It was a pleasure and indeed an honor to have the opportunity to interview Dawn May on her recent trip to Australia.
If you’re familiar with Dawn’s work, you already know about her passion and her dedication and contribution to development of the IBM i over the years. She is one of the select few who have had a significant impact both on System Software Development and on the Business Architecture of the IBM i.
Currently a Senior Technical Staff Member with IBM in Rochester, Dawn has had many roles, including technical lead, testing specialist and SNA and TCP/IP communication developer, to name just a few. Her expertise and her influence on the development of the IBM i are crucial factors in our continued success on the platform today.
Dawn was happy to share her thoughts on questions that are often discussed in the community. We began with experiences that have influenced her career and the platform.
SD: You’ve had an amazing career, with ongoing input in the development of communications, services and functionality on the IBM i. What is the most definitive moment in your career with the i?
DM: When I think back, there was one experience that definitely sticks out as having helped to shape my career. Way back in the early 1990s, I spent over two years working on a project that was shelved and the function never ended up being delivered. Experiencing this really made me realize that working on the "latest and greatest" project wasn't important to me. I discovered that I got a lot of satisfaction out of working on projects that were more mundane, but had a lot of value to our clients. This is when I got involved in areas such as error recovery, availability, service tools, and performance tools. I worked on enhancements and improvements to the operating system in these areas and discovered that clients really appreciate the reliability of the system and the ability to effectively debug and diagnose issues when they have problems. Ever since then, I've always focused my work in areas that I knew were important to our clients.
SD: You were recently at an event in Australia conducting some very informative and useful sessions for the IBM i audience. What are you hoping the audience can take away from the sessions?
DM: The past few years I've been speaking on IBM i Systems Management and Performance Management topics. These presentations are geared toward administrators. IBM i has rich functionality in these areas, but many clients don't take advantage of all these features. By speaking about them, I hope that a few people will return home and start using these tools.
For example, the Performance Data Investigator (PDI) presentation: PDI is shipped with the operating system and everyone has it, but too few clients are fully using it and it's been available since 2008! I have been trying to show more and more examples of simple things clients can do on a day-to-day basis with PDI to make their jobs easier.
SD: One of your sessions is titled “The next Generation of IBM i Access”. What are the main points you are hoping to get across in this session?
DM: There are two important points: First, if you are not using the new iAccess Client Solutions, you should; second, this product can make life easier for system administrators because they can move away from installed images on everyone's PC and have a common image.
The features of the new iAccess Client Solutions are very similar to what we had before with Client Access – but the ease of deployment is much better.
SD: A question everyone likes to hear an answer to… What do you see for the future of the IBM i platform?
DM: IBM i has a long, bright future. The IBM i development team is the best in the world. OK, maybe I'm a bit biased, but they are top-notch. They listen to our clients and work hard to make enhancements that will provide the best value. In addition, the quality of their work is amazing and dealing with the IBM i support team is fantastic. And our clients are loyal to the platform.
I generally tell everyone I talk to that "IBM i is everywhere. You just don't see it." I work with many IBM i client advisory groups - the Large User Group (LUG), the COMMON Americas Advisory Council, and the COMMON Europe Advisory Council. I cannot tell you the names of the companies that participate in these groups because company membership information is confidential but you'd be amazed at all the well-known companies that use IBM i.
You can be sure that IBM will continue to enhance i. If you've ever listened to Steve Will speak, he will tell you that IBM is busy working on technology refreshes as well as the next release.
" The world runs on IBM i, it's just quietly and reliably doing its work behind the scenes." says Dawn May.
SD: There have been some exciting developments in the IBM i world in the last few years - RPG free format and Open Access to name but a few. Are these developments likely to attract young IT professionals into an IBM i career?
DM: Absolutely! With RPG free format, we've taken away the fixed format RPG that looks strange to young programmers and provided them with a language that looks familiar. As a programmer myself, once you know one language, it's pretty easy to pick up a different one; now RPG is no different. That's a huge change. With Open Access and the ability for our partners to create fantastic applications using modern user interfaces, we can really move beyond that stigma of the old text-based interface.
With all these enhancements over the past few years, shops can look for the general programming skills they need, rather than trying to find someone with specific RPG skills. And with modern user interfaces, a programming language that looks familiar and modern development tools, young IT professionals will be able to quickly adapt to working on i.
SD: You’ve worked extensively with businesses wishing to scale up their applications. In your experience, what are the biggest challenges faced by companies with IBM i legacy applications, as they strive to move forward and meet the current needs of the market?
DM: This is a very tough question because there are many different aspects to consider. While technology itself may present challenges, it’s been my experience that technology issues are very specific and not general problems. Rather, I think the overall biggest challenge is to simply decide that you need to move forward and change. We all know that initiating change is the hardest part – doing nothing is often easier in the short term, but it can be deadly for the long haul.
IBM talks about modernization a lot - and for a good reason. The infrastructure is there, the tools are there, and we have a lot of partners doing great business helping clients modernize.
My suggestion for clients that are uncertain about what they should do is to get educated - attend conferences in your area, join local user groups, learn about everything that IBM has provided in the recent releases and technology updates. Get excited about the potential and start initiating change.
There you have it. Wise words, from a wise woman.
Passion is a word we hear a lot in the IBM i Community, and for good reason. Passion drives productivity, action, development and change. It also ensures a strong future, and Dawn May’s passion for her work and her community inspires me and, I am sure, many others on the IBM i.
A great place to keep up with Dawn May is via her blog title "i Can":
The "i Can" blog is to share the "hidden gems" within IBM i. The name "i Can" is to convey the fact that IBM i can do more than most realize. The updates to this blog will generally be information about the latest features in the most current releases. Click here to get to Dawn's blog ⟶
S.Dickson - looksoftware