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Tell Us About Your Experience Bringing New Programmers to IBM i

February 16, 2016

As we have mentioned here in the past, we have both a personal and professional interest in bringing new programmers to the IBM i. We have personally introduced many Java, C# and other programmers to the joys of IBM i and RPG IV. We blogged about one such experience in a post titled "Programming Highs and Tire Lows."

The reason for returning to the subject now is that recently we've had a number of requests for advice on establishing in-house internships or training/mentoring systems for RPG newbies. While we have some thoughts on some of the basic do's and don'ts it is not a situation that we have directly experienced--at least not for several years. So we're asking for your help so that we can in turn help others in establishing such a program.

Does your company have experience bringing along newbies to the platform--even if not in a formal internship or mentorship situation? If so, please let us know. If for any reason you do not want to make your words of wisdom public in the comments section then please feel free to write to us privately; we really do want to hear from all of you.

As far as our own list of do's and don'ts, three tips immediately stand out--and these will come as no surprise to our regular readers.
  1. Make sure that they have a modern editor to use--in other words RDi. Sure there may be one or two younger programmers out there who might be persuaded that SEU is an adequate tool for the job, but they will be few and far between. By all means teach them to use SEU later on, but the benefits to a learner of the built-in manuals, color coding and outline view alone will significantly shorten their learning curve.
  2. Don't let them near old-style RPG (i.e., fixed column coding) until well after they have learned to appreciate the joys of the language. If you absolutely feel you must, perhaps because you are stuck with coding for 6.1, then F and D specs are just about permissible, but we can tell you from experience that they will slow the learning process down compared with completely free-form declarations and logic.
  3. Make sure their primary mentor is one of the more go-ahead members of the team. Do not put them in the hands of Joe programmer (aka, Why-should-I-learn-anything-new-I'm-only-3-years-from-retirement). 
We could go on but we'll leave it at that for now. What we'd like to hear from you is your personal experiences. Maybe you were the one being mentored, if so what worked for you and what didn't. We'd be grateful for any and all assistance you can provide.

Posted February 16, 2016 | Permalink

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