The Next Performance of Dawn May
September 26, 2018 Alex Woodie
Growing up on a farm in southern Minnesota, Dawn May had dreams of moving to the big city. But life has a funny way of changing the best laid plans, and May ended up spending decades working at IBM’s lab in nearby Rochester. After retiring from Big Blue earlier this year, May is set to start the next phase of her career as an independent consultant.
May moved out of Rochester in 2011, but even then, she never expected to stay in southern Minnesota for so long. “As a farm girl, I always wanted to move away and become a city girl,” she tells IT Jungle in her first interview since leaving IBM and founding her own company.
After graduating from Bemidgji State University in northern Minnesota, she was looking forward to seeing more of the world’s urban areas, but fate had another thing in mind. As May tells it, IBM Rochester recruited her right out of college, and “I ended right back where I came from!”
That’s not such a bad thing for anybody who’s worked with May over the years and witnessed her devotion to her job and the platform that she’s been connected to for nearly her entire professional career. She joined IBM in 1981, and her first development project at IBM in the mid-1980s was Silverlake, which culminated with the launch of the AS/400 in 1988.
May held numerous engineering positions over her 36 years with IBM. One of the earliest jobs was with working on the AS/400’s X.25 and SNA networking stack, and at one point, she held an IBM i business architect title with responsibility for the core operating system. She also was the technical program manager for IBM Lab Services’ Performance and Scalability Services Center, and most recently was the advisor to Large User Group (LUG), the COMMON Americas Advisory Council (CAAC), and the COMMON Europe Advisory Council (CEAC).
Those last two jobs – fixing IBM i performance issues and liaising with users – would do much to inform the next stage of her career as the owner and operator of Dawn May Consulting, LLC, which May runs from her new location in New Hampshire.
May’s plan has coalesced around two main forks: consulting with IBM i shops to track down and fix performance issues on the one side, and educating IBM i users through teaching and speaking engagements with local user groups in the Northeast and IBM i Competence.
“Doing that constant customer-facing work [with LUG, CAAC, and CEAC] was a large part of the decision to go on the other side of the coin,” May says. “I’m available, and if people are interested in having me help them out, I’m more than willing to do so.”
While the IBM i has better work management functions than other platforms, keeping systems running efficiently can be a challenge, particularly for bigger shops that are heavy into virtualization and are utilizing more of the server’s resources. Deducing root causes of tough performance issues is May’s specialty, and she’s now offering those services to any IBM i shops around the world (for a certain fee, of course).
“In my experience, it’s different for every client I’ve worked with,” she says. “Every client has something unique.” While smaller IBM i shops can have all the tools they need to track down performance issues (if they have them) right in the operating system, bigger shops with tougher performance issues need an extra set of tools. May is an expert in wielding those tools, in particularly the job wait resources.
“Nobody else has this. It’s IBM i-patented architecture and it’s extremely powerful in being able to identify why you have performance issues that are not related to CPU issues,” she says. “I really like working with job wait data and reviewing what’s happening on the system, because you can get great insights into the details of what every job in the partition is doing. It’s fabulous.”
In addition to flying around the world fixing IBM i shops’ performance issues, May has plans to hit the local speaking circuit in the Northeast this fall, including a series of presentations at the COMMON 2018 Fall Conference and Expo, which will be held October 15-17 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
In early October, May will be a host on a COMMON webinar on performance management topics, while in mid-November, she will be speaking at three Northeast user groups, including FASUG, LISUG, and NESTU, in three days.
She is also gearing up to offer private educational sessions to groups of employees through IBM i Competence, which was founded by Power Systems Champion Torbjörn Appehl earlier this year. And she’ll also continue to write her technical tips column at IBM Systems Magazine too.
These are big changes for the farm girl from southern Minnesota, who is now getting her first taste of professional freedom after a full and successful career at IBM. May is still getting acquainted with life outside of IBM, but now that her company has launched, she’s ready for new adventures.
“At first it was very scary. I didn’t know what I really wanted to do,” May says. “I just decided that I had a long career with IBM and I wanted to be my own boss, to do what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it, and that’s really the ultimate factor that led me to choose to do my own thing.”
You can access May’s new company website at https://dawnmayi.com.