Hey i5’er: Who’s in charge of your career?

I have been with “Zend”:http://www.zend.com for a little over six months now and boy has it been an exciting time. With the economy at near record peaks and valleys, the value proposition of Open Source solutions is stronger than ever. Both software vendors and SAAS providers are watching their balance sheets very closely. Today, more than ever, folks are taking a second and third look at Open Source solutions. Those that have been playing have a decided advantage. Those that are looking now are wise to explore what the community has to offer. Especially when you consider that you can take an open source application, load it on your Power i and be up and running in less than a day! Integration might take a little longer, but the trip gets a lot shorter as a result of running the solution on “Power i”:http://www.ibm.com/systems/i/ .

h1. Another Database?

When “IBM”:http://www.ibm.com/ first told me about the desire to bring “MySQL”:http://www.mysql.com to the “Power i”:http://www.ibm.com/systems/i/ I was skeptical. I could hardly fathom a valid reason to bring another database onto my beloved platform. “DB2”:http://www.ibm.com/systems/i/software/db2/ met all my needs so why should I bother. Well, a HUGELY beneficial side effect has occurred as a result of running Open Source applications natively on the “Power i”:http://www.ibm.com/systems/i/ . The ability to learn. How did you learn “RPG”:http://www.ibm.com/software/rational/cafe/community/rpg?view=overview ? How did you learn CL and DDS? Maybe you were like me and you took a class. Maybe you read a book. Possibly, you had a need in the office and when no one was looking you ran over to the System 3 and loaded some cards to get the sales leads off the customer mailing database before the system operator got in. Regardless, most of us learned a lot about these technologies from the applications that were already running on them. ERP packages like “JD Edwards World”:http://www.oracle.com/applications/jdedwards-world.html , “SSA-BPCS”:http://www.ssaglobal.com/solutions/erp/ln.aspx and PRMS provided a road map to the future. You saw how subfiles were done. You learned how to recycle the precious 99 indicators and how to get two subfiles on one screen display. Well, consider doing the same thing with Open Source “PHP”:http://php.net applications. Yes, you can download a given “PHP”:http://php.net application like “Sugar CRM”:http://www.sugarcrm.com/crm/ or “Joomla Content Manager”:http://www.joomla.org/ and rock out all you like. Never mind that it might not make a lot of sense at first. Did you really understand subfiles the first 10 times you looked at the code?

h1. Loving Webcasts!

Watching a webcast the other day got me thinking and realizing what an evolution we are all living through today. I have said several times that I view the browser as the 21st century version of the dumb terminal. This is a concept that we in the Power i space have appreciated for years. Many in the Power i realm take it for granted. Many of the folks in the PHP space appreciate this concept as well. But, occasionally, you still see the ebb and flow back and forth from centralization to decentralization and back again. I have managed to avoid the entire client server kludge and am proud of that fact. I watched my sister supporting a three-tier client server architecture and mused that whenever she needed to upgrade the systems in the network she had to book 17 plane reservations with Southwest. When I had to do the same thing with my Power i infrastructure, I would put in a long weekend and maybe order in Chinese food for the guys. Even more interesting is that my infrastructure supported an organization with twice the revenue.

In the webcast, “Jon Paris”:http://www.partner400.com/AllAboutUs.htm#JonBio made a statement that I am going to repeat here because I agree with him and truly believe it. He said that if your employer will not pay for your training you should not sit back and wait. After all, it is your career, not theirs. Nice work Jon! This is a position I have been advocating for a long time, only Jon has puts it far more eloquently. While I hope that any manager reading this can appreciate that I support any and all initiatives to move folks forward, managers and staff should be on guard if you are not advocating education.

h1. The customers I have met…

What I have seen in my travels are several employers investing heavily in their Power i RPG staff. I see developers from all walks and all ages being given a chance to learn a new technology. I think PHP makes a lot of sense since the developer can learn it in a variety of ways. Folks who are good with OO and strong in web development can appreciate the Zend Framework approach quite quickly. It is, after all, the brass ring of PHP development and a goal that all PHP developers should be shooting for. But managers would be wise to consider those who may struggle with OOP, at first. These folks may very well be the solid blockers and tacklers who maintain all that good business logic in RPG and COBOL. For them a procedural approach to PHP might be perfectly acceptable in the beginning. I say this because as long as they are moving the ball forward they can still start learning a new language. People learn at different paces. Some choose to learn faster than others. Many are preoccupied with life outside of work and may not be in a position to devote as much time to education as they would like. But, the reality is that staff education really needs to be addressed. Relevance is more important today than ever before!

I have observed that the procedural PHP developer does not stay that way for long. Many who start with the procedural approach begin to see the benefits of using PHP objects and ZF components. Slowly they start to integrate this stuff into their applications and before you know it they are developing OO based programs. This stuff can be learned over time because that is how you all learned RPG. You started with a report program and then worked your way up, slowly, to the interactive maintenance programs. I say you should do the same thing with technologies like PHP. Stop trying to solve the problems of world in a single application. Put up some sales data in the web browser. Have lunch with a web designer and learn how to make it sexy. Realize that there are more than 5 colors available and that reverse image is not a valid color! Have some fun learning a new technology. Then stand back and get ready. As you turn web applications loose the user community might just get used to it. And now, instead of changes to the green screen applications you start seeing requests for more and more web content. It is ok, this is a good thing! This is a wonderful time in your career. People you may have never spoken to may come up to you looking for more, varied ways of doing the same old thing. Or, they will come up to you and say they need something totally new.

I applaud the companies taking the risk to retrain the staff for a smarter approach to modernization. We at Zend believe in **Modernization on your own terms**. We sell it and the community supports it. With **use at will** OOP and “Zend Framework”:http://www.zendframework.com/ components you can take advantage of as much or as little of a given solution as you like. Stay tuned to this space and you may see just how we at “Zend”:http://www.zend.com extend that belief. I promise, you will enjoy the ride!