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Unmatched Educational Content at POWERUp 2021

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Wondering why you should attend POWERUp 2021? Dawn May, seasoned COMMON speaker, shares the importance of attending COMMON conferences in her Eye on the i article. Read Dawn’s submission below:

The Value of Attending POWERUp 2021

POWERUp2021 is COMMON’s premier conference. It is scheduled from October 4-7 in Virginia Beach, VA. This hybrid event allows in-person attendance or virtual attendance and promises educational content unmatched elsewhere.


If you have never been to Virginia Beach, it’s a great location to visit.  The beach is impressive; it’s listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest pleasure beach in the world.  The boardwalk is filled with entertainment and restaurants.  The conference hotels are all on the oceanfront, which means it’s easy to spend some free time enjoying the beach.


Other free time is well spent networking at in-person events. I believe networking is as valuable as attending the sessions themselves. On many occasions I sat and spoke with conference attendees I did not know. Often these conversations led to interesting insights and the exchange of valuable information.


To illustrate, here are a few examples of benefits from attending in person that would never have happened virtually:


  • At NAViGATE this past May, I was eating lunch in the Expo with several people I know, talking about nothing important. However, I noticed a vendor booth across the room, and realized that an issue one of my clients was having was related to that vendor’s product. I was able to meet with the vendor directly, explain the issue my client was having, and connected with an expert to help troubleshoot. 

  • As a speaker, I often have attendees stay after a session to ask questions that are specific to their shops, but perhaps outside the scope of the presentation I gave. A client once asked me about job accounting and prestart jobs.  I knew the answer and the question prompted me to write the blog post Job Accounting and Prestart Jobs.

    Sometimes I get asked questions where I do not know the answer; I always take the time to find the answer and get back to the person who asked the question.  This helps me learn about things I would not have otherwise thought to investigate.  A specific example is this in the article Displaying Open Files with Work Job.

  • At a past POWERUp conference, I was at the closing celebration event, just enjoying the evening and talking to people I knew and making new acquaintances. During a conversation, one of the people I was talking with asked about what I was doing since I had l left IBM.  I told them how I had started my own consulting practice and enjoyed solving real-world problems.  And that is how I accidentally got a new client.


In person conferences have played an important part in my professional development.  I went to my first technical event very early in my career and was impressed with the talent and knowledge of many of the speakers and I set a goal for myself to “be like that”.  That was a huge goal, as I was young, shy, and introverted.  I got my first opportunity to speak at a COMMON conference in 1997, and while my knowledge of the topic was excellent, my speaking skills were underdeveloped and I was very nervous!  After one session, an attendee came up to me and told me my session content was very good and there was no need to be so nervous – and he encouraged me to keep it up.  I remember that moment like yesterday.  I did more speaking at COMMON in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but I did not become a regular speaker until 2008, when the 6.1 release was delivered.  I had led the development of the Navigator performance tasks and had the opportunity to speak all over the world to educate clients about this great enhancement.  In 2008, I was still nervous and a bit shy, and my personal objective was to overcome this – and COMMON was a venue that allowed me to challenge myself.  The opportunity to speak was only one component – the in-person networking is what truly got me past my shyness.  I discovered that the attendees are all friendly and we all have IBM i in common, so there was always an easy topic to break the ice when meeting new people (beyond talking about the weather or traveling to the conference itself).


These in-person events allowed me to strengthen my skills, meet new people and get comfortable doing so, and have all sorts of unexpected conversations.  Without COMMON I never would have been able to take the leap to leave my excellent job at IBM and venture out on my own.  But I did that, I’m very glad I did, and in-person COMMON events were a key reason I was able to do this.


While virtual attendance for POWERUp is an option, those watching from a computer screen will miss out on a lot.  In-person spontaneity does not happen from behind a video monitor.  To me, the idea of more virtual education is depressing.  I tend to partially listen while working on the side.  I can’t easily turn off the day-to-day demands when I am physically in my office.  Getting out of the office and putting work aside for a few hours each day, to focus on education, is more effective at a live event. 


I hope to see a good turn-out in Virginia Beach. Whether finding a technical contact you need, an answer to problem you are having, or simply talking about how much you like working on the i, casual networking opportunities are among the most valuable parts of in-person events and help strengthen the community. I’m attending as many conferences as I can and I hope to see you out there!