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Should You Consider Becoming a CAAC Member?

Mike McArdle, an instructor at Western Technical College in La Crosse, Wisconsin, explains the value of CAAC membership.

"i Can" in white against a purple banner, white chat bubble in righthand corner, with green and blue molecules below.

This week’s blog was written by Mike McArdle, who is an instructor at Western Technical College in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and represents education on the COMMON Americas Advisory Council (CAAC). The CAAC is looking for a few good members and Mike explains why you should consider joining the CAAC.
There’s a course called Entrepreneurship Exploration and Mindset taught at Western Technical College in La Crosse, Wisconsin. The course tries to give students a strong and cogent argument for intrapreneurship, which is the act of being entrepreneurial while working for someone else. During the course, it becomes apparent that the majority of students aren’t interested in starting their own business. However, most students also have never connected the dots as to how thinking “outside the box” will differentiate them from the rest in their future career. It’s often mind blowing for them to make the connection that good employers want the opinions and passion of their employees to take the organization to the next level.  
The literature is replete with examples of creativity and innovation by employees. It won’t take the reader much investigation to come up with an example. An all-time favorite is an AT&T employee’s mobile phone app, which is a part of the campaign by AT&T for young people to stop using their cell phones while driving called “It can wait.” It takes control of the smartphone and answers texts and phone calls for the driver with a simple message that the person is driving now and will get back to the party, thereby silencing the mobile device. The solution has been adopted, along with the pledge, by more than 36.5 million users.
IBM has adopted a similar crowdsourcing model to help keep IBM i and its ecosystem relevant to its clients and their users. This system is called the Request for Enhancement (RFE). The site states: “Here you have an opportunity to collaborate directly with the IBM product development teams and other product users.” The idea of listening to the community has been a driving force within the IBM i product family since the midrange computer became a product category for IBM in the late 1960s. 
IBM has also long supported the user community nonprofit, COMMON, by providing expertise to the events sponsored by the organization. (Take a look at the IBM representatives who are presenting at PowerUp19, or who presented at the fall conference & Expo held in Pittsburgh last October.)  COMMON and IBM also jointly developed a subcommittee of COMMON membership back in 2005 called the Common Americas Advisory Council (CAAC). The CAAC serves as the liaison between community members and IBM. IBM views the council as a way to interact with the membership of COMMON, while still being able to protect its competitive advantage. With the council, IBM is able to share insider knowledge of the future and get real feedback from active IBM i users who are also active within the COMMON community.
Thanks to CAAC participation, it’s readily apparent where the trends for future skills should be emphasized with students. At times everyone gets too close to the day-to-day and misses the big picture. When teaching RPG, for instance, it’s easy to promote modern RPG because of its foundation in Java. Once the idiosyncrasies of the complier are understood, everything else falls into place. However, a student is not really valuable to a future employer unless the strategies in modern development are also understood. With CAAC membership it is much easier to guide students and emphasize the best arena for continuing education.
However, students only become valuable to future employers when an intrapreneurial mindset is also adopted. One also needs to constantly become more valuable to your employer by looking for opportunities to grow. A great way to accomplish this is by joining your colleagues and participate in the RFE community. Make suggestions as to how to improve the IBM i ecosystem. Be assured that whatever is provided (including just voting on RFEs that seem important to you and your employer) will have a future impact. You can do even more to be intrapreneurial by applying to join CAAC. CAAC is looking for a few good programmers, system administrators, and IT managers from small to mid-size “shops” to join the council. You can apply here.
In a Harvard Business Review blog post, Vijay Govindarajan and Jatin Desai describe the characteristics that make an individual intrapreneurial. They give four: 1) Money is not their measurement, 2) they’re “greenhousers,” 3) they know how to pivot, and 4) they behave authentically and with integrity. Intrapreneurs understand the finances of a firm and its needs but aren’t attempting to justify their existence. They feel that the money and advancement will find them. Intrapreneurs will “germinate” ideas within themselves to become full-blooming plants. An intrapreneur isn’t afraid to change course or encounter failure. An intrapreneur looks for opportunities to learn from success or failures. Intrapreneurs are humble but confident, and above all, they’re governed by integrity. There’s a belief that every successful intrapreneur has these traits. If these traits speak to you, then consider joining CAAC.
If you believe that you’re a leader, whether formal or informal, that sees the bigger picture, then consider joining CAAC. Peter Drucker, the management guru of the late 20th century, points out, however, that just seeing the bigger picture isn’t enough. He suggested that a leader must also ensure that others see it as well. If you’re that kind of a leader, then consider joining CAAC.  
Another great thinker of management theory, Peter Senge, who is a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, believes it is not enough to see the bigger picture and share it, but a leader must also share a vision that will help everyone to become a part of the solution and not the problem. If you are that kind of a leader, then consider joining CAAC.
CAAC needs committed leaders with a vision who can express that vision, such that the whole IBM i ecosystem can climb aboard and ride the wave. We have achieved a 30-year history, but the future is what counts. Come be a part of that future. 

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