community at large) every month throughout the year.
Also on the schedule is the annual Fall Conference and Expo, which will be in Columbus, Ohio, October 24-26 this year.
During 2015 COMMON hosted two mini-conferences, one on open source topics and the other on systems management. Those two conferences are being combined at an event scheduled for July 13 and 14 in Chicago. A similar event is in the planning stages, but is expected to take place late this year, probably in December and probably in Southern California.
Bookmark the COMMON Events webpage to keep current on conferences, webcasts, and webinars and for more details.