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Steve Will on Fresh Faces and the Future of IBM i

In this Q&A, Steve Will talks about how training and mentoring new talent secures the future for IBM i.

Image of Steve Will

Image by David Bowman

IBM Systems magazine (ISM): In your blog and when you speak at events, you often highlight the Fresh Faces of IBM i. What value do you see in this program?

Steve Will (SW): IBM i users sometimes don’t get an opportunity to see what’s going on in the broader community. In the current pandemic situation, it’s more critical than ever to find a way to get information about the whole environment to our clients. You cannot go to a user group or a conference right now to see the young faces there. We need to make sure that people have some awareness of the folks who are joining the community.

ISM: Why is it important to bring new talent to the IBM i community?

SW: Our technology will be core to running businesses long after we retire, so we need to constantly look for new talent to be the future of this IT value, particularly in the IBM i community where there may only be a small staff. New people can become productive very quickly; that’s what many Fresh Faces stories talk about.

Our IBM i interactions are all about taking the knowledge that our users have and finding out how we can be better. People who are new to the platform have ideas about how an IT shop, development shop or OS should run. We all benefit from listening to those ideas and incorporating the best of them into what we do. 

ISM: Which characteristic of the Fresh Faces is the most influential to the IBM i community?

SW: The Fresh Faces I have run into all have a desire to become valuable in the organizations that hire them. They look for new technology and new business opportunities, staying up to date. They always want to know what the most recent thing is. 

ISM: A lot of the Fresh Faces never interacted with the system before their first job. What are some steps people can take to pick up the platform?

SW: There are two parts to this: what the company can do and what the Fresh Face can do. A company has to meet the Fresh Face where they’re at. That means adopting open technology, open-source languages and open-source tooling because that’s what the Fresh Faces know. The company needs to educate the Fresh Face on the features of business, the existing software and how those two interact.

The Fresh Face needs to find our IBM i website (ibm.co/32L52Xt) and learn what information is out there. Because the Fresh Faces are younger people, they are comfortable with searching for things on the internet. Once they find a way to get information, they are proficient with it and quickly incorporate it into what they do.

ISM: How do you mentor new IBM i users, both within IBM and externally?

SW: I have held some discussions with the Fresh Faces and received several very detailed emails from them asking for my opinion on the next technology and how to move forward. It has been a joy to see just how much passion the Fresh Faces inside and outside of IBM have for the future of the platform. 

Most of the experienced people I meet would relish the opportunity to be a mentor to a Fresh Face. I hope executives and planners recognize the value of having some overlapping time because new users can learn a tremendous amount from the experienced professional. 

ISM: How have you seen the Fresh Faces initiative impact the community as a whole?

SW: It is one of the most talked about things in almost any presentation I do. I will talk about Fresh Faces for maybe two minutes out of 60 and yet people ask so many questions about it. The program has boosted morale and introduced new technology to the ecosystem. It has given the IBM i community a chance to reinvigorate staff by finding ways to bring new people in or use the training techniques that younger people are using. 

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