This PowerUp blog post was written by Brian Lannoye, a programmer at Masters Gallery Foods Inc., in Plymouth, Wis. He’s been working there as a programmer on the IBM i platform since June 2010.
I recently had a conversation with my former ILE instructor, Jim Buck, and somewhere between subprocedures and sailboats we got onto the subject of schools (or lack thereof) teaching for the IBM i. Currently, 96 schools worldwide teach at least one course related to the IBM i platform, and of those only 44 are in the U.S., according to Peter Glass, program manager for Power Systems Academic Initiative.
In addition, many new ILE developers are not in their 20s. They are 35 to 45. They lose their job or change careers in their mid 30s, like me for instance, and are re-trained for the IBM platform. Some believe that our platform is on a slow decline to extinction. Let’s assume that’s true. What can the ILE developer do about it?
Everyone on this platform has a responsibility—a duty—to keep it alive and strong. To grow, not just maintain. To maintain something is just another way of saying you are delaying its inevitable demise. We have a unique platform that performs faster, is more reliable and easier to maintain than others. But like anybody, sometimes we can be slow to embrace change.
Build on IBM i’s Strong Heritage
Trevor Perry, an independent consultant who spoke at the iBelieve NY event last month, was quoted by IT Jungle as saying, "We (the IBM i community) have a very strong heritage, and sometimes people get our heritage confused with our future." In that same article Timothy Prickett-Morgan goes on to say, “We all need to learn new things that are part of the IBM i platform and make sure they actually get used solving real business problems. It is difficult, and frustrating. But it needs to be done.”
Is he right?
You bet he’s right! How many of you reading this refuse to use a microwave because the stovetop is good enough? How many of you are still driving the 1988 car of the year, the Pontiac Grand Prix, because those new cars have way too much technology? So why should we shut our minds to the latest and greatest IBM has to offer?
RPGLE has been around for nearly a decade. Why is it when I search for a solution on the Web, all I get is punch card RPG examples? I guarantee no 20-plus year old is going to be inspired by that. When they see a service program, the i equivalent of a .dll being used by four different programs, they will be more likely to see what we’re all about.
The same goes for the user interface. Who’s developing apps with a modern front end? Even on the green screen, where can we as developers improve the user experience? Programs shouldn’t be rigid and difficult to figure out. They should be intuitive. They should be designed for the novice and expert alike. If I have to read a manual every time I want to perform a task on an application, chances are I’m not going to use that app. On the other hand, once I understand the basics, I want to move on and start learning the shortcuts. The Windows world has been doing this for years, and there is no reason we can’t as well.
Bottom line is, even if you are a 64-year-old ILE developer who plans to retire next year, don’t ever give up. Make it a point to experiment. Try something new every day. What’s the saying? Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone? Coding in fixed? Try converting some of it to /free. Using SEU? Try Rational Developer for Power once a week. Building a work file? Try some SQL instead. Rational offers a great free SQL editor and database explorer called Data Studio. I’ve been using it since I started at Masters Gallery.
Still using subroutines? Try converting one to a local procedure. Add parameters to it, or have it return a value. Then convert it into a separate module, and bind it with the program. Get on the blogs and discussion boards and ask questions. Share your thoughts about what works for you and what doesn’t. By doing these things, you may help or inspire a new ILE developer.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, but Rome would have never happened if a whole lot of people didn’t take the steps necessary to grow.