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Common board member: x86-based education threatens System i

IBM System i user group Common welcomes Bob Krzeczowski to its board of directors as a newly-elected member. Bob has been a volunteer with Common as a speaker and a member of the Education Team for over 15 years. In this email Q&A, he discusses how System i can remain competitive in today's businesses.

What informed your decision to run for a position on the Common board of directors?
I have been a long-time volunteer at Common and my time as the Education Manager was nearing an end – it is a time of change at Common. There are very exciting things going on in the education area, and there are new opportunities being created for great learning experiences for the Common membership.

We need to get the word out that System i skills are skills worth learning.
Bob Krzeczowski,

The Leadership and Advocacy Group is working hard to strengthen and revitalize Common's position in the community; the Community and Networking team is putting the word out about the System i and Common. I wanted to continue to be a part of all this – I think my experience in the organization and the community can help Common in these new initiatives.

I am passionate about working with the membership to revitalize what it means to be a Common member. For the short term I think revitalizing the Advocacy and Leadership of Common in the community is a must. We can then work in the long term to create new ways to push Common out to the community, making the System i community members feel that belonging to Common is the best way to participate in the community. In what way do you see yourself reaching these goals, and what are the challenges?
I believe one of my strengths is in my understanding of not only the technical side of the IT industry, but also my understanding of the way in which technology integrates into the business needs of companies. There are many reasons a company will invest in a particular hardware and software product, only one of which is superior technology. These additional factors are just as important to the decision process. We really need to continue to get the message out about the "all everything machine."

I see companies who have System i technology in house, and due to a lack of understanding of the capabilities of that technology, management makes decisions to go in a direction away from the System i. In some cases it is the system administrators and programmers themselves that allow this to happen because they are caught up in the "I've always done it this way" mentality. They do not expand their knowledge, nor educate the decision makers, in the newer capabilities of the System i hardware or the newer software development capabilities of the System i. We need to change this and I'd like to help. What sorts of developments do you see getting more attention on the System i platform?
I think there is a truth that is beginning to take shape in the IT community which recognizes the high level of complexity and volatility in the server-clustered environments we have created. The recognition of the simple elegance of consolidation of solutions that the System i offers to business is again being recognized.

This is not a "server consolidation" issue as much as it is "tool consolidation." The ability to provide a business solution by using the extensive toolkit that the platform provides is getting more and more recognition. This can be accomplished on the System i without sacrificing "modernized" development. It can also be accomplished without building solutions using piecemeal components that we see in a lot of "server farm" environments. This is no secret to the System i community, we need to foster this understanding in the broader IT community. Does the System i community need to worry about an eventual labor shortage as younger generations of technologists and programmers are cutting their teeth on x86 servers?
I believe it is something to worry about – for two reasons. First, there is definitely the "what I know is what I use" situation that we are all aware of. If young people are taught that these x86 servers are the only technology that is worth learning, then that is what they will know and that is what they will use.

IBM addresses this issue in their education partner program. Common, including the entire System i community, needs to address this in our educational institutions. There are institutions that have dropped their System i-based education programs because of a lack of students signing up for the classes. We need to get the word out that System i skills are skills worth learning.

The second reason that this manifests itself is when a company does not "modernize" its approach to using its System i technology. They will have a difficult time attracting employees that will join and stay with the organization if they do not feel they are learning and using skills that are of value to them for the long haul. Managers, system administrators, programmers and system architects in companies that sit content using 10-year old techniques need to be educated to the fact that there are more reasons than just "using the latest and greatest" to the modernization issue. What sorts of software, programming strategies or app development projects have you been working on lately?
Lately, I have found myself working on several e-commerce projects. Some of these projects are in the traditional ANSI EDI arena, and some are using XML-based data exchanges. That's right -- I said EDI. The rumors of its demise have been greatly exaggerated over the years. Also, I've been working on some Web services-based projects. All of these are on i5 platforms. How about that! Anything else you'd like to add?
I want to thank the Common members for putting their trust in me. I look forward to the challenge of the board and to the challenges and rewards we face in the future of Common.

If I can add one last thing, please go out and support the System i community however you can. If you have a local user group, support it and get involved. On a broader scale, if you are a Common member get involved, or back involved. If you are not a Common member, find out about the organization. Remember, it is the participation of the members of a group like Common that make it strong and vibrant.

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