The RPG language of today is far more robust than it was just three releases ago. Yet as I speak to hundreds of programmers each year, I find there are those who are using older techniques when a newer technique is available. The obvious question for you is simple, “Are your current RPG skills capable of solving today’s demanding IT requirements, or are they languishing somewhat compared to today’s modern developer?” In light of this, how does one even know if they’re using all of the tools available? While these are simple questions, there is an even easier solution – become a certified expert.

During a session I was presenting recently, I was demonstrating the latest XML enhancements to the language. A lengthy discussion regarding qualified data structures ensued, consuming far more time than I had originally planned. Given they were introduced in V5R1 (circa 2001), I had just assumed everyone in the room held a working knowledge of how to use them. Yet this discussion made me realize how many newer coding techniques were not being taken advantage of.

This is a perfect segue to keeping your skills current by becoming certified by taking COMMON’s Certified Application Developer exam. I believe taking the actual certification test is the easy part. Whether you have a college degree or not, a certification measures and validates your knowledge and experience against current best practices. This is important because the preparation itself can open your eyes to newer techniques. This extends well beyond just knowing new statements and built-in functions; a computer language evolves based on user and customer requirements. These changes reduce the application development cycle and also programming code costs and maintenance.

To be sure, there are several other ways to bolster your skills on any topic, and modern, evolving RPG programming is no exception. It is often said, “the best way to learn about something is to teach it.” You will be able to speak authoritatively and will be prepared to answer the most difficult questions you might encounter. Another proven way is to publish about a given topic. The effort involved to prepare an article of excellent content will require deep research and expertise, but not everyone wants to invest, or even has the time, to create a session or write an article. Once again, this is where certification comes in. Indeed, simply preparing for the exam can widen your use of the language. Here is a website showing the Top 10 reasons to become certified.

In addition to having recognized competence in a language, I believe it is fair to assume a proficiency in application development in general. And with that it stands to reason the same developer has committed to keeping current in other professional areas as well. I’ve seen this scenario played out time and time again. In my own short list of esteemed IT professionals there is always the same sense of confidence and desire to want to learn more.

Let’s take a look at the actual exam objectives of COMMON’s Certified Application Developer – ILE RPG certification. When you visit the webpage, you’ll find all the areas where you’ll be tested. Here you’ll see there are four distinct sections. The four sections with a few question areas are:

1) Core RPG, Subfiles, and Externally Described Files

Database, display and printer files, using all subfile keywords, H-spec keywords, structured operation codes and D-specs and its keywords.

2) Advanced RPG and Problem Determination / Resolution

Data structure arrays, using prototypes and subprocedures, date data types error handling, translating not supported operation codes to free and using monitor and %error

3) RPG Data Handling

Using embedded SQL, converting character and numeric fields into date fields and string manipulation

4) ILE Topics

Using binding directories, the different types of program/procedure calls, activation groups, service program signature violations and proper use of scoping parameters for override and open commands.

It is quite possible a pure maintenance programmer may not have experience in all four sections. This is indeed the purpose of the test, to expand and validate the expertise of a well-rounded RPG programmer. It is critical to have a working knowledge of all of these sections because we don’t work in an insulated environment. Integrating with other languages and/or platforms is not uncommon at all. This is particularly true with applications using non-green screen user interfaces.

If you’re not familiar with any of these topics, a good place to review and prepare is by visiting the IBM i 7.1 Information Center and selecting ILE RPG reference. Keep in mind COMMON’s ILE RPG certification exam is a timed test and you will not have access to outside information resources.

I hope you see the value and will consider becoming certified. In today’s tough economic environment, each and every credential is valued and sought after. And now COMMON offers you a vehicle to demonstrate your talents and commitment to the longevity of your own career and your company’s future – become a COMMON Certified Application Developer – ILE RPG.

About the Author

Charles Guarino

Charles Guarino

With an IT career spanning over 25 years, Charles Guarino has been an enterprise application consultant for most of them. Since 1995 he has been founder and President of Central Park Data Systems, Inc., a Long Island based IBM midrange consulting company. He has published numerous technical and strategic articles for the IT community and speaks each year at conferences and user groups across the country. He was inducted into COMMON’s Speaker Excellence Hall of Fame in 2008 and also selected as one of LISTnet’s Long Island’s Twenty Top Techies for 2009. Charles is currently a COMMON Application Development Subject Matter Expert and President and monthly Q&A host of LISUG, a Long Island IBM System i Users Group.

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