This week's post is short as we had to finish it between flights on our way back from Stockholm to Toronto. We both feel wiped out and in need of a rest (although we have visitors arriving on Saturday so we won't get one). The last 10 days have been a great experience, but exhausting at the same time. Five days teaching to a North American audience is hard enough but to French and Swedish audiences for whom English isn't their first language, it is even harder. The Swedes in particular have excellent English skills, but you still have to pay more attention than usual to the words you use lest you stray too far into North American vernacular and leave the audience with blank stares on their faces.
Despite the tiredness it was a great trip and the audience at the Data3 event in Sweden was the largest they have had in many years. Close to 200 attendees as far as we can tell and the hotel and facilities were excellent. The numbers were all the more amazing when you consider that the organizing group consisted primarily of four people--four very hard working people! It shows that there still is a demand for education in RPG development skills--an area that sadly IBM still seems to neglect. The one comment we kept hearing over and over again was, "Why can't we have more of this kind of education?" Since we love Sweden we certainly have every intention of doing our best to fulfill that need and hope to return next year.
From what we can tell the RPG developers in Europe are facing all of the the same challenges as those in North America, and the shortage of younger IBM i developers is an ongoing problem for many of them. We have talked about this gap in the past, and really do believe IBM and the user group community should be working to address it. Seems to us that far more IBM i sites are in danger of being replaced these days due to a skills shortage than due to any perception of the platform being old. We know young Java, C# and PHP programmers can be successfully introduced to IBM i and RPG (the modern free-form kind, of course) and not only learn it but like it. We have taught several such groups ourselves and find it hard to understand why some management would prefer to consider a platform switch than attempt to train their own resources. This really is an area in which a group like COMMON could step in a work with IBM to develop the programmers of tomorrow. Perhaps training IBM i people would be a better first step than a certification program, which may be a bit of the cart before the horse. Have you trained newbies in your shop? If you have we'd love to hear about your experiences in the Comments section.
Gotta go catch a plane--more next week.