What happens when IBM Champions talk about their career
Since May, I've interviewed 13 different IBM Champions with my partner-in-crime, David Pittman. We ask each Champion about their work, their background and what’s shaping their industry. Inevitably, these conversations turn towards community.
Several of our Champions hold leadership roles in their respective user groups, and nearly all of them mentioned how valuable the groups are throughout their careers. Champion for DB2 Julian Stuhler explained, “We’ve got people who are willing to take their hard-won experience and stand up at conferences and mentor people and pass on their hard-won skills so that other users and organizations don’t have to suffer the same kind of knocks and bruises that they suffered going through the processes.”
Michelle Christensen, who helped found the IBM Content Managers OnDemand User Group (ODUG), heartily agrees, saying that user groups are “a win-win-win for everyone. Whenever you get organizations together, they’re sharing ideas and experiences…. How many times do you get three large telecoms who compete against each other sitting together around a table, talking about how they can use the product better? That is huge.”
User groups also help hurdle language barriers. Miguel Carbone helped found the Brazilian Informix Users Group (BRIUG) and is helping develop a similar group for Spanish-speaking Latin America. Miguel sees BRIUG as a vital link between Brazilian users, IIUG and IBM, noting, “We are delivering the message better, and the customer can communicate with IIUG and IBM better.” This enables local users lacking English fluency to network and access vital ideas and information, while also funneling concerns to the international group.
Communities work both ways: newer users can learn the lessons of their predecessors, while established users who have moved onto consulting roles (like many of our Champions) learn from those “in the trenches.”
Bonnie Baker invests a lot of time in IDUG, traveling the globe to present at various conferences where she also takes time to learn. “Gaining knowledge is so important to me,” she said, admitting that she learns more from her students than they realize. “They have the day-to-day, hands-on familiarity with DB2 that I used to have.”
Beyond conferences and user group meetings, communities are taking new forms, including incredible growth in virtual worlds that we couldn't have imagined twenty years ago.
Jim Harris, the “Shakespearean data quality consultant” I first met two years ago via Twitter, leverages social media for his daily work, building an online community of experts from around the world who share best practices. “Social media has made my world so much smaller,” Jim explained, noting that he can access a wealth of thought leaders without needing to leave his Iowa home, gaining insight into how they solve a variety of data management puzzles.
Based in Argentina, Cecilia Rodriguez-Babino agrees, mentioning that she relies on Twitter to keep her updated on InfoSphere news and trends, including blogs penned by other Champions.
But communities are also about giving back. Julian explained, “I personally got a big lift up quite early in my career and relied quite heavily on people who shared their experiences and skills with me, and I've always felt quite keenly that I should be repaying that debt to the DB2 community.” Many of the Champions noted similar “pay-it-forward” reasons for being engaged with their communities.
With the Champions well-integrated into their respective user communities, users around the world benefit from shared ideas and best practices, plus a sense of camaraderie that can help a technical challenge seem much more manageable.
Check out our series of interviews, and subscribe so you’ll see each new edition. We publish every two weeks.
How has your career been impacted by user groups and communities?