Dani Szwarc on Learning IBM i
Dani Szwarc discusses interviewing IBM Power Systems Champions to learn more about the IBM i platform.
Paul Tuohy: Hi everybody and welcome to another iTalk with Tuohy. So this iTalk actually is one I'm really looking forward to because it's a little bit different. So my guest today is Dani Szwarc. Hi you, Dani.
Dani Szwarc: How are you, Paul?
Paul: I'm good. So I didn't kill your surname did I that time? I did get it right?
Dani: Yup. It was perfect.
Paul: Excellent. Excellent. So Dani, just before we get into what I really want to talk to you about, maybe could you―could you just maybe give us a quick intro as to who you are and what it is you do?
Dani: Sure. Well I'm Dani Szwarc from Argentina living in Canada for the last 16 years. Basically I work for Fresche Solutions, but I'm not working on something related to IBM i. I'm a web developer and that's something I have been doing for the last―let's say 20 years, probably―but since I started working at Fresche, I have kind of found a passion on IBM i. So that's what I'm trying to get into now.
Paul: Okay. So this interest thing: So we sort of came across each other last year, Dani―I think it was maybe September-October time or something like that? Because you have a really―came up with a really interesting way of trying to get into or find out about IBM i on the platform. So you want talk about that a little bit?
Dani: Yes. So this is the thing: I got to a point that I said okay, I understand that I'm working for a company that works with something that is quite unique and special, but I'm not part of it. At that time, I had to do a trip to London―actually to Exeter in the U.K. for a client with Trevor Perry, which for me, he's my mentor. I started to talk to him saying, "okay how can I get into this?" Because I couldn't find information about how to start. So I have questions and he said, "but if you have questions, I can connect you to people to answer those questions, so why do we do interviews? You have a list of ten questions that you can ask and you start learning from these people who happen to be Champion or people working in the industry." So that's how we started with interviews. The first interview was actually with him, with Trevor, and it was shaping into something that I started to enjoy and I started to understand―to have a better understanding actually what the platform was and how important it is for the businesses and how important the community is to the platform. That's the way that it started to become a passion, so that's basically what it is.
Paul: Okay so―I mean apart from the fact Dani that I mean obviously that your company is involved on the platform I mean, can you remember what it is―I mean was there sort of a hoop? Was there something that you heard about or―I mean as to sort of―what―what. Is there something that tweaked your interest?
Dani: I think it was―I have to be very honest with you: There were two things. I'm 47. I notice that―I mean I was doing websites, I was doing web applications and I wanted to jump into the mobile development work, but I realized that it was very hard to compete with kids coming out from school. Because I don't know how they do it, but they code 20 times faster than what I can do. They can be talking about anything and typing, and so I'm not able to catch up, I'm not able to follow them. So I said, "okay, but I have experience." I mean I was dealing with customers for a long time and I can understand their needs. So I said "okay what can I do?" and that's when I started realizing that I work for a company that has something quite particular, and when I start talking to people, they told me we have a big problem, which is the people that wrote the code on the platform, they're retiring and actually someone in one of the interviews was a little bit more cruel. He says "they're not actually retiring. Some of them are dead already," so―
Paul: Oh my God, yeah. Remind me about that again, Dani [laughs].
Dani: I think it was Mike Pavlak. He said, "Dani, not only retiring. They're dying." So I said "okay"―but then I said "okay, I'm in between. I'm in between the kids coming out from school and I still have some years left to go and I'm in the company." It's like suddenly I saw the pieces of the puzzle connecting in terms of using my experience in something completely different, but being able to apply it to this―that again, for some reason which I'm not very clear what was it―but it became a passion. I think it was the way that Trevor talked to me about the platform. The interviews talking with people like you, like Steve Will, suddenly everything becomes like―every single question that I was getting an answer for, I was internally saying "I love this. I love this." And if you were to ask me, "Can you explain why? No, I'm not able to―"
Dani: But I know it is, again, when I am reading on social media about the platform, I feel that I need to be part of that conversation. I need to be part of what is happening.
Paul: Yeah so―
Dani: So that's basically―it's like love. You can't explain it, but it's there.
Paul: So there was an interesting thing. There was a comment someone had posted. Actually it was a comment on the interview that you did with me, Dani, and―I'm just going to read it out here because this to me was interesting because it gave me a different perception on how people outside the industry perceive the platform. And this―it was a guy called Cy and he said "these interviews, while very interesting and informative, have reinforced my perception that the IBM world operates as an elite club and unless you're lucky enough to be chosen by an existing club member, entry is difficult." Right? So how do you respond to that, Dani? I know you typed your response here, but do you want to―do you want to expand on it here for me?
Dani: Yes, well when I read that question actually because this is Trevor's platform, he informed that there was someone making that comment and he said go ahead and enter your reply. It was very―for me it was very difficult to answer because I'm lucky enough to have, to work for a company that is an IBM i shop, that I have people like Trevor working there as well that I can ask. But then I realized that I was trying to do, it was very difficult for me if I don't have those contacts. So the way that I wanted to learn from people, if I don't have those―Trevor's, those folks―it would be difficult. It would be difficult so I said the way that I found out how to help with that is, "okay, to me he has a point, and I want to make that point part of my interviews that I was doing." So I started to ask people in my interviews, let's say someone―at the same time that question came up, at the same time I was researching on how the committee in Argentina about IBM i. Everyone talks about―sorry. Oh, I thought you were saying something.
Paul: No, no, no.
Dani: Everyone talks about AS/400 and they talk about all the old good times of green screen, so I notice that there is disconnection, so I said okay: Let's have someone in Argentina that wants to learn about the platform, but he doesn't work for a company that works with IBM i. What are the ways? And I couldn't find a way for him other than he knows me, and he knows Trevor―I know Trevor. So I start researching a little bit. One of the answers that I got is it's just a matter of going to social media or going to LinkedIn, find out the people that are part of the community and that are part of the platform, and ask the question: "How can I get into this?" Actually Steve Will gave me that answer, which I said is extremely simple answer―which is I mean an extremely simple step. Sometimes you have to go and the committee―what I found is that it is open enough to say "this is the way." Actually one of the answers that I got that you can go to pub4000―400―and you can start using a partition there for free―
Dani: To learn, which is what I start doing as well. So I said okay, there are ways if―something that I found in life in general is you know―you need to know how to ask the right question. If you ask the right question, you're going to get the right answer.
Paul: Yeah. I think that's now been renamed, Dani, to the art of using Google. It's not a thing―how do you type the right question into Google to get the answer that you need [laughs]?
Dani: But it is that way because at the time that I put in Google "free AS/400 partition" or "free IBM i partition," I got answers, but someone told me maybe you need to look for "free partitions"―for me to say oh. Then I wasn't asking the right question. I mean I was like one step ahead without knowing how―without having a partition―
Dani: So I needed to go one step back and say "okay, where can I do this work? If I want to learn about the platform, how can I get access to the platform?"
Paul: Yeah. So Dani, you're done I think it's what nine-eight, nine, ten interviews?
Dani: Eleven interviews.
Paul: Okay―with people, and I know at the moment you're a little bit snowed under with your actual day job, with work and that okay for a couple of months. I mean I'm looking here. I mean you inter―like you mentioned a few of the people here. You've interviewed people like, you know, Steve Will, Jesse Gorzinski, Carol Woodbury, Alison Butterill―and Mike Pavlak who you mentioned―Liam―
Paul: Liam; Niels. You know I mean you've hit a lot of the big people, you know of the names and that that are out there and that. So what is it that you've learned from them, Dani?
Dani: Okay if you ask me the top thing that I learned from them is how passionate they are about the platform, that's for sure. And it goes together with what you ask me, what you mention before, when you are so inside the platform that sometimes you don't realize that other people may not understand what it is, but when you're part of it, I notice that. I notice passion and I said "okay why there so much passion about this platform?" So the things that I learn from the interviews is how powerful it is, how secure it is, how the community will push, will keep pushing and it keeps growing to make it an even more―a stronger community and stronger platform. That's one of the things that I learned. The fact that you don't need to know RPG or COBOL to get into the platform if you know modern languages. Let's say Node.js, if you know Python, if you know PHP, you can get into the platform and you can start working with the platform. So it's a solid platform that you can run code that you wrote many years ago and you can still make it run, make it work, but you can extend. You can work with all the modern open-source languages, you can work with artificial intelligence. So it's a very solid platform that continues to grow and for some reason, it creates again―and I'm sorry if I'm repeating myself―but it creates a particular passion that―. I mean if you ask me, the other day I connected, I was looking at the green screen in front of me and I noticed that I was like looking at guitar. I said "wow." I'm not able to explain what it is―
Dani: But I notice it's―there's a hook to it that I'm not able to explain. What I learn is that "okay, this is what I like, what I love. I want to keep learning about it." I love the fact that it is a solid platform that has the database integrated. It is an integrated system and it is meant for businesses and to make it―I mean to make the pieces concentrate on making business rather than trying to figure out how to make a solid platform because it is there.
Paul: Yeah, cool. Okay Dani listen: We're nearly finished and always on these―on these chats I always like to end on a more personal note. When we were just chatting before we started recording, you were telling me about a project that you're about to start on, which I think is a really cool thing. So you want to share that with us?
Dani: Oh, yes. For some reason, this is something that I always wanted to do, which is build my own electric guitar, but it was like for a long time in the back burner. But after watching Queen's movie, Bohemian Rhapsody, and having my 10-year-old son singing Queen song all the time, I said "okay, this is my time to build my brand made, really special guitar." So that's the pressure time, starting to plan. I mean I know that it is going to be a project that will last probably two years because all the things that I was reading is something that you need to do step by step, and at the same time I have other obligations, but it is something that I am researching. I'm getting―trying to get the special wood that I will use, the special parts. I have the plans already for the shape, the body of the guitar, so that's my project. So as you can see I have different projects: IBM i and guitar building are the two that are my focus right now. My concentration is going to work on those two projects.
Paul: And is it true that you did at one stage actually hold Brian May's guitar?
Dani: I did. Actually it was―he came to play to Argentina his first album. I think it was a tour and for some reason I don't know how―with my friend, we had a band and he found out that he was―before playing the big stadium, he was playing a small concert in discothèque that was actually three blocks from his house.
Dani: So we were there―and this is a very small disco. I don't know if it still exists but it didn't have a backstage. So at the time that the show finished, they start preparing everything to leave, disassembling everything but through the front. My friend told me, "Dani, this is the time for us to work for a Queen member." We offered ourselves; someone passed his guitar and I look at it. This is a guitar that he built himself with his dad when he was, I think, 18.
D: Out of pieces from a chimney, from a door―and he created a guitar that he still uses today. I couldn't believe it. It was an incredible moment and then we were able to talk to him so it was a very, very special moment.
Paul: Excellent. Well Dani, I wish you all the best with your guitar building and I wish―
Dani: Thank you very much.
Paul: All the best with your progress on IBM i. Remember at any stage, feel free to reach out and make use the community as you are doing so well. Just continue it all so Dani, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me.
Dani: Thank you so much, Paul. It was a pleasure.
Paul: Okay. That's it for this iTalk everybody. Tune in again in a couple of weeks for the next one. Talk to you all soon. Bye.