CEF (COMMON Education Foundation)
CEF is a group within the IBM i community that supports students interested in pursuing IT careers. This organization should not be overlooked when looking for new employees. CEF’s mission provides insight:
As technology continues to evolve at an exponential rate, so does the demand for IT professionals. This growing need presents an unprecedented opportunity for students to embark on an educational track to prepare them for a professional career in Information Technology.
The COMMON Education Foundation (CEF) is providing pathways to engage and educate a new generation of IT talent. One of CEF’s primary missions is to nurture the development and growth of future IT professionals who will manage and support the computing systems of tomorrow. CEF’s strategy is to encourage students and individuals (including those who have business experience and are considering career changes) to seek careers in the information technology industry, while providing them with supplementary educational opportunities along the way.
CEF has a lot of offerings, including:
- Student Sponsorship
- Educator Sponsorship
- Student Scholarship
Students are provided an opportunity to attend the fall COMMON conference through CEF sponsorship. Having students at COMMON events is a win for everyone. Students are rewarded with an opportunity to learn, connect with community members, and get a glimpse at what a potential career utilizing IBM i technology has to offer. Students go back to their local communities enthused and excited to share their experience. Their attendance also goes a long way in connecting students with potential employers. Community members are excited to see fresh faces ready, willing, and able to step forward as the next generation in the field. Community members looking to hire can also make invaluable connections with schools and educators.
CEF also offers sponsorship opportunities for educators to attend COMMON events. Educators attend sessions, connect with the IT community, and much more. This goes a very long way in helping keep current IBM i curriculum within schools. While attending COMMON events, educators make numerous and invaluable connections. Attending also provides them the opportunity to learn new skills which they can then take back into classroom. This helps prepare students for the workforce.
CEF provides student scholarships that are awarded annually. Students apply by filling out an application. The scholarship winner receives funding to help further their education. Throughout the years, CEF has provided scholarship funding for many students studying IT curriculum.
The CEF community has many ongoing initiatives to keep encouraging students to pursue IT careers and connect with potential employers. To help raise funds, they hold numerous fundraising activities throughout the year. A favorite among the IT community is the silent auction held at the annual COMMON conference. Members have grown to look forward to the auction and it is a great fundraiser for CEF. Other initiatives include student sponsored contests, raffles at events, merchandise sales, and much more. The community support throughout the years has encouraged the growth of CEF and, with it, the opportunity to bring fresh faces to the work force.
CEF has long been a great friend to the IT community, connecting educators and students with potential employers while building up the next generation. CEF is a nonprofit organization and is always looking for volunteers. Making the effort to volunteer is both fulfilling and productive. Doing so provides opportunity to give back and in return you’re provided much more.
CEF has a lot of resources to offer the community including students, educators and those within the community interested in the future employees. Some of the resources CEF offers include:
- Career Center
- COMMON Certification
- Online Education
- Video Library
- IBM Academic Initiative
- Connect with Educators and Students
- Fall COMMON Event
- Annual COMMON Event
- Booth at Events
- Student Sessions and Activities
What started with a few students sponsored at COMMON conference events
has grown to a large group each fall.
- Sponsor a Student
- Provide a Contribution
- Contribute to the Silent Auction
If you are looking to fill positions don’t overlook CEF. The group has a lot to offer and is a hidden gem. Don’t hesitate to connect. You’ll benefit greatly by doing so. Whether your actively looking or planning, connect with COMMON Education Foundation and consider volunteering or supporting the foundation through initiatives or making a donation. CEF is an anchor ensuring that we do have a next generation on IBM i.
Contact COMMON Education Foundation
Laura Ubelhor Laura Ubelhor owns and operates Consultech Services, Inc., a Rochester, Michigan-based technology consulting company. She is an author of HTML for the Business Developer (MC Press, 2008) and many technology articles. She also helped write the COMMON RPG and Business Computing Professional certification exams. Laura has been involved in the Southeast Michigan IBM i User Group since 1988, serving as group president and lead organizer for the group’s annual MITEC conference. She is also a longtime volunteer for COMMON and has spent much of her career advocating for IT professional education.
Cloud Technology is More Than Just Storage
Cloud services and technology originated as storage solutions for businesses but have advanced greatly in the past few years to include options such as cloud-based email, servers, applications, and desktops. These new cloud technologies can benefit your business by providing an updated IT infrastructure that’s secure yet offers the ease of obtaining your business data quickly and efficiently. Continue reading to learn more about a few new ways cloud technology is being introduced in today’s business world.
Cloud-Based Data Backup and Business Continuity
One of the new ways cloud-based technology is being used is providing data backup for businesses. Both small businesses and large enterprises should employ data backup strategies to avoid downtime and minimize the chance of falling victim to data breaches. Cloud-based data backup services for your business may vary depending on factors that include speed to reinstate, protection from local disasters or specific file backups. Work with your IT partner in developing a cloud-based business continuity plan, which will help protect your network data and minimize lost productivity and potential lost revenue.
Desktop and Server Virtualization
Cloud virtualization allows one to run multiple operating systems and applications on a single computer. This practice is rapidly becoming a staple solution for businesses looking to reduce total cost of ownership in expensive hardware, while increasing flexibility and redundancy. Utilizing cloud virtualization allows for more convenient transfers of applications to mobile devices like laptops, tablets and smartphones which means employees can stay connected, securely, even if they’re not in the office.
Consider Cloud Technology
The landscape of business data and network systems changes quickly, talk with your IT partner today to determine if a public, private or hybrid cloud solution is right for your business. The more your IT partner knows about your day-to-day business challenges, the better they can support you in protecting your data, employees and revenue stream.
It should probably come as no surprise that 2017 forecasts as the year for cybersecurity professionals. It seems almost every week there is a report of another data breach from a company like Yahoo!, a major hospital or even some of the highest levels of government. Even technology companies such as Oracle and Cisco have reported security breaches in 2016.
According to Information Management, not only will cybersecurity positions be the most in demand IT Career of 2017, they will also garner the highest salaries of any position in information technology. Since the threat of an attack is becoming more commonplace, many companies are having to turn to third-party security services to manage an incident since it is so difficult to find in-house cybersecurity talent. For any new graduate looking for a new job, all this is very encouraging.
So what are some of the things an individual can do to prepare themselves for a career in cybersecurity? According to Burning Glass, 84% of their cybersecurity postings require at least a bachelor’s degree. About one-third of their positions also call for industry certification. Of course, practical IT skills are essential as well. In other words, individuals need real, hands-on experience working with technology on a daily basis in order to know how to properly protect a system and resolve any security threats. Specifically, expertise in areas such as cloud computing/virtualization, database management, coding, auditing and compliance, firewalls, analytics and intelligence, SIEM management, access/identity management, advanced malware prevention and administering and configuring networks are all highly desirable skills for those interested in pursuing cybersecurity positions.
For those individuals still in school or for anyone working in another area of IT who thinks cybersecurity might be of interest, sign up for local security groups in your city or at your college or university. You can also get involved in industry competitions such as CTFtime.org to challenge yourself and see how well your cybersecurity talents hold up against others.
For anyone deciding to pursue further education or skills in cybersecurity, 2017 promises to be a banner year.
Don’t forget that COMMON can help you with your cybersecurity training. View all security-related sessions available at the 2017 Annual Meeting and Exposition.
Working in an IT department, you may face this situation…
Chances are you have already concluded that you need a mobile-friendly presence to help keep your business relevant. But have you figured out where your resources are best spent? Both mobile-friendly websites and downloadable apps are a great way to boost business and engage customers, but they serve different audiences. Who is who? Here are a few examples.
Well to do professionals who are likely to have the latest android or iPhone will be open to downloading your app. Their phones will have the capacity to store more apps than inexpensive or older devices. If this sounds like your customers, take the time to make a great app that is user-friendly and offers perks unavailable on your website.
Children love gaming apps. They will spend money to get ahead. Their parents will spend money to purchase your app if there is a strong educational component. The caveat is they tend to have older devices. If your app isn’t engaging or takes up so much memory that it crashes their phone, they will delete it sooner rather than later. Take care when setting up interfaces with other functions on the phone. No parent wants to increase the risk of kidnapping or end up with a huge bill they didn’t give permission to rack up. Make it easy for parents to adjust purchase settings and the app’s ability to track their child through GPS. Also limit or leave out the ability to talk directly with other users. Parents who don’t feel safe leaving their child to use the app alone will not allow its use at all.
Lower income customers are not likely to have the latest phone. They are more likely to purchase an old phone or an inexpensive model with limited memory for apps. If you really want them to use precious memory on your app, make it significantly better than your mobile website and possibly serve a practical function they can’t get in another way. A banking app that saves a trip to the brick and mortar site is a good example. An app that lets you pay for your coffee probably will be passed over by this group. If the customer is already going to the store, they’ll simply pay the old-fashioned way. These people will gladly use a mobile website though. Make your main site mobile friendly and easy to navigate on a small screen and this type of mobile user will keep coming back to you.
Who does your business serve? Take a close look, then take the time to make mobile access easier for your customers.
COMMON recently announced the results of its 2016 – 2017 Board of Directors election at the Meeting of the Members during the 2016 Annual Meeting and Exposition. One Board member, Yvonne Enselman, was re-elected to her second three-year term, while two newly elected members, Gordon Leary and Steve Pitcher, were added to the Board.
The officers of the 2016 – 2017 COMMON Board of Directors include President, Jeff Carey; Executive Vice President, Justin Porter; Treasurer, Larry Bolhuis; Secretary, Amy Hoerle; and Immediate Past President, Kevin Mort.
For more information on the Board Members, their responsibilities or to read their biographies, please go to: http://www.common.org/about-us/board-of-directors/
For 17 years, I was the manager of the IT department at Klement’s Sausage Company. One of my responsibilities there was hiring IT staff, a responsibility that I always dreaded. When I needed to hire a new RPG programmer, it was always easy to find applicants. Post a job on a few sites such as CareerBuilder, Craigslist, and COMMON’s Career Center, and you get many applicants.
Finding the right applicants, however, is another matter entirely! Many RPGers don’t keep their skill set up to date and aren’t interested in learning. Are these the sorts of programmers you want in your shop? Someone who can’t learn your environment and insists on doing everything the old-fashioned way? Of course not! You want someone who can learn what you have, figure it out, and troubleshoot it when needed. But, you also want someone who will keep up-to-date with their skills so they can provide quality new applications that are modern, work well, and are easy to maintain in the future. Finding someone like that is not an easy task! Personally, I always dreaded it.
I’ve recently experienced job hunting from the opposite perspective as well. In fact, congratulate me! I just got a new job with Profound Logic Software. One thing that I remember very clearly when I was applying for the job was what my new boss told me: “We’ve been looking for someone for a long time, but not just anyone. We needed to find the right person.”
The COMMON Certified Application Developer Program
That’s exactly why I volunteered to help with the COMMON Certified Application Developer – ILE RPG on IBM i on Power program. Together with a group of some of the brightest minds in the RPG community, we designed this certification exam to show that you are the right candidate.
The exam does not seek to test “RPG trivia”. It was designed by RPG professionals who work in the field. People like you and me who work in the RPG field and know what an RPGer needs to do a great job writing and maintaining business applications in RPG. It’s designed to test that you know how to do the real-world, practical things that today’s RPG developer needs to do. It seeks to prove that you have at least 3-5 years of RPG experience, as well as 18 months or more of modern ILE and free-format experience, using the techniques that are widely used in RPG shops today. If you’d like to know more about the types of items you’ll find on the test, the exam objectives are listed on COMMON’s website.
I’m very proud of the work we did, and I feel that it’s an awesome tool, both for programmers and for those who seek to hire them. I think that being certified as an ILE RPG Application Developer is important, because RPG is the best language out there for writing business applications.
RPG: Best for Business
Why do I think RPG is the best? Well, think about what you need to write good business rules? What do you do most in business applications?
Do math on numbers representing money, rates, and quantities.
Keep track of dates, such as shipment dates, payment dates, and due dates.
Keep track of records stored in database tables.
I’m not saying that’s all you have to do – but it’s the part that differentiates business applications from others. Every language has if statements, loops, and the ability to print data. You use that stuff in everything from writing video games to hardware drivers. But add up sales figures? Write payment records to a database? These things are only done in business applications. And these are the things that RPG excels at!
All programming languages can add up numbers, of course. But most languages are designed to work with integer and floating point numbers. Integers can’t store fractions, so they are not a good fit for business applications. Floating point numbers store only approximations of a number, especially when your numbers get larger, they start to round the values off, losing precision. RPG’s native numeric data type is decimal numbers in packed or zoned decimal format. You can store more than 60 digit numbers with no loss of precision, and no special fancy coding is needed to do decimal math in RPG – it’s the native built-in way of doing math. In most other languages, if you want to use true decimal numbers, you need to call a special set of APIs. RPG does it natively. RPG rocks for sales figures!
RPG is also the easiest language I’ve encountered for working with a database. We all know that the DB2 for i database benefits quite a bit from its tight integration with the IBM i operating system. Since the OS was designed from the ground up to have this awesome database built into it, the DB2 for i database is more efficient, flexible, and manageable than a similar database on another platform. Likewise, the RPG language has database deeply integrated into its design. Not just its native record access functions, but also the embedded SQL interface. No other language is as easy to write database applications in as RPG is.
RPG also has powerful, easy-to-use date manipulation built-in to the language. No need to call special APIs or run utility routines, RPG can simply add or subtract days, months and years to a date, making it really easy to do your date manipulations.
RPG Can Also Be Modern
RPG also supports modern programming techniques. It works very well with the ILE environment to provide modern, encapsulated subprocedures that you can call from anywhere. You can write SQL stored procedures and functions in RPG, so that database client applications can take advantage of RPG’s powerful business functions. You can write web services in RPG as easily as you can in any other language. With free toolkits like CGIDEV2, or the more advanced toolkits provided by the vendor community (including my own employer, Profound Logic Software), you can write modern applications with a GUI or Web interface. RPG can easily do the modern tasks that today’s programmers need to do.
That’s not to say that RPG is the best language for every task. Every programming language has its strengths and weaknesses. I’ve worked in more than 20 programming languages in my time as a programmer, and in my day-to-day job, I always have a choice of which language I want to write an application in. I love working in C/C++ for writing tools and systems software. I enjoy working in Java for writing applications that I need to run on lots of disparate systems. PHP is wonderful for banging out quick web sites. But for writing business rules? I pick RPG every time.
Get Yourself Certified
RPG is important to me. And that’s why it’s so important to have a good RPG Certification program. If employers can easily determine who the good RPG candidates are, and those candidates can easily display their credentials, then that goes a long way towards paving the way for a bright future for both RPG and IBM i. And together they make up the best platform for business applications in the world!
About the Author
Scott Klement is a Product Developer at Profound Logic Software; a Senior Technical Editor for iPro Developer magazine; a Subject Matter Expert (SME) at COMMON in the areas of Application Development, RPG, and RPG Certification; and an IBM Champion for Power Systems. Although Scott has been honored with more than a dozen awards for both speaking and writing on IBM i topics, his friends will tell you that he’s really just a computer geek.
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
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.