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20 Years of System i

Peggy Wilson shares her perspective on the System i after 20 years in the business

Peggy Wilson shares her perspective on the System i after 20 years in the business
Photo courtesy of Peggy Wilson

Today’s IT landscape is drastically different from what existed just 20 years ago, which is obvious from a hardware and software standpoint. But another thing that’s changed is how people end up in an IT role. Back in the 1980s, IT professionals often had diverse and unexpected career and educational backgrounds that, by today’s standards, would rarely hint at an eventual career in IT. Computer science was still considered something of a mystery to many, and companies were eager to get technology professionals from wherever they could and train them as quickly as possible. In the 1990s, schools increasingly added IT and computer-science curricula. People can still come into IT from unusual backgrounds, but as a whole the field has a far more structured and refined education and career path.

Peggy Wilson, a senior manager of IT infrastructure for a large insurance provider, has an IBM* System i* background stemming from that mid-’80s era when a math-related degree, a foreign language proficiency or something else entirely could open the door to an IT career.

“One of the requirements for my math degree was one programming language, so I learned Pascal, but I didn’t think much of it at the time,” Wilson says. “I was originally going to be a math teacher. Instead, I was hired to work at IBM right out of college in 1986 as a systems engineer for their System/36* and System/38* midrange systems. I went to a college fair and suddenly I found myself considering a job in computers. That was back in the day when IBM would send you to training for a year to all these classes. I really didn’t know all that much about computers before that; they taught me everything. It was amazing actually. Their training was amazing.”

Wilson remembers trying to wrap her mind around concepts that are considered basic in today’s computing world. She stuck with it, though, and embarked on an IBM career path that saw the announcement of the AS/400* platform in 1988.

She eventually moved to IBM Global Services, where she held a variety of positions and ended up as a principal. By then, she’d also built a decent AS/400 practice of her own. She left IBM in 2001 and now manages a System i team supporting 900 users.

From her perspective as a woman in the IT field, Wilson says it was interesting how many of her female colleagues came into the midrange space thanks to computing skills picked up while performing clerical work on other platforms.

“For example,” Wilson says, “there was a product called IBM Display-writer, which was both a machine and software that acted primarily as an early word processor. That product eventually became DisplayWrite*/36, which continued on the AS/400 platform as OfficeVision/400. So, you had all these women familiar with Displaywriter making a pretty smooth transition to the System/36, and then onto the AS/400 system.”

In her experience working in the midrange field, several innovations stand out as groundbreaking. Wilson feels the System i platform has shined in the area of security improvements, although she says that’s not articulated as much as it should be as a technological innovation.

“The security capabilities and security auditing functions that are built into i5/OS* are far and above many of the security packages you see on any other platform,” the senior manager says.

“Also, Domino* and, to some extent, WebSphere* are two other significant technologies that have been brought aboard the System i platform, but the security component is one of the lesser-told stories. I’ve been working on this system for many, many years, and I suspect it’ll continue to be a leading business platform for many years to come.”

Ryan Rhodes is a freelance writer for IBM Systems Magazine.


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20 Years of System i

Peggy Wilson shares her perspective on the System i after 20 years in the business

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