Thursday, February 23, 2012

Be a Champion!

Merriam-Webster defines the noun "champion" as:

1: warrior, fighter

2: a militant advocate or defender

3: one that does battle for another's rights or honor

4: a winner of first prize or first place in competition; also : one who shows marked superiority

While I like all the definitions and believe they could apply equally, let's focus on number 2. Using the second definition, what would it mean to be a DB2 for i champion?

If we (somewhat reluctantly) remove the adjective "militant", what is required to be an advocate or defender of DB2 for i?

First and foremost I would say current knowledge, then skill gained through study and practice. Like any world class athlete, it takes guidance, coaching and consistent training to reach the highest levels. The same applies to information technology and data-centric programming. To effectively meet business requirements you need to leverage technology in appropriate ways. But if you lack the understanding, the proficiency and the stamina to do so, then your efforts will fall short. You will not reach your goal, and likely be trampled by the competition.

So, the first step to becoming a "DB2 for i champion" is to get educated. This will take effort, time and possibly money. The return on the investment will be twofold, namely: less risk, and more value. Something every business wants to have, and every person wants to deliver. After all, value = money.

Let's start by getting familiar with all of the DB2 features and functions delivered in V5R4, 6.1 and 7.1.  You can find Kent Milligan's overview presentations here.

For years I've recommended that IT professionals take 1 hour every week and do something different. Get away from the everyday tasks and do some research; investigate something you've heard about, discover something that is new and different, browse a reference manual (notice I didn't say "read" the manual).  As you review and recognize something, file it away. A related idea is: assume there is a way to do your data-centric work via SQL. (IBM i champion and good friend Jon Paris explains my approach as "SQL is the answer, now what is question". Jon is a very wise guy by the way). Scan the SQL reference guide looking for the technique, statement or function.  More often than not, you'll discover a way to accomplish the task using SQL - with a minimum amount of effort, i.e. DB2 does the heavy lifting so you don't have to. As a bonus to looking for the feature or function in question, you're likely to stumble across something else along the way - something you've never heard of or thought of before (hmmm... SOUNDEX scalar function). Through the process, you'll be gaining more awareness and knowledge.

From a broader perspective, another way to gain a competitive advantage is to get acquainted with data modeling. Endeavor to acquire a basic understanding of ERDs, LDMs and PDMs (yes more acronyms, look 'em up). Explore the art and science of representing business entities in a relational database. Refresh or clarify your knowledge of normalization and its purpose in the world of information storage and access.

Our DB2 for i Center of Excellence team strives to provide guidance and knowledge. We accomplish this in part by participating in conferences, forums and engagements around the world.  As subject matter experts we work to illuminate the techniques and best practices for productive information management using IBM i.

While studying alone is fruitful, sparring interacting with experts is even better. Find a way to engage us at one or more of the excellent events listed below.  You will not be disappointed.

Wisconsin Midrange Computer Professional Association Spring Conference

RPG & DB2 Summit

Northeast IBM i User Groups Conference

IBM Power Systems Technical Symposium

COMMON Annual Meeting and Exposition

IBM Power Systems Technical University

Once you acquire current knowledge and begin to practice your skills, don't be afraid to defend your territory and technology. Be prepared to fight for the right to demonstrate your new found capabilities. Act like a champion. Assume you can indeed accomplish what's required to meet business demands. Then go figure out how to get it done with IBM i and DB2.

Do not tolerate people asking "Why DB2 for i"?  Counter with "Why NOT DB2 for i".
Stay focused and handle objections, then go on the offensive. Provide more value.

If you find yourself getting more excited and enthusiastic about database, consider becoming the official champion within your company or line of business. Carve out a position within your organization and don the mantle of DB2 for i Engineer or Architect. We'll help. We've got your back.

In the mean time, I hope to see you out in the audience sooner than later!

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