Thu, Jul
2 New Articles

Young RPG Talent: It Exists If You Make an Investment

  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

The key to growth and innovation in an IT shop is regularly recruiting new talent with fresh ideas, and your IBM i shop can do it too!


I am extremely excited to start contributing regularly here at MC Press Online! I hope you will enjoy reading my articles as much as I enjoy writing them. In my 14 years in the RPG development space, I have made it a point to learn as much as possible. I have also tried to share the knowledge I have acquired by writing articles and speaking to user groups. RPG, in my opinion, is still the most well-suited language for writing business applications. I love IBM i and RPG, and I look forward to sharing that enthusiasm with you.


I decided to write my first entry to the RPG Development column here at MC Press on the question that I am asked the most by far. I felt this topic was also a good follow-on to David Shirey's "What's Wrong with the RPG World?" article. So what question am I talking about? "Why can't I find young RPG developers"? Let's walk through the most common complaint I hear and the mistake I see made by IBM i shops with regard to hiring RPG talent.


No Schools Teach RPG Anymore

This is not true. IBM's Academic Initiative works with universities all over the world to help them bring IBM i into the classroom. If you want a list of schools, it can be found here. Obviously, IBM is working with schools to have IBM i and RPG in the classroom.


So if you said schools don't teach RPG anymore, that must mean that no schools near you teach RPG. You could of course contact one of the schools above or even use the IBM Academic Initiative's job board to post your open positions. This is the easy option. If, however, you need a steady stream of young new developers who know RPG, contact your local college or university. Colleges teach what they feel the market demands. So you need to voice your needs to them. Better yet, get a few companies in the area that are IBM i shops to join you in voicing these needs. The reality is that IBM cannot force a school to teach anything. They will, however, give a school anything they need to teach a Power Systems curriculum. You just need to help get the ball rolling.


Another option that has been extremely successful for me personally is to hire interns. I cannot speak for all RPG developers, but I for one did not learn RPG or IBM i in school. I have a feeling that most of you, like me, learned RPG on the job. This actually works very well. RPG is not a difficult language to master if you already have programming skills. So work with your local colleges and universities to find interns. They can be part-time workers or full-time co-ops, but either way, they're inexpensive and a great way to build your staff. Ideally, hire several interns and give them simple tasks while they learn the ins and outs of RPG. As they progress, they will be able to handle more complex tasks and you will be able to monitor their progress and offer permanent positions to those who have the traits your company needs. Not all of them will become permanent employees, but you will get to pick the best of the candidates and the rest will at least go out into the world with IBM i knowledge, which is good for all of us.


Stop Looking for the Perfect Candidate

I am told at least 15 times at every conference I attend that companies cannot find RPG developers. Amazingly, I also hear from dozens of developers who say there are no jobs. Something is obviously awry here. There are actually many reasons for this disconnect, but I want to focus on one specifically as it applies more directly to younger developers.


I browse job listings regularly, not because I'm looking for a job (I love my job) but because I want to keep a finger on the pulse of the community. All too often, I see a job listing looking for an RPG developer with 10+ years of experience who knows the specific ERP, warehouse management, and reporting/business intelligence software that the company uses. The candidate must also know Java, HTML, PHP, and any number of other languages that the company uses. I want to let you in on a little secret. This candidate most likely does not exist, and if he or she does, you cannot afford him/her. What a job listing like this actually does is scare away the extremely talented developers who you should be hiring.


Start by removing unnecessary requirements from job postings. Don't list every "nice to have" skill in your job listing. Hit the most important need and add one or two "pluses." This will attract more talent and will focus the field more toward your needs. The other "nice to haves" can be learned once you have a competent developer in that position. This issue becomes even more exaggerated when your human resources department is involved in the process. If HR posts the job listings and filters the resumes received, they are likely eliminating really great candidates because those candidates don't check all of the boxes on the skills list.


Start hiring entry-level developers. I would estimate that 90 percent of the job listings I see at any given time are for experienced developers. Most listings are looking for at least five years of experience, with many wanting at least 10. If I were a student looking for a field of study, I wouldn't want to learn RPG because there are no job listings for entry-level developers. I understand that companies have deadlines to meet and the demands on IT are ever increasing, but if you do not hire entry-level developers, you will forever be trying to fill positions as your staff moves on or retires. Companies that hire young developers and invest in them have a much more stable staff over time. These are the companies whose IBM i staff thrives and innovates. Entry-level hires bring new life and new ideas to the department.


Here's another tip. When posting entry-level positions, don't post for an "RPG developer." Just post for an entry-level developer. You can list IBM i and RPG as a "plus," but don't put it in the requirements. There are thousands of great developers out there that have never heard of RPG. Does that make them less of a developer? Of course not! It just means they have yet to experience the best business application language around.


That's It

A few simple strategy changes can make worlds of difference in your recruiting. In fact, these are the same things I'm doing to staff the new office I'm opening for my company. After four years working from my home, I have leased office space from Mississippi State University and will be hiring both full-time developers and student interns. This is a strategic direction for us, not only to build our staff but also to increase awareness of IBM i among students. Now it's time to do your part. It's our job to develop the future of RPG development, so let's get to it.


Brian May

Brian May, an IBM Power Systems Champion and Solutions Architect for Profound Logic Software, devotes the majority of his time to assisting customers with their modernization efforts. He frequently writes and speaks on topics related to RPG, JavaScript, and IBM i Modernization. Brian recently contributed his time and expertise to the new IBM i Modernization Redbook.




Support MC Press Online


Book Reviews

Resource Center

  • SB Profound WC 5536 Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application. You can find Part 1 here. In Part 2 of our free Node.js Webinar Series, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Brian will briefly discuss the different tools available, and demonstrate his preferred setup for Node development on IBM i or any platform. Attend this webinar to learn:

  • SB Profound WP 5539More than ever, there is a demand for IT to deliver innovation. Your IBM i has been an essential part of your business operations for years. However, your organization may struggle to maintain the current system and implement new projects. The thousands of customers we've worked with and surveyed state that expectations regarding the digital footprint and vision of the company are not aligned with the current IT environment.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT Generic IBM announced the E1080 servers using the latest Power10 processor in September 2021. The most powerful processor from IBM to date, Power10 is designed to handle the demands of doing business in today’s high-tech atmosphere, including running cloud applications, supporting big data, and managing AI workloads. But what does Power10 mean for your data center? In this recorded webinar, IBMers Dan Sundt and Dylan Boday join IBM Power Champion Tom Huntington for a discussion on why Power10 technology is the right strategic investment if you run IBM i, AIX, or Linux. In this action-packed hour, Tom will share trends from the IBM i and AIX user communities while Dan and Dylan dive into the tech specs for key hardware, including:

  • Magic MarkTRY the one package that solves all your document design and printing challenges on all your platforms. Produce bar code labels, electronic forms, ad hoc reports, and RFID tags – without programming! MarkMagic is the only document design and print solution that combines report writing, WYSIWYG label and forms design, and conditional printing in one integrated product. Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Request your trial now!  Request Now.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericForms of ransomware has been around for over 30 years, and with more and more organizations suffering attacks each year, it continues to endure. What has made ransomware such a durable threat and what is the best way to combat it? In order to prevent ransomware, organizations must first understand how it works.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericIT security is a top priority for businesses around the world, but most IBM i pros don’t know where to begin—and most cybersecurity experts don’t know IBM i. In this session, Robin Tatam explores the business impact of lax IBM i security, the top vulnerabilities putting IBM i at risk, and the steps you can take to protect your organization. If you’re looking to avoid unexpected downtime or corrupted data, you don’t want to miss this session.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericCan you trust all of your users all of the time? A typical end user receives 16 malicious emails each month, but only 17 percent of these phishing campaigns are reported to IT. Once an attack is underway, most organizations won’t discover the breach until six months later. A staggering amount of damage can occur in that time. Despite these risks, 93 percent of organizations are leaving their IBM i systems vulnerable to cybercrime. In this on-demand webinar, IBM i security experts Robin Tatam and Sandi Moore will reveal:

  • FORTRA Disaster protection is vital to every business. Yet, it often consists of patched together procedures that are prone to error. From automatic backups to data encryption to media management, Robot automates the routine (yet often complex) tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAManaging messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. Messages need a response and resources must be monitored—often over multiple systems and across platforms. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events? Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAThe thought of printing, distributing, and storing iSeries reports manually may reduce you to tears. Paper and labor costs associated with report generation can spiral out of control. Mountains of paper threaten to swamp your files. Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing. Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAFor over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i. With batch job creation and scheduling at its core, the Robot Job Scheduling Solution reduces the opportunity for human error and helps you maintain service levels, automating even the biggest, most complex runbooks. Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:

  • LANSA Business users want new applications now. Market and regulatory pressures require faster application updates and delivery into production. Your IBM i developers may be approaching retirement, and you see no sure way to fill their positions with experienced developers. In addition, you may be caught between maintaining your existing applications and the uncertainty of moving to something new.

  • LANSAWhen it comes to creating your business applications, there are hundreds of coding platforms and programming languages to choose from. These options range from very complex traditional programming languages to Low-Code platforms where sometimes no traditional coding experience is needed. Download our whitepaper, The Power of Writing Code in a Low-Code Solution, and:

  • LANSASupply Chain is becoming increasingly complex and unpredictable. From raw materials for manufacturing to food supply chains, the journey from source to production to delivery to consumers is marred with inefficiencies, manual processes, shortages, recalls, counterfeits, and scandals. In this webinar, we discuss how:

  • The MC Resource Centers bring you the widest selection of white papers, trial software, and on-demand webcasts for you to choose from. >> Review the list of White Papers, Trial Software or On-Demand Webcast at the MC Press Resource Center. >> Add the items to yru Cart and complet he checkout process and submit

  • Profound Logic Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application.

  • SB Profound WC 5536Join us for this hour-long webcast that will explore:

  • Fortra IT managers hoping to find new IBM i talent are discovering that the pool of experienced RPG programmers and operators or administrators with intimate knowledge of the operating system and the applications that run on it is small. This begs the question: How will you manage the platform that supports such a big part of your business? This guide offers strategies and software suggestions to help you plan IT staffing and resources and smooth the transition after your AS/400 talent retires. Read on to learn: