COMMON Looking Youthful In 2017
May 15, 2017 Dan Burger
Professional organizations like COMMON exist to unite members, improve skills, provide information, encourage active participation, and promote professionalism. It takes more than meeting minimal requirements to stay on top of the fast-changing technology field and so agility is an attribute for COMMON.
For the coming year, the association has a few new focus items, a new president, and two new board members. At the Annual Meeting last week in Orlando, Florida, out-going president Jeff Carey and executive director Manzoor Siddiqui discussed plans to improve COMMON and the benefits it offers its members.
Personnel-wise Justin Porter is taking over as president. Porter is the youngest person to take the reins in as long as I can remember. He signals the importance of youth in an organization with a membership edging closer to retirement and light on youthful fresh faces. The two new board members are Charles Guarino and John Valance, a couple of in-betweeners on the age-experience continuum.
The complete board of directors includes Larry Bolhuis, Amy Hoerle, Yvonne Enselman, Jeff Carey, Randy Dufault, Gordon Leary, Steve Pitcher, Alison Butterill, and Siddiqui.
No one would disagree that COMMON and the IBM i workforce need a youth injection. A focus on students and the next generation of IT professionals is a wise directive.
“We see a growing need for basic IBM i education because there are people new to the platform. I think that has something to do with the average age of the people who work on the platform now. They are rolling out of the workforce,” Carey says.
To address that need, COMMON has designed boot camp education.
“We heard from our managers and directors that shops can’t get students fast enough,” Siddiqui says. “They can find good IT programmers and professionals, but sending them to conferences would be over their heads. This is designed to get those people unfamiliar with IBM i up to speed.”
The boot camp education is delivered online, so people won’t have to travel or be out of the office. It’s self-paced and includes course work on application development and system admin skills (separate boot camps for each). Both include video and practical exercises, with all the material released from the start rather than being released over a designated time frame.
The boot camp education will be available to COMMON members as well as non-members.
Through a tighter integration between COMMON and the COMMON Education Foundation (CEF), Siddiqui hopes to reach students early in their career development process. The supplementary education provided through the CEF will be valuable in the transition from school to working professional, he believes.
Although not tied to the Power Systems Academic Initiative, the boot camp program is being considered as a package available to college students. The Academic Initiative could be an important marketing conduit to colleges, Siddiqui says.
To bolster the efforts involving students, COMMON is pushing for an internship program funded by grants from the Department of Labor and other funding sources. Volunteers began this effort years ago. Now COMMON is expanding on it.
“We’ve met with several vendors who are excited about an internship program,” Siddiqui says, noting Rocket Software as expressing interest. “We expect to expand this through our vendor community and corporate member community.”
Another program at the top of the COMMON priority list involves an increased emphasis on member engagement. The organization has invested in technology called Cosmo, an engagement database powered by members’ interactions.
“We’ve had the information in the past, but this consolidates it,” Carey says. “We are better able to tailor things to the members based on what they want. It’s always been our intent to do that, but it was sometimes difficult because of the disparate places where information was stored.”
Registering for conferences, attending sessions, and maintaining memberships, for instance, will be done through Cosmo. Carey says it not only provides better organization and tracking capabilities for COMMON, members will benefit by our delivering more of what they need. We see what things individual members are interested in. We can tailor content accordingly and can customize content rather than deliver it as one size fits all.”
Cosmo will also benefit corporate members and user group members by making it easier for them to maintain their rosters.
Attendance at the COMMON 2017 Annual Meeting and Expo was reported as “just shy of 1,000, with no breakout of the vendor community from other attendees. The expo area included 62 vendors, which was an increase from a year ago.
COMMON membership is holding “pretty steady,” according to Carey and Siddiqui. “Over a 10-year period, it declined, with a big drop-off during the economic downturn. Since then, we have been more or less stable, Siddiqui says. “Pending retirements mean COMMON has to be proactive about getting the next generation involved.”