Tell us a little about yourself: who are you, what is your role in Rational Client Support?
My name is Ben Silverman. I am the WW CAG engineer for IBM Rational RequisitePro, Requirements Composer, and Rational Insight. I have been at IBM Rational for 4 years.
How do you grow your technical skills?
I usually like to read up on the latest technologies to see what's out there, instead of only working with the technologies implemented in our products. If there is a new version of Windows, SQL Server, DB2, Oracle, etc... I usually like to check them out knowing that we will soon be testing our products against them. If there is a new programming language or technique, I like to at least go through some basic tutorials to understand the benefits of them. Customers often like to extend our products where they can, so it is important to have some knowledge in this area.
We have a lot of new products, and we are trying to kick the tires as much as our customers do. There is a lot more to our products than the out of the box configuration. Going through advanced tutorials and scenarios out on jazz.net is a good place to start, as it is important to go through all of the scenarios our customers are preparing to do in their environments.
When I am working with one of our products, I like to know exactly how it's working, rather than just knowing that it's working. Looking at configuration files and logs usually provides me with some good information to think about when trying to understand how something is working.
What publications / websites do you read / visit?
jazz.net (Forums, articles, tech tips, videos)
devWorks forums (Forums, whitepapers, tutorials, publications)
Slashdot.org (Technology news)
What tip or trick would you like to share with the class?
RSS Feeds in Lotus Notes!!
When I installed Lotus Notes 8.5, I saw that it lets you maintain RSS feeds on the side bar. Whenever I am working in Notes, I have my email on the main page, and my feeds on the right. Many people know that all of our forums allow you to follow using RSS feeds, but what some do not know is that you can do the same with technotes for a particular product. I've added all the relevant feeds to my list, which include the following:
Technotes for IBM Rational Requirements Composer
- RRC Forum on Jazz.net
- RQM Forum on Jazz.net
- RTC Forum on Jazz.net
- ReqPro Forum on devWorks
- RPE Forum on devWorks
- SoDA Forum on devWorks
What tools / skills have you acquired that you feel are vital to your success in this field?
I have had the opportunity to learn quite a bit about various technologies throughout my career at IBM Rational. Aside from the products we support, there is a good amount of middleware involved that will be valuable in any IT related role. Experience with Apache Tomcat, Oracle, DB2, SQL Server, Websphere Application Server, Cognos, Visual Studio,
Aside from the technical aspect, I think it is also important to build relationships with my peers, and with our customers. Managing customer expectations, making sure that commitments and deadlines are met, and getting the right people involved are all skills that we need to succeed in our roles. People here are always willing to help out wherever they can, which makes it much easier to collaborate when it comes to meeting a deadline, or executing an action plan.
How do you prefer to find answers to your questions?
I prefer to find answers on forums, where there is some proof that an answer/solution has helped someone in some way. Often times, my problems/questions are not exactly the same as one I might encounter on a particular forum thread, but I have found that most of the time if you find the right thread, it can give you some pretty good hints about what to do, or where to look for the answer. I like to solve my own problems rather than being handed an answer that I will apply but not understand. The etiquette/communication model on most forums seems to facilitate that ideal very well :)
How do you define success?
Setting realistic goals and meeting or exceeding those goals is usually a good indication of success. I think in this role, success means that our customers are satisfied, and that we're keeping them satisfied. In general, success to me is not necessarily succeeding on the first try every time, but being able to take lessons learned from any experience whether it be good or bad. Some of the best lessons I have learned in this role have come from not so good experiences.
Do you have an "on the job" hero? If you could "follow" anyone for 24 hours, who would it be?
The process of conceptualizing ideas and turning them in to our finished products fascinates me. Often times, we just learn the new products that are given to us here in support and to our customers without thinking about what kind of problems the products are actually solving. I would like to be a fly on the wall in all of the organizations involved in turning an idea in to a finished product. This includes (but probably is not limited to) the product architects, development teams, product management, and marketing. Having some knowledge or exposure to this process would give all of us in support a better understanding of how we are really helping our clients become successful.
Is there any technology that you think should get more respect and adoption but does not?
I think that RSS feeds are not adopted as often as they could be. We've all seen that tiny "RSS" button on most sites that lets you copy a feed, but most of the time it gets ignored. There is so much activity on jazz.net and developerWorks, and I think the feeds are the best way to be "in the know" with the latest topics. RSS feeds alert us to the latest forum posts, and the latest technotes. There is so much that can learned just by hovering over and glancing at each new thread that comes in through the feed. I have closed several PMR's and escalations just by quickly glancing at new feeds that come in through my RSS reader in Lotus Notes. Often times, a PMR or escalation will come in that has already been discussed on a thread, so keeping up with these has been very beneficial.