In Support Of IBM i Technical Competence
August 20, 2018 Alex Woodie
The lack of IBM i skills in the midrange community has been debated at great length, in this publication and other venues. Whether there’s a critical shortage of IBM i skills or not, nobody will argue with the fact that it’s important to keep one’s technical abilities up-to-date, which is the focus of a new educational outfit calling itself IBM i Competence that’s holding its first official event this week in Scandinavia.
IBM i Competence was founded by Power Systems Champion Torbjörn Appehl earlier this year with the goal of providing targeted educational sessions on specific IBM i topics for relatively small groups of people. The goal is to bring 20 to 30 people together for two, three, or four days, where they can get hands-on training on pertinent topics, such as programming with Rational Developer for i (RDi), free-form RPG development, SQL on IBM i, security, and systems management from the top experts in the field.
The first informal IBM i Competence course came together this spring after the COMMON Sweden event. The course was taught by RDi expert Charles Guarino on a cruise boat travelling between Sweden and Finland. “It was a fun one,” says Appehl, who also heads the COMMON Sweden user group.
This week’s event involves four days of education by Guarino, including two days in Stockholm, Sweden, and two days in Oslo, Norway. It will be followed in October by another two-day event in Sweden that features SQL on IBM i expert Birgitta Hauser of Germany. “She is a popular woman in Sweden,” Appehl tells IT Jungle. “I hope there will be a bunch of people.”
The goal of IBM i Competence (www.ibmicompetence.com) is to complement – but not attempt to replace – the education that IBM i professionals can receive at events like COMMON Europe and POWERUp, Appehl says.
“People should always go to conferences. That’s the big network, where they see new things, what they don’t know,” he says. “Maybe somebody goes go to POWERUP and attends Charles’ session. If you decide you want to spend more time on a topic and learn more, you can go to IBMicompetence.com and see if there’s a course available.”
Currently, there are 10 courses listed on the website. In addition to the courses by Guarino and Hauser, there are courses from Paul Tuohy, Mats Lidström, Dawn May, and Buur Rasmussen. Several other notable IBM i names have signed up to be trainers but haven’t been scheduled yet to teach any classes. Alan Seiden, of Seiden Group fame, is reportedly working with Appehl’s group, too.
Besides being the head of COMMON Sweden and an IBM Power Champion, Appehl isn’t closely affiliated with any particular group. He stopped working with ARCAD Software last year, and his current employer, the Canadian IT services giant CGI, has him focusing on compliance initiatives.
Appehl is using that freedom to put on courses with any IBM i educator anywhere in the world. “If there’s demand in Spain, I can work easily with IBM Spain,” he says. “We can do this everywhere.”
Appehl appears to take real enjoyment in pairing up top IBM i educators like Guarino and Hauser with folks who value the education and can put it to use at their jobs. “I work with the top speakers in the world,” he says. “I take the initiative, ask the teacher, put together the date, find the facilities, and make it happen. For me, it’s easy.”
Keeping midrange professionals up-to-speed with the latest technologies is an ongoing challenge. Appehl has heard business leaders lament the lack of people with IBM i skills, and use it as a reason to migrate off the platform. While few colleges teach IBM i skills today, that has always been the case, he says. “Then how we can find RPG developers?” he asks. “Just go find yourself a developer, teach him RPG. It’s not difficult. Kids in school learn how to learn new languages.”
The more people learn, the more they want to learn, he says. “Companies that know more keep the platform alive,” he says. “This is the most modern platform you can get. People don’t know that.”