IBM i Pros Available for Hire from Programmers.io
May 10, 2023 Alex Woodie
If you’re looking for someone with IBM i and RPG skills to help modernize your applications or just to keep the lights on, you might want to consider Programmers.io. You might never have heard of it, but the Texas-based company has been in the IBM i consulting business for over a decade and has built up a considerable force composed of hundreds of IBM i experts.
Programmers.io is an IT services and software development firm that employs over 600 engineers in the U.S. and India, about 280 of which are skilled in IBM i or RPG. The company got its start about 10 years ago when a Fort Worth, Texas-based ERP conglomerate found itself with an acute need for IBM i programming talent to handle a modernization project for a newly acquired project.
Anshul Choudhry spotted an opportunity in IBM i space. Existing IBM i developers were retiring, and the younger generation was not ready to learn old text-based languages. This left many organizations with critical systems that needed support and a shrinking US talent pool from which to hire. Choudhry decided to start a staffing organization that could leverage the subcontinent’s vast technical talent.
Choudhry was determined to optimize the experience customers had with IT development outsourcing. He was born in India, but he spent 20 years in the US and gained an appreciation for American ideals of customer service, says Kip Kugler, Programmers.io’s senior vice president of sales.
Choudhry admired American companies that prided themselves on customer service and offered service and product guarantees. “He wanted to offer high-quality software development at an affordable price. But he also wanted to build a company that offered exceptional customer service and a Costco- like satisfaction guarantee,” Kugler tells IT Jungle.
That approach is working. Programmers.io has grown quickly over the past few years after expanding to Canada, the UK, and the EU. After reaching the 300-employee milestone in 2018, it took just three more years to hit 500, and in 2022, it was named an Inc. 5000 business.
While the bulk of the company’s engineers work in mainstream technologies like .NET, Java, and PHP, about 40 percent are experts on IBM i, according to Kugler. Most of the company’s IBM i experts live and work in India, where Programmers.io Vice President of Technology Nirmal Khatri has built a solid training organization that has been remarkably effective at creating new IBM i programmers.
Khatri works with 25 Indian colleges to identify graduates for a future career in IBM i, and then trains them on RPG and IBM i technologies and concepts, Kugler says. There is a solid pipeline of candidates available for training, and the result is the company mints five to 15 new IBM i staff members every month, he says. “He’s phenomenal,” Kugler says of Khatri.
Programmers.io’s work with young IBM i talent has been so successful that it has dominated the “Fresh Faces” program that IBM and TechChannel have been running for the past few years. Around half of the Fresh Faces (now called “Rising Stars”) in recent years have been Programmers.io employees. Th company has a total of 11 Rising Stars (not including Khatri) listed on its website.
“It’s just one of those things that nobody seems to really notice until we point it out,” Chatten says. “But for the last two or three years, we’ve [had] a pretty significant number because we’re bringing in the college graduates and then bringing them into the iSeries environment.”
Under Choudhry’s leadership, the company has been successful in growing its IBM i business, and today it has about 150 customers on the IBM i platform, Chatten says. Programmers.io staff members are available on a contract or a contract-to-hire basis, and can work on a range of projects, ranging from program maintenance and Web development to ERP migration and full-bore modernizations.
The company is structured to deliver customer satisfaction while helping the next generation of engineers gain experience and ensuring redundancy. While an IBM i client may get one or two Programmers.io staff members on a contract basis for a certain period of time, those staff members are backed by others Programmer.io employees that work behind the scenes, Kugler says.
“That’s the billable portion,” he says. “Underneath that, there’s a partial team lead and a partial shadow that are non-billable. These guys are shared across multiple accounts and it’s kind of a training ground.”
The shadow resources are typically less experienced technologists who monitor projects and learn from more senior engineers, Kugler says. If an engineer is unavailable, the junior engineer may be asked to step in for a short period of time.
“This is part of the training process too, so we’ll hire a bunch of freshers and then they are involved for two or three years before they become a dedicated programmer as a junior,” he says. “This way, they’re going to see multiple accounts, multiple projects that help with documentation. So it’s a training ground and it’s redundancy for the client. It just works really, really well.”
The approach seems to be working for Programmers.io, which exhibited at the recent COMMON POWERUp 2023 conference in Denver, Colorado. The need for more IBM i professionals to take the place of retiring or expiring Baby Boomers was a topic of discussion at the show, as IBM i shops scramble to ensure continuity for the platform.
Organizations that have had negative experiences with offshore workers in the past may be surprised by what they find with Programmers.io, Kugler says.
“Some people that have worked with offshore teams, they’re leery or they’ve got concerns,” he says. “We don’t bill until they’re happy. So for the first 30 days, we’ll get going and we give each other a chance to kind of feel each other out. If they like us, we’ll send an invoice and keep going. If not, then they can keep whatever we built for them, and we move on.”
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The one frustration I have with Programmers.io is that multiples of their recruiters will contact me for the same opportunity. Also, in my experience with them, the front-line recruiters are all from India, and English is definitely not their native tongue. One was so bad, I could only communicate via email with him.
Programmers.io is thrilled to announce the launch of our Virtual Lunch and Learn Sessions for IBMi experts in the USA! Join us as we explore cutting-edge technologies, share best practices, and provide invaluable insights on IBMi programming. Our sessions are specifically designed to help you stay up-to-date with the latest trends and tools in the industry, and enhance your skills and knowledge.
I am all excited to attend the lunch and learn sessions for IBMi experts.