The next generation of IBM i professionals

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Guest Blogger: Benjamin Newman

Supporting the next generation of IBM i professionals is important to LANSA. This post was written by Benjamin Newman, LANSA’s recent marketing intern, whom we met at a local IBM i event.  Ben describes his perspective of the IBM i community and the value of real-world work experience.

College students seek two outcomes in a career path; the opportunity to make a difference in the field and secure employment. When I graduated with my Associates degree and started working on my Bachelors in Computer Information Technology I was not sure where, in the tech industry, I would fit. Many people tried to steer me toward programming, due to my passion for efficiency and consistency. However, I wanted more interaction with people than I was told I would get as a programmer.

When my professor told me I should attend the Michigan IBM i and AIX Technical Education Conference (MITEC), I was introduced to the IBM i community. The IBM i is a platform that I had heard very little about, but quickly learned from attending the conference it runs so many of the world’s business and banking systems. I noticed that almost every program written for the IBM i is in a language that most recent college graduates don’t have exposure to or the opportunity to learn about. This not only impacts the employability of individuals like me, but also results in the potential for businesses to lose years of investment in business logic and in the code base as their programmers retire.

I felt at home at MITEC and realized my potential to contribute to the IBM i community. I could make myself valuable as an advocate for the IBM i by informing students of the opportunity the platform represents. And by exposing my fellow students to the IBM i, I would potentially help to expand the hiring pool that firms can choose from. I was entranced by the possibilities that the community and the platform presented after attending MITEC.

Being a part of the IBM i community is as exciting as it is daunting. There are many facets of the business world that soon-to-be-graduates have yet to learn. At the same time, there are few people our age who are in the field, and many organizations fear we lack experience. When we try to find openings in the IBM i community, the relative gap in experience with RPG and other languages shows through.

The easiest solution to this lack of experience is to get an internship with an organization that has experienced programmers proficient in working with the IBM i. When I looked for internships where I could begin to understand the needs of the community and businesses using the IBM i, many positions were full-time and required experience working in a production role with unfamiliar languages. Employers seem to feel a need to get young people onto the system, but are unsure of how to make the investment mutually beneficial.

Students want internships for real-world experience. We want to learn more about our declared field and what companies needs are before we jump into a full-time position. We want to understand the problems inside and out, and get a sense of where we may be able to contribute and move the business forward.  Of course, a paid internship also covers our noodles and rice and phones and car insurance – that’s all we need! After graduation, however, we feel the need to rush to get a job to pay back student loans or catch up on savings that we couldn’t do while in school. We want the security of working on a stable platform and for a good company.

I believe internships provide the opportunity for businesses to pick up the next generation of IBM i programmers, and the chance that many have yet to take. It’s hard to justify the extra expenditure, but it is a gamble businesses should take in order to get people, like me, interested in the platform and be able to perform in your company. I believe the IBM i community is what many college students are looking for; a place to make a difference for the better and be secure in their career.

Benjamin Newman

Author: Benjamin Newman

Benjamin Newman, LANSA’s recent marketing intern, supported the North America product and marketing teams.

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