Welcome to the World of IBM i: How I Got My Start

Nineteen years ago, when I was 24 years old, I hit a crossroads in my life. I had been managing the lifeguarding operations for a city in Southern California, spending my off hours hanging out at the beach. Although it may seem like the ideal life, it was not paying the bills, and I was becoming more serious with my girlfriend who would eventually be my wife. I needed some extra money, so I took a temporary job as a receptionist covering for an employee who was on maternity leave at a booming prescription benefit company. At the end of my three-month term I was offered several jobs within the company, all but one of which were full time positions with benefits. That contract position was in the IT department, and although it didn’t offer the security of the other positions, I felt it may have bigger things in store down the line. I took the job.

On my first day, my supervisor sat me in front of what looked like a screen I had seen in the movie War Games and showed me how to validate report jobs. It was mind-numbing work, but I was earning more than I had ever been paid for any job previously (what would barely be minimum wage today) so I hung in there. Soon I was covering for the third shift operators when they called in sick. I liked it mostly because it was something different, but also because I was able to learn more about the business and the processes that ran on the systems. Not long after that, I was brought into the operations team full time – something I didn’t like because the work was too predictable.

I was bored, so I transferred into the newly created security team tduring the planning and implementation of SOX and HIPAA. The work was fun – I was able to learn about IBM i security and interact with all the teams in our organization that used the System i systems. It was challenging to meet the requirements of the regulations for our industry while enabling the user community to perform their jobs effectively. On weekends when I had some free time I would shadow the system administrators on role-swaps and upgrades. I was discovering that I actually found the weird War Games computer interesting, and even fun. I was becoming an AS/400 lifer, and I didn’t even know it!

Over the next 12 years I worked at four other companies, alternating between systems engineering and security analysis. I gained experience with a number of applications (and a few different ERP solutions) in a variety of industries and got to attend many conferences and trainings. This is not at all the career path I had planned on, but it is one I am happy to have taken. Today I am a system engineer for Rocket dedicated to IBM i. I enjoy finding solutions to the numerous issues that arise in a fast-paced complex software development environment and bridging the disparate systems that interface with our IBM i systems.

In my future posts (I’m hoping to write one a month) I intend to share my experience to highlight methods for better managing your IBM i environment by reducing administrative overhead, navigating the ins and outs of a career in IBM i administration, and discussing technologies and IBM i related events that catch my eye. I hope you will find these posts useful and interesting.