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Dawn May Discusses her Passion for Teaching IBM i

In this episode of iTalk With Tuohy, host Paul Tuohy discusses teaching the IBM i platform with consultant Dawn May.

Dawn May on white backdrop.

Image by David Bowman

Paul Tuohy: Hi everybody and welcome to another iTalk with Tuohy. Delighted to have back with me today somebody who I've had the pleasure of actually working with on and off over a few years on the CEAC, Dawn May. Hi ya, Dawn.

Dawn May: Hi, Paul.

Paul: So Dawn: shock, horror. You have left IBM.

Dawn: Yes, I did. That was my birthday present this year [laughs].

Paul: Okay I'm going to read into that whatever I want, Dawn. Okay I do want to talk to you about your career at IBM and that just very briefly, but before that, are you now retired?

Dawn: Not really. I was thinking about it, but nah, I can't retire. I want to keep working.

Paul: Okay. So let's talk about that in a second but―butfirst of all, you've been with IBM since you left college if I remember correctly.

Dawn: That's correct. I started with IBM immediately after I graduated from college way back many years ago.

Paul: Okay so do you want to just―because I know you've been involved with the platform, you know, since the AS/400 started, so that whole―oh my God I've given away how long you've been with IBM because everybody knows what celebration this is this year―but okay. So do you want to just touch on to you the highlights of your―what you did while you were in IBM?

Dawn: I had a fabulous career with IBM. I started out doing some tests and I went from tests down into licensed internal code development and communications. I did x25 and release 1 of the AS/400, but over the years I had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of the systems―from communications into work management and diagnostic tools, performance management―and I ended my career with a fabulous job working with the Large User Group, the COMMON Americas Advisory Council and the COMMON Europe Advisory Council―Paul as you already mentioned, the CEAC―with customer facing roles. So I did a little bit of everything, it was fabulous. And I sort of decided, you know, I'd never been in the real world. I maybe should give that a try [laughs].

Paul: Well welcome to the real world, Dawn.

Dawn: Welcome to the real world, yup.

Paul: Okay so you've started a new venture, Dawn. You've started your own consultancy company. So―so what is it you're going to be doing?

Dawn: You know that decision took me some time because I wasn't sure I wanted to venture out on my own, but I concluded yup, I want to be my own boss and do what I want to do. I've discovered with all the years I had in a development organization that I really like troubleshooting, finding problems, fixing problems. That was a big part of what I did when I worked at IBM in―several of the roles I had was to sort of modernize internal parts of the operating system―and I really liked when I worked with the performance area. And so I'm looking at doing two things: one of which is, you know, working as a performance consultant for clients that have―either want to understand their system health and performance or they have performance concerns they would like to address and resolve―to help with that real deep technical work, but I also really like to help people learn more about all the capabilities they have available to them. Again, a lot of this is specific to the performance area. Many clients, IBM clients don't even know they have a really rich set of performance tools right available with the operating system included that they can take advantage of. Doing education and teaching people about what they have and how to use it and take advantage of those tools is another thing I want to do.

Paul: Cool. Now you've got to remember, Dawn―like you're talking to a software guy here―so my idea of performance is I know there's that system option that says automatic tuning, and I switch that on. And if I've got problems, I just buy more memory and more disk.

Dawn: Well that's one thing you can do, and you know the fact that today's hardware you know when you look at POWER9 and the memory capabilities you've got and fast storage, large―well large amounts of main memory and then fast storage with like SSDs―sure you can throw hardware at your problem and fix that way. For a lot of small shops that might be you know―they may not need to worry as much about performance; however, system health is an important component. Even if you've got really rich hardware, you've got to make sure that you're, you know, not doing something stupid.

Paul: Sure. Yeah.

Dawn: However, there are a number of shops that either can't invest in upgrading their hardware at this point in time, or they're growing rapidly. Businesses are growing. They're adding workloads. How do I manage my workloads to get the optimal efficiency out of the system that I have?

Paul: So would it be a thing just in that area, Dawn, because actually, I was just at the IBM Technical University in Rome just the week gone by and I was chatting to somebody there. Are you seeing more and more of people now start to set up things like Linux partitions or AIX partitions on their systems as well?

Dawn: Most of the clients I've worked with are very i-centric. You know some of the larger shops definitely I'm seeing them do that, but the smaller ones I haven't seen that, but it's certainly something they could do.

Paul: Yeah. No I mean it was something a group of people I was talking to and suddenly I was sort of going, my God I wasn't aware these―I mean I knew, as you say, the large customers were doing it, but these were some more of the medium sized ones and of course obviously if you've got a certain amount of hardware and you partition, well you're going to have to tune what you've got left a little bit. It was more that that they were actually talking about. Anyway sorry, I segued. I segued. Excuse me. So Dawn, which―are you going to concentrate more on the that educational side or the consultancy side, or is it going to be just as it comes or―?

Dawn: Well at the moment, it's as it comes. So you know I'm just getting started. I'll have to feel my way through what opportunities come my way, but if I had the opportunity to really decide what I truly wanted to focus on, I would love to make it a full time career doing education―

Paul: Yeah.

Dawn: You know coming and doing on-site customized workshops to give clients exactly the information and education they need in whatever areas that may be. And I'd also, you know, beyond, you know―we've been talking about performance but beyond that, there is certainly a lot of new people coming to the platform, general education about IBM i, why it's so wonderful, the wonderful things that it can do. I just think there's an opportunity to make people more aware of everything that they have when they work on this platform.

Paul: So I mean, when you look at the platform Dawn, is there one thing that sort of stands out to you, or are there a couple of things? I mean we all have our opinions as to what makes the platform great. Do you have any couple of things―bearing in mind that you're somebody who's actually help build all of what's there?

Dawn: Well of course, I'm biased. I think it's the best system on the planet, and I'll give a couple examples. One is of course where I'm very biased is in the terms of in the area of performance because IBM i has the best performance tools on any planet―of any system on the planet. It's―[the]instrumentation for the data that you can get out of this machine is second to none. I'm doing a webinar with COMMON upcoming―actually it's next week―and I'm talking about the job wait accounting. That session goes into all the details of why IBM i is so fabulous and no one can beat what it does. The second example I would get is―in one part of my career at IBM I was a consultant doing proof on concepts with IBM Systems Director. That was maybe one of my more difficult jobs, and in that work, I was actually―a lot of the proof of concepts were not with i clients but they were with AIX clients. In that job, I got a little exposure into the UNIX world and the kinds of things that were done to keep applications running in that UNIX world. It kind of made my head want to fall off.

Paul: Yeah.

Dawn: i, what it does to just make the management painless and easy. It just really opened my eyes and it made me think why would anyone want to do those things they have to do when with an i, it all―it just takes care of it for you.

Paul: Yeah. I mean it is that thing they say, this thing of the total cost of ownership; I mean how many people you need to keep an IBM i going compared to, sort of same configuration on any other platform, why we need so, so―so fewer people to do the same job.

Dawn: Yeah because i does it for you and you don't have to worry about it.

Paul: Yeah, yeah.  Cool so―so Dawn, I, I―where is it you're based now? I mean if you're going to be doing this work or is it a thing that you don't care where the work is? You will go anywhere in the world.

Dawn: Well I will go anywhere in the world. I do not mind travel and if the opportunity comes up to go someplace to do some education or consulting work, that is fine with me. But I actually now live in New England on the New Hampshire sea coast.

Paul: Okay now back up a sec because if, I vaguely remember the last time we were talking, we―we had a conversation. The last time we did an iTalk we had a conversation about the country girl who left Minneapolis to go to the big city of New York.

Dawn: Yeah, well when I started thinking about retiring from IBM, I couldn't afford rents in Manhattan [laughs]. It was a risk I couldn't take. It is like ooh, I can't stay here because I don't know what's going to happen when I leave IBM, and coincidentally the lease on my tiny apartment in Manhattan was coming up. So we, my husband and I, decided to do a house hunting trip to New Hampshire. We found this little fixer upper near Hampton Beach and we moved here. A big part of it was my husband always wanted to be one of those who lived free or died [laughs].

Paul: So you've gone from being country girl to city girl to being beach bum basically.

Dawn: Yup, you've got it.

Paul: So how long have you been in Peterborough now―I'm sorry. I keep saying Peter―I have to―excuse me right because the place I always go in New Hampshire is Peterborough so I equate the two. So I'm sorry. How long have you been in New Hampshire?

Dawn: About a year and a half now. It was last summer we moved here and, you know, it's about a 5-minute walk to the ocean. So instead of seeing cornfields, I now see waves.

Paul: So I've got to ask: Do you miss New York?

Dawn: I do. I love New York City. It's nice enough. It's close enough to drive down there a couple of times a year. So  I get back, love New York, but it's also good to have a little more space and a little cheaper housing costs.

Paul: Yeah and okay―so you don't get killed by the silence or just the sound of the waves when you wake up at night if you wake up in the middle of the night and there's not that city sound around you?

Dawn: You know I got used to that city sound pretty easily, but it's pretty easy to not miss it [laughs].

Paul: Oh, dear. Okay well listen, Dawn: I was going to sort of wish you all the best for the future but I've got a funny feeling I don't need to. Anybody who has dealt with you over the years―we know what you do. Oh, sorry. There is one thing I wanted to ask you: your blog.

Dawn: Yes. What about my blog?

Paul: You're still doing it?

Dawn: Yes, I am. I've been continuing to write blog articles all year even after I left IBM. I'm going to continue to do the blog.

Paul: Okay.

Dawn: And I'm looking forward to some―maybe some other opportunities of sharing technical tips, too.

Paul: Excellent.

Dawn: I like the writing as well.

Paul: Okay. Well listen, all I'm going to say to you, Dawn, is please just keep doing what you're doing. It is greatly appreciated by us all.

Dawn: Well thank you and I do enjoy it. I look forward to what the future might bring.

Paul: Cool. Okay well I think that's a great note to finish on, so that's it for this iTalk everybody. Tune in again for the next one. Bye for now.


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