In his first year at the K.L.N. College of Information Technology, Raghuveer Babu undertook a project that required him to consider the total capacity of the human brain. Calculating how much data the brain can truly hold is not exactly the same task as calculating the storage capacity of a hardware system. But it did force Babu, then a student majoring in computer science and engineering, to think about how much data actually exists-and more important, how to quickly distinguish the meaningful data from less valuable data.
The project piqued Babu's interest in databases as tools to organize and efficiently access data. "Databases are everywhere-they play a vital role in every project," he explains. During their years at K.L.N., an IT and engineering college located in Madurai, about three hours from the Indian Ocean in Tamil Nadu, a state in the southern part of India, Babu and classmate Pradeep Kumar not only learned about databases, but also taught classmates about them-especially IBM DB2. Their volunteer work surrounding DB2 recently earned Babu and Kumar the designation of IBM Information Champions.
Advocates and educators
The Information Champion program recognizes dedicated IBM product advocates who share their opinions and years of experience with others in the same field through technical communities, books, Web sites and blogs. (See sidebar, "IBM Information Champions: Making valuable contributions.") "It feels really great to be recognized," says Babu. "I'm very happy that IBM has such a wonderful program to recognize the efforts taken by people for communities all around the world."
Babu and Kumar became interested in DB2 through The Great Mind Challenge (TGMC), a technical contest aimed at students in India and sponsored by IBM. The pair learned about DB2 while recruiting classmates (enough to create more than 80 teams) to enter the contest. As a result of their efforts-which included visiting every class to meet with students-K.L.N. won an award in 2008 for having the most participating students in all of India.
That dedication, along with a passion for working with databases, sparked Babu's and Kumar's drive to teach DB2 to other students. They started the KLNCIT DB2 User Group, the largest IBM university user group in Asia with more than 400 registered members. They set up social networks for the group, recruited members, and encouraged 120 fellow students to become certified on DB2. They have also worked with three separate colleges to plan a full developer conference (DB2 DevCon). And although Babu and Kumar have now finished their engineering courses and are currently working as developers for a private software company, they remain involved in DB2 education efforts.
"I find DB2 very easy and flexible to work with, while providing good security and performance compared to other databases," says Babu. "DB2 can also store hierarchical data, like XML, in a relational database model. In my opinion, DB2 makes projects easier."
Helping students and broadening horizons
The pair present regular sessions to the university user group on IBM DB2 Express-C, a full-function version of DB2 that can be downloaded and deployed at no charge, making it an ideal option for students who are learning about data servers. The duo's free training sessions include:
- An introductory program on databases and related Technologies.
- Comparisons of DB2 features with those from other databases.
- An introduction to DB2 9.5 and its innovative features.
- Preparation for DB2 9 Family Fundamentals certification (exam 730), including practice sessions.
- Hands-on labs.
"In our introductory class, we explain the importance of databases in the real world and how they work in IT infrastructures," says Kumar. "This grabs their attention and gets them excited about databases and related technologies. From there, the students are constantly approaching us, wanting to learn about new features."
After their successful first attempt at recruiting students to become certified on DB2 earlier this year, Babu and Kumar plan to conduct two more certification training sessions in 2009, plus training sessions for students who originally registered in TGMC.
Both men were named DB2 Student Ambassadors in 2008, a designation they held during the rest of their time at K.L.N. A DB2 Student Ambassador is someone enrolled in a particular college who organizes events, advocates the use of DB2 in class projects, and arranges technical presentations by local IBM employees. Some ambassadors-including Babu and Kumar-also deliver technical presentations.
"Pradeep and Raghuveer have been the most active DB2 Student Ambassadors in India," says Raul Chong, IBM DB2 on Campus program manager. "They've not only organized several events, including the offering of certification exams and preparation classes, but they've also helped by recruiting and interviewing additional ambassadors in other universities in their state."
Developing skills for the real world
Student ambassadors help increase awareness of DB2, but they also provide significant benefits to their university peers. For example, at most universities, a single professor or dean will dictate what type of software is used, which can leave students unprepared to work in the real world with other database management systems. Babu and Kumar, along with many other student ambassadors, have worked to make sure students learn a wider variety of technologies, better preparing them for life after graduation.
Through their efforts, student ambassadors reap additional rewards, such as developing presentation and marketing skills that will be invaluable in their careers. They also become more visible to professors and potential employers. "I tell students that you can be the best programmer in the world, but if nobody knows who you are, you won't find a job," says Chong.
Babu and Kumar did enjoy those perks, but that's not what drives them to continue to spend their free time working with the user groups. "My interest in technology and desire to teach others motivate me do this work," says Kumar. Babu puts it even more simply: "Passion."
And that's what being an Information Champion really boils down to: passion. Because no matter what benefits you gain from writing a technical article or teaching others about software, you must be passionate about the topic to spend so much of your own free time on it.
"Raghuveer and Pradeep have demonstrated exemplary leadership in the community so early in their careers," says Amit Patel, team lead for IBM Information Management community programs and head of the IBM Information Champion program. "They voluntarily helped hundreds of their peers build DB2 skills from scratch. It is their passion for technology and dedication to the success of their peers that makes them Information Champions."