Blog Authors: Valerie Skinner 060000VKGS is part of the IBM developerWorks team, getting to know the real developers who make up the My developerWorks community and exploring the world of social networking. I'm enjoying learning what makes developers tick! I'm very interested in exploring online communities and social media and understanding real world application - how they can help people solve problems and work together.
Interview with Joey Bernal, Portal and Web Application specialist
vskinner 060000VKGS Tags:  interview lotus websphere portal dw_author websphere_portal 2,889 Views
This week get to know Joey Bernal, author of multiple books and developerWorks articles related to WebSphere Portal. Learn more about Joey Bernal:
His profile on My developerWorks
His books on Amazon.com
Joey Bernal on Twitter
Tell me about yourself and what you're currently working on...
Hmm, that is always a hard question to answer without sounding like a TV commercial. Within IBM I am an Executive Consultant with IBM Software Services for Lotus. I focus on delivery of WebSphere Portal and related products making sure that our customers are successful implementing solutions with Lotus products. Unofficially I am married and a father of 4 living in Houston, TX.
I am currently working on a large content migration project moving a customer set of web sites from Vignette to IBM Web Content Management. This is slightly more exciting then it sounds as we are moving literally massive amounts of content that represent over a hundred web sites for this customer. For me this is a year long effort of which I am currently about half way through.
What first sparked your interest in technology?
Interestingly enough I was kind of a late bloomer when it comes to technology. I was never really good at math or science in high school. I was more apt to be in detention. It was while I was in the Army that I bought a used Commodore 64 from a buddy in the late 80's. Initially I started off with the games like everyone else, but eventually I found my way to programming. I would copy basic programs from magazines, run them, and then watch them disappear when the computer was turned off, *sigh*. Sometime later my friend got me a tape backup attachment. This was literally a cassette tape player that connected with a cable. Eventually I moved to a PC. I splurged for my first one and got one with the dual floppy drives. Later I purchased a refurbished 10GB hard drive that was really cool. This made life much more interesting and I started messing more with networking and the internal guts of PC's. I was actually really good at that stuff, but I knew that to really grow I needed to go to school, so that was the obvious next step, to get my degree in CS.
Sadly, I rarely play games anymore. It just seems like such a waste of time to me, even though we probably have every game machine available in my house currently. I know this makes me sound like a serious person, which is absolutely not the case. With so much going on, I just try and manage my time.
What developing technologies or innovations are you obsessed with lately?
I'm actually on a break from obsession at the moment. This sounds a little funny, but it's true. When I get going on a new book or topic I tend to immerse myself wholly and focus on that topic. To the point that I feel guilty when I do something else. For example I won't really read anything unless it's related to the topic at hand. As you can imagine this can go on for 6 months or more, so between projects I really like to clear my head.
That being said, I don't ignore things that are of interest to me. I am constantly reading new books or developerWorks articles. Two books that I am carrying around with me now are one on Spring Enterprise Integration, and another on Cloud Computing.
How do you stay in touch with the real-world problems that customers are facing?
This is actually pretty easy for me. Since I work in a customer facing arm of IBM Software Group I get to work with customers all the time, helping to try and solve real world problems as they adapt and customize our software. What is not so easy is trying to address the challenges that are different with every customer situation.
We have a pretty good network of consultants and we try to talk to each other and bounce ideas and questions. It helps to hear what other folks are doing and continuing to learn from each others situations. Some of us also tend to focus in certain areas so we get called in when questions in our general area of expertise are required. For example I tend to get called when questions arise around application architecture or development topics are asked. Others in our group focus on performance, infrastructure, or product specific topics such as Web Content Management.
One interesting side effect, is that because of my focus on the hear and now, I often shy away from new and shiny objects unless I think they can offer real value. This keeps me from chasing every new change in technology until it starts to break through and become something more mainstream.
You're the author of five books as well as many articles on developerWorks over the years. What inspires you to write? What are the surprise benefits you've discovered from writing about technology?
Writing is actually something that I enjoy, and have enjoyed for many years. I think this is an important point to explain that writing is not a chore for me as it can be for other technical people. Even in college I was taking writing and journalism courses, knowing that I would eventually do some technical writing at some point in my career. I think that is the only way that someone can survive or even thrive when working on a project like a book.
I actually started writing within IBM as a way to reach more customers. For years I was actually measured on the number of customers that I affected each year. So I figured what better way to reach more customers then to write? Initially it was through articles in developerWorks and other journals, and then later through my blog. Books came more recently, but for me have turned into my favorite medium.
As for benefits, writing allows me to share a more complete solution with my customers. For example my book, Application Architecture for WebSphere, came about because it seemed like I was repeating a lot of the same advice to many customers over the years. It was one thing to offer them advice, but after the book came out I could actually hand them a copy and say, "here, this is a lot of the things you should know".
Do you have any new books or articles in the works? If you do, tell me about it...
I just met with the IBM Press manager at Impact in Las Vegas last week. We kicked around a few topics and ideas. One idea is to do a third edition of our co-author book, "Programming Portlets". I think we may kick this off later this year and it may be a good next project for me, since I don't have to write the whole thing, rather just a few chapters. A lot has changed since our last edition, so this is really a necessary upgrade that I think people will benefit from.
I am also kicking around an idea for a book on code quality. This is another topic that is being driven by my customer interactions. Way too often am I seeing organizations that farm out the development of their projects and then have no understanding of the code being sent back. If it compiles then it gets deployed right into production. Often they leave the idea of measuring the quality of the code to the developers themselves, who obviously have their own priorities and bias. I think there are steps that organizations can put into place to ensure that what they get back is not only functional, but also robust and secure. This is another area where I tend to do a lot of talking, but need to take the concepts and processes to the next level. I honestly don't think I will start on this until next year, but I am excited about the topic.
How do you use developerWorks?
Sorry, I'm not that interesting when it comes to this. Mostly I read the articles. Obviously I write some articles, but nowadays it is all about keeping up with technology. Every few weeks I go and download or print the latest set of articles about whatever technology, topic, or product that interests me and then I carry them with me in my computer case. When I am stuck on an airplane or somewhere I pull them out and read them. It is one of the best ways to see what other folks are doing, or learn a new technique.
How are you using social networking today?
Externally Facebook is sometimes a big part of my life. I probably check at least my friends status once a day, although I don't post as often. The thing it, with my line of work it allows me to keep in touch with everyone in my life. My family, friends, customers, and co-workers who are often on the road as much as I am. I have two children away at college so Facebook and Twitter keeps me updated on any happenings with them, as well as seeing any interesting updates from my other two kids and my wife. All of us post or update often so it closes the gap that travel can sometimes build.
Interestingly enough I keep up with many of my co-workers on Facebook. Knowing the travel adventures of other consultants let's me know if anyone is in my area. I call it the "Virtual Water Cooler", and more then once I have been able to coordinate dinner with someone who I would normally never be able to see. It's also fun to hear of adventures my co-workers might be having at their customer site, or on the road. Obviously we have to abide by IBM guidelines for external social networking and not disclose anything incorrectly, but this is generally not a problem.
We also have a lot of social networking capability within IBM which I use. Most of this I have written about in my latest book, "Web 2.0 and Social Networking for the Enterprise", I use Lotus Quickr and Lotus Connections extensively for projects and collaboration.
Do you have any favorite technical blogs? What makes them a must-read for you?
OK, I'm going to sound crazy, but I don't follow a lot of these things. I do read some from time to time, but mostly when I am looking for some information on a particular topic. I try and limit my information overload and one way I do that is to not try and read and follow every latest idea that someone is talking about. I figure that if something has some legs I'll hear about it eventually. Usually before most people cause I then have to figure it out and how to adapt it for my customers.
- Thanks Joey!