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Roberto De Pedrini on Working on IBM i in Italy, and Becoming an IBM Champion

Paul Tuohy talks with Roberto De Pedrini, president of Faq400—an IBM i community user group in Italy—about his user group, becoming an IBM Champion and working in Italy

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Paul Tuohy: Hi everybody and welcome to another iTalk with Tuohy. 'm delighted to be joined today by a gentleman who I have been wanting to do an iTalk with for quite a while so I—hello Roberto De Pedrini and I really hope I haven't abused your name. I did tell you Roberto my Italian pronunciation is terrible. 
Roberto De Pedrini: Yes, but it’s good. It's right. Roberto De Pedrini is right.
Paul: So, Roberto for those who may not have come across your name before do you want to just give us the quick introduction as to who you are?
Roberto: Oh yes. Oh yes. Oh yes Paul and thank you to have me on today on your podcast I appreciate this what you do.
Paul: Oh no, my pleasure.
Roberto: I'm Roberto De Pedrini. I am the president of the Faq400, is a community, is an IBM i community user group here in Italy. I'm the president and the founder of this community and I'm a consultant, ERP consultant. I sell ERP solution Italian customer and from about five years I—I start—I try to restart with some of my business partner our great community, our great Italian community and the Faq400 is our whole name because about 20 years ago I start with a website Faq400 that was a collection of question and answer that I read from the whole newsgroup. Twenty years ago, there was not Facebook and so on. We talk over newsgroup and so I collect some question­—and—answer Italian or English and tried to translate for Italian people. That was
Paul: So, would it fair to say Roberto you're sort of the Italian David Gibbs? So Faq400 was sort of maybe an Italian version of
Roberto: Yes, yes, something like this but we don't-we are small. We are a large community but no time to do something more so big like Midrange. I think that is a fantastic service where you can find a lot of things.
Paul: Yeah so, I—one of the things I find fascinating Roberto it is—well I think it's the story, your story in Italy with Faq400 because it's a thing to me and we were saying this when we were chatting beforehand. It's nearly a thing that OK while like you're not a user group but you are a user group. Actually, you have a lovely term for this and I do know enough about Italy and the nuance of you mean by this but when you say well actually no, we're a community.
Roberto: Yes.
Paul: It's—I find that a marvelous distinction.
Roberto: Yes, yes, because Faq400 is not our real user group where there is a membership and you—you pay; you have a membership, a membership like other user group, important, and beautiful user group around the world. Faq400 is only a group of people with the same interest and the same interest is IBM i, the development and taking question about IBM i. A lot of people that I try in the past to collect with this site that where I tried to have something like but something similar. Now Faq400 is a big community—is a big community of people whose subscribe to our newsletter. We have a newsletter. In the last month, no more—no much messages because­—because I'm very busy, so I didn't have time to do something for the community but we have this newsletter and this service with about 2000 people subscribed to this newsletter and so a lot of people. I think this is good.
Paul: So, 2000 people?
Roberto: Yes, yes.
Paul: I mean are they—do you know are they all based in Italy or are they from all over Europe or the world or—?
Roberto: I think a lot—I think the major is from Italy because—because I write only in Italian. Every time all in Italian because my English is not so good.
Paul: We have Google—we have Google translate you know. 
Roberto: Yes. I think a lot of people came from Italy because in Italy we have I think—I think a lot of IBM i, small IBM i because in Italy we have a small company and in the past S/36. There was a lot of S/36 as systems and then a lot of AS/400 and now a lot of IBM i, not so big like in US but a lot of—great number—a great number—a lot of company have these solution, these service.
Paul: So yeah, it's—yeah so 2,000.
Roberto: 2,000 yes, a great number.
Paul: It is—it is a very big number. The other thing Roberto and I think this really was when you guys first came to—really came to the fore was about five years ago so you held a conference.
Roberto: Yes, yes. We—me and my business partner Guglielmo Maffeis is my partner and we start to do something more for the community about five years ago and we go to IBM Italy where there was Nicoletta de Berlusconi is our—our represent—I don't know how to say but is our IBM person that we can talk to about IBM—
Paul: Yup.
Roberto: And we ask to her can we-we want to do something for the community. Nobody talk about IBM i and so on. We want to talk on IBM i. We can do a conference, something like this and we start with a small room, a small room of about—for about 50 people and she said OK we have this room but if we have more than 50 people we can-we can move this—this large room for about 90 people. We got 600 people and we have to take the auditorium, the auditorium of the IBM Client Center because a lot of people, very, very good and we understand. I don't know how to say sorry but we—we yes there is a great community in Italy. We—now we know there is a great community in Italy and need service, need education, need someone to talk to the community and so we started with this Faq400 company, now is a company too and from them every year we have about two conference per year and we can move 500-600 and more people to our­—
Paul: So, I just want to—I just want to be sure that people are actually hearing this because Roberto is saying 500 to 600 hundred OK and there has been nothing lost in translation here folks. That's when I say when you had that; I mean I heard that story. I mean Alison Butterill, she actually came to visit with me directly from—from that trip to Italy and she told—she was telling me. I mean she was telling those stories about the-wasn't it-there was a big tent set up—
Roberto: Yes.
Paul: As well that had to be used so yeah, I think it's just—just phenomenal. So, is this also part of how you became an IBM Champion Roberto?
Roberto: Yes, yes. These—yes. I like it with—I think that these old—these service for the community give me the opportunity to be an IBM Champion. I am very glad to be an IBM Champion now. It's very good and these open me the door for—for big company. Oh, this is an IBM Champion. OK we can join with them and now I can do some service and some work for big company also if I live in a small city. Everybody now in Italy who has the IBM i.
Paul: So just one of the things of the IBM Champions Roberto and again because you had mentioned this area and I think it is just part of how that growing community in Italy is because now you have this year two more IBM Champions in Italy.
Roberto: Yes, yes, yes. I am very happy to have these year two other IBM Champion from our community from Faq400 community is Marco Riva; he's a member who do a lot of video and post and so on, a lot of service for the community and Andrea Ribuoli is another IBM Champion who in the past made the posting of Ruby, Ruby on Rails on IBM i and now he work on open-source, open—sourcing solutions like Python and something else.
Paul: Yeah, so Roberto with obviously in the last year and now obviously face to face conferences and that going on so did you do the big move to online?
Roberto: Yes. Yes, this last year in 2020 we—we take a space in Milan for our conference but the Covid arrived and we have to change to—to change our program. We—we start doing things something different and we want to do something different. We think did a 3-D expo where you can move like in video game and you can find the booth of IBM and other vendors or something else. Last year we—we started these great work on these 3-D fair and this year in 2021 we are—in May we open-we reopen the fair, our Expo and we're trying to do something different because last year we got some problem to—some technical problem with this platform but now we—we—we work together with the company who do this, this platform and have a great fair. This year we are thinking on new kind of event because our event will be another type of event because it's not only IBM i. This year it is at ICT village because we—we try to attract not only IBM Faq community and user group but some other big community in Italy like CIO Club is a club of CIO and ERP selection is an Italian service to try to help to find an ERP solution but not only ERP, an application on IBM i or not on IBM i and so on Windows or Linux or something else. We opened our fair to this community too, to those communities too and so something different and we try—we try to do something different this year. The fair will be open—the fair will open from May to December.
Paul: Oh OK.
Roberto: But we have event on the event-we try to make some special week, the week of security—the week for the security, the week for the modernization, the week for something else. We try to do something along the year like in Italy we have the fashion week, the fashion week in Milan so we can do the fashion but we can do the security week and the modernization week and something else but we try to copy from the fashion week. I like fashion week.
Paul: OK Roberto our time is nearly over but just before we go as I always like to end on. So—so when you're not working and when you're not looking after the community—
Roberto: Yes.
Paul: OK so I'm not sure when you're going to fit this in. So, what do you like to do to try and get away from all of the work and everything, what is it you like to do?
Roberto: I live in the—in the middle of the month I live near Switzerland in the north of Italy and I have a family, a family or wife and two son and I like to go to-to go in the mountain or by foot or bike. I like to bike and so on the weekend, only on the weekend because during the week I have to work and I try to go and work and go and go with my bike and so on me and my wife and some friends when we do this and not during the lockdown but we can move no problem of distances and so forth.
Paul: So just to make everybody madly jealous I should point out to everybody that where Roberto lives is within spitting distance of Lake Como and Saint Moritz.
Roberto: Yes.
Paul: So, when he says in the mountains, you can imagine the scenery you're looking at, right, a beautiful part of the world so Roberto I think we will leave it at that. I wish you continued success with Faq400. Please keep up the great work that you've been doing and thank you for taking the time to talk to talk to us.
Roberto: OK. Thank you to you. Thank you to your service Paul because I think that this is very good, this service is very good for the community.
Paul: OK. That's it for this iTalk everybody. Tune in again for the next one. Bye for now.
Roberto: Bye. Bye bye from Italy.

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