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Celebrating IBM i Careers and Community

IBM i 30

The IBM i is 30! How shall we celebrate? We could focus on the wonderful technology or longevity of this box. It’s been around so long and has so many great benefits for basic business applications: It runs unattended, it’s secure, it never fails, etc. After all, the story of a company’s AS/400 plasterboarded behind a wall is legendary (

But instead of nostalgia, let’s focus on all the living and breathing elements of this system—the people, their careers and the effect on the livelihood of so many people in so many industries—and take a personal look back to discover the ways we humans can celebrate this machine into the future.

My IBM i Journey

Like many people in the IBM i world, my involvement with the system has zigzagged through many different companies in many different roles. At the time, the dots didn’t seem to connect. Steve Jobs described this feeling well, saying, “Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards 10 years later.”

For the lucky ones, the path is very clear after a lifetime of work and the pieces of the puzzle all fall into place. And for all of us in this living, breathing ecosystem, the common denominator for many of us reading this magazine is the IBM i.

My personal quest into this world began after four years as a weather specialist sending up rawinsonde balloons in Panama and crunching data for the U.S. Air Force Global Weather Central. After four years of service, I took computer classes at a technical community college in Omaha. The school is still a big proponent of the IBM i, and the education I received there got me my start in this industry. In 1988, a mailing list company rolled the newly born AS/400 into the computer room and I was hired as a programmer. My life as part of this IBM i world took off from there.

I fell in love with IBM, the box, my programmers, the vendors and the new community I found myself part of. After programming, I moved into multiple management positions and really focused on liaison work between business leaders and applications development. We all flew off to attend COMMON conferences, absorbed all of the trade magazines and attended IBM-sponsored seminars and user group meetings. The AS/400 world was on fire! It was a great learning time. Networking with all of the people involved and the many facets of this environment opened my world to all the pathways available for a career in this IBM i world.

Worldwide Impact

What a world it was—and still is! The IBM i was dropped like a rock into the ocean and the ripple went around the world. Anyone in this environment had opportunities to become involved in system administration, programming, software management and technical writing—or venture into further offshoots like teaching, writing, coordinating conferences or a career in marketing. Software companies created enterprise software, programmer utilities and change management systems, leading whole new pockets of business grew around this development. It wasn’t just in the U.S. I was emailing customers as far away as South Africa.

After years as a manager, then a consultant, I joined the IBM i ISV world and became privy to all of the cross-industry businesses that owned the system and our products. It was amazing to be traveling on the road and pass by truckers, co-ops, government offices, schools and manufacturers that relied on the system for their core business applications. Even better was attending conferences, not as an attendee this time, but as a vendor. The people visiting the exposition are the brains and brawn behind some of the most interesting applications and businesses in the world. The speakers, IBMers and dedicated IBM Power Systems* Champions share knowledge, stories and information that is best absorbed in person.

Celebrate and Participate

Zoom to today: The IBM i ecosystem is alive and well on this 30th anniversary. The same elements that were key in the early years are still key today. And like the human body, all the parts have got to keep moving to remain healthy and strong. IBM needs to keep doing its thing: Promote the system, engage with clients and continue enhancements to the hardware and software to keep up with the times. But organizers, writers, vendors and, of course, you, need to keep doing your part as well.

It’s time to celebrate, which means it’s time to participate. Network, take a class, buy a new tool, attend a conference and pop into the expo to meet your vendors. Join a LinkedIn group and follow key industry figures on Twitter. Participate. Engage. Celebrate! It’s the best thing we can do to enjoy our anniversary.

Shelli Peck is the VP of Business Development at ProData.



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