We Are Filling Our Talent Pool Because Yours Is Going To Drain
June 21, 2023 Ron Venzin
Back in the early days of corporate computing, when it was called data processing, the people who managed and programmed what became known as IT systems came from all walks of life. More times than not, the VPDP – that’s Vice President of Data Processing, a title that predates the concept of Manager of Information Systems and was decades earlier than the idea of Chief Information Officer – often came from the accounting department. But the people who worked for the VPDP were a hodge-podge of smart and curious people looking for something new and interesting to do.
Here we are, at the other end of the Information Revolution, where the progeny of the AS/400, which is celebrating its 35th birthday today, are still running mission critical applications at somewhere around 120,000 companies worldwide. But we all know that the number of people retiring from the IBM i installed base is higher than the replacement rate of new people coming into the market. This gap will widen with time, we think, and is obviously not a sustainable over time and will compel the creation of managed service providers to fill in the gaps for system administration, security, and programming as companies find themselves unable to fill key positions in the IT departments to keep those IBM i platforms humming along.
There is a lack of young talent out there in the IBM i base because very few colleges and universities are teaching anything about the platform anymore, with some notable exceptions that not only bring fresh young faces with new ideas into the IBM i fold, but match them to jobs as well. We commend those efforts, but we can’t rely on these resources to fulfill our needs, and to that end we are cultivating our own talent so we don’t accidentally age ourselves out of the market. Focal Point Solutions Group, which is a growing MSP and hosting organization dedicated to the IBM i platform with auxiliary support for X86 systems and storage that these IBM i shops require, does not want its customers to worry about our company becoming a bunch of women and men who are 50, 60, or 70 years old some years hence.
To that end, we have created our own extensive internship program, taking people from other areas of expertise or adjacent IT markets and training them on coding on the IBM i platform, giving them expertise on its hardware and the monitoring and administration of the systems – using our own collection of tools created explicitly by us to automate many tasks so we can leverage a few people to cover many, many IBM i customers as is required by all cloud providers and MSPs these days.
In these intern programs, we have all kinds of people. One of our recent graduates of the program is a brilliant astronomy major who, as it turns out, has a knack for systems and likes this kind of work. As Disney says, you hire for attitude, not aptitude, because you can teach anyone who has the right attitude anything.
We value that, and we bring in young talent, we nurture these young techies in their 20s and 30s, and we develop them and we cross train them on the IBM i platform and our services. They become security specialists or storage specialists or hardware specialists or even Linux specialists, and so on. And that way we build and expand our talent pool so it can persist way out into the future. We are loyal to them, so they are loyal to us, and so far, the loyalty that our intern employees have shown is incredibly strong. Which is no surprise given the times and circumstances and the ability to be in a growing business that is actually helping companies worldwide keep their own businesses humming along.
The fact is, we all need people to run our IT systems, which are as complex as they are vital. Our tools can identify a problem, but you still need people to resolve that problem. And we don’t just want to be a bunch of grey hairs five or 10 years down the road ourselves. So we are grooming and developing our talent so we can keep pushing forward and expanding our business to meet what we think will be enormous demand.
We are at around 60 people today, and by this time next year, that will be up by somewhere between 50 percent and 100 percent, and it will keep growing from there. So far, we have five people who have gone through the intern program and we are adding a couple more who are going to graduate from it this year. And if you are interested, contact me at Focal Point Solutions Group. We would love to hear from you.
Ron Venzin is chief executive officer at Focal Point Solutions Group.
This content was sponsored by Focal Point.