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Richard C. Loeber Fellowship Cultivates Next Generation of IBM i Talent

Cameron Stewart, the first Kisco Systems RCL Fellow, and supervisor Julie Hall reflect on the importance of offering IT opportunities to candidates from nontraditional backgrounds

When Kisco Systems announced the Richard C. Loeber Fellowship Program last fall, the goal was to bring new talent into the IBM i community and address the growing skills gap by developing people with little to no experience on the OS into confident professionals.

The program, which honors Kisco Systems’ founder Richard Loeber, is open to U.S. and Canada residents of all career backgrounds. Applicants must be 35 years old or younger and be sponsored by an active IBM i user. Fellows receive IBM i and RPG training from imPower Technologies and a one-year COMMON membership, which includes registration for two conferences.

The program had many strong applicants for its first cycle, but the choice was unanimous: Cameron Stewart was named the first Richard C. Loeber Fellow in January of this year. Stewart is a junior IBM i tech and application analyst at Oakley Transport, a Lake Wales, Florida-based liquid food transportation company. He landed his role at Oakley by applying for an IT role where no experience was required. 

His application was sponsored by Julie Hall, the company’s director of IT. “I quickly saw that Cameron is a critical thinker,” Hall says. “He thinks outside the box, he applies what he learned six months ago to what’s going on today.”

Similar Beginnings

Stewart, Hall and Richard Loeber all share one thing in common: None of them have a college degree.

Hall got her first IT job without any experience, starting in data processing after graduating from high school. She worked for that employer on IBM i for more than 21 years and joined Oakley in 2017.

“I can remember sending reel-to-reel tapes to the Social Security Administration when we were filing our W2s,” Hall says.  “But all of that training was taught to me through the person before me, who had kind of learned the same way. There was no formalized training.”

Hall gave Stewart a chance because someone gave her a chance out of high school, she says. Stewart started at Oakley as a help desk technician and quickly impressed Hall.

The fellowship program arrived at the right time to propel Stewart’s career on IBM i.

Growth Now, Promise for the Future

Hall sees the chance she took on Stewart paying off.

“I think the knowledge thus far is just empowering him to troubleshoot things when it comes to systems admin level,” Hall says. She recalls an IP address change that needed to be done on Oakley’s network and how Stewart, having done that procedure only once, needed little guidance in completing the objective.

Stewart has been able to “take that [knowledge] and apply it in the real world and real business scenarios,” Hall says.

Hall sees how the program has helped Oakley’s image in fostering young talent like Stewart.“It’s been beneficial in the fact of helping my peers on the leadership team see a bigger impact,” she says.

As for Stewart, he has already experienced personal and professional growth through the fellowship.

“The fellowship and the training that comes with it has been invaluable, learning the basic structure of the IBM i system and some RPG that I would have probably never gotten into without this opportunity,” he says.

With Stewart’s fellowship off to a strong start, Hall sees promise for the future of the IBM i community. She hopes people in positions like hers will recognize programs like the Richard C. Loeber Fellowship can bring in new talent to an aging workforce. 

“You can be part of the problem or part of the solution,” Hall says. “And I do think it is our responsibility as the elder…to be flexible to how the generation behind us is and give them opportunities to support the IBM i in-house—rather than turning it over to a third party—so it can continue to be a great asset.”

The next RCL Fellow will be named in July. Download an application here.