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Meet the 2022 TechChannel Power Systems Rising Stars

For the second year in a row, TechChannel is acknowledging Rising Stars in the Power Systems community–recognizing those who have worked on the platform for five years or less, but are already pushing the boundaries of what is possible.
Formerly known as IBM Fresh Faces, our Rising Stars initiative is designed to recognize and bring visibility to the next generation of aspiring innovators within the Power Systems community. Meet them below, and learn about the wonderful work they’ve been doing:

Baptiste Bourlet // CD Invest 

Baptiste Bourlet
Baptiste Bourlet is an alumni of the BeCode school in Belgium and, according to his coworker and nominator Koen Decorte, “an inspiration to other BeCode graduates.” 

The BeCode program offers free trainings in the IT sector—no diploma, money or work experience needed. Through the program, Bourlet learned to code in Node.js and has been applying his skills at CD Invest, where he was hired after graduating.

In the past year, his projects have included building a new back office to a website for a customer and rewriting an old RPG III application to a new one using RPG and Node.js. 
Bourlet is a strong advocate for Node.js and RPG and will be speaking at an event in Luxemburg next winter.

Redouane El-Yakhlifi // CD Invest 

Redouane El-Yakhlifi
Since starting his career as a trainee at VDAB, Redouane El-Yakhlifi has shown tremendous growth after transitioning to a software developer role at CD Invest, a family-owned business that delivers ICT services and business consultancy services. El-Yakhlifi is involved in the COMMON Belgium user group, which promotes networking and educates members about IBM products and solutions. 

As a true ambassador for IBM i, El-Yakhlifi programs in several languages including RPG, PHP and JavaScript. He’s passionate about encouraging other people-especially young developers—to get involved with IBM i and learn what it’s capable of. He even had such a strong influence on one customer in Germany that they wanted to leave the Windows platform and transfer to IBM i. 

El-Yakhlifi is also responsible for programming several applications together alongside senior developers at CD Invest. He’s currently working on a new ERP implementation for a customer coming from Windows systems and programs and recently accompanied Koen Decorte, owner of CD Invest, at the 60th anniversary of COMMON Europe with other IT colleagues.

Anurag Garg // 

Anurag Garg
As a software engineer for  IT services and consulting company, Anurag Garg is a dedicated learner with experience in Python, machine learning and data science. Garg is a certified Python programmer and is interested in learning and incorporating new technologies. In 2020, Garg started his career in the IT industry with IBM i. When he started working on the platform, he said he was drawn to the limitless integrations of IBM i with the open-source world.

Throughout his two years on the platform, Garg has implemented an open-source REST API with RPG programs on IBM i and has worked with Twilio (SMS) API, which sends SMS directly to customers from the AS/400 screen whenever an order is placed. In addition to those APIs, Garg has worked on the modernization of greenscreen using technologies like JSON and JavaScript.

Currently, Garg is working on a project that involves the creation of various web services to enhance the functionality of RPGLE programs and to get details from the IBM i database to display results on GUI.

Fabian Gerach // PKS Software GmbH 

Fabian Gerach
Fabian Gerach, software engineer at PKS Software GmbH, became interested in IBM Power Systems because “IBM has been one of the major manufacturers and service providers for as long as IT has existed in companies.”

When he first started on IBM i three years ago, he worked on internal order management then moved on to customer projects, expanding and maintaining their business applications. 

While understanding the structure and functionality of IBM i was a challenge at first, internal trainings—and advice from colleagues who had tips for every problem—helped Gerach gain substantial knowledge and experience in a short time. Now, Gerach applies his knowledge to analyze customers’ applications and solve their unique challenges. 

Charlie Hird // Shield Advanced Solutions Ltd. 

Charlie Hird

Charlie Hird stays busy as a software developer at Shield Advanced Solutions Ltd. For the past three years, he’s been working on various projects, including internal CRM development, creating technical and promotional videos for Shield’s YouTube channel, writing for the Shield “Simply i” blog and enhancing a client’s PHP web interface ordering system.

Hird is a member of the COMMON user group in Toronto and has participated in the New to i (N2i) user group—plus, he’s an infantry solider in the Canadian Armed Forces.

“Charlie has brought new eyes and approaches to the development team at Shield,” says Chris Hird, director of Shield and Hird’s nominator. “His research and eagerness to achieve results and best methods are refreshing.”
Hird has put his fresh perspective and IBM i skills to work on several large projects at Shield; he developed AAG (At A Glance—Nagios Monitoring for IBM i) to more easily integrate IBM i into any Nagios monitoring configuration. The highly scalable solution features more than 95 check commands and additional content is being constantly developed. He’s also run customer demonstrations and helped create technical documentation for all Shield products. 

He built PHP aspects of Shield’s EM4i message monitoring program, allowing operations staff to remotely monitor alerts. In addition, he’s implemented a SAN install to copy and quickly load IBM i LPARs, set up IBM Storwize v5000 and routed fiber channel architecture for communication between Storwize v5000 and POWER9.

Hird is continuously working to add to AAG to increase the amount of data returned to Nagios from IBM i.

Stephen Jenks // iTech Solutions Group

Stephen Jenks, system administrator at iTech Solutions, says members of the IBM i community have always been welcoming and eager to share their wealth of knowledge. Jenks has always had an interest in IT but most of his experience was with Linux and Windows at the consumer level. He was first exposed to IBM Power Systems five years ago and was drawn to its efficiency, stability and scalability. 

“The IBM i platform to me is one of the most stable, forgiving and interesting platforms—and it’s used by companies all over the world that value reliability and uptime,” he says. 

Jenks got started on IBM i five years ago and found online lessons through Interskill and COMMON—in addition to online forums, virtual seminars and the COMMON conference—to be most helpful when learning the platform. He says, “It’s been my objective to learn as much about the platform as I can.”

In his first position on the platform, he was responsible for monitoring several systems, and soon moved into a system administrator role. His largest project involved integrating system monitoring with an enterprise ticketing system to reduce the amount of time operators spent manually monitoring systems. 

He’s also worked to upgrade several systems off unsupported operating systems, as well as implement disaster recovery solutions using IBM FlashCopy and Full System Replication. 

Nilofur Khan // iTech Solutions Group 

Inspired by the passion and commitment others showed for IBM i, Nilofur Khan recently started working with the platform at iTech Solutions Group, where she is a sales development specialist. 

Before joining the platform, Khan came from a C++ background and lacked knowledge around IBM i and RPG but picked up skills from imPOWER Technologies courses and the COMMON N2i group. “I had to change my thinking process when writing service programs and modules and putting it all together,” she says.

The COMMON Conference has also been instrumental to Khan’s growth when it comes to IBM Power Systems. By attending the conference regularly, she got connected to imPOWER Technologies, her programming mentor, her current employer and other professionals willing to pass on their expertise. 

She’s put her new knowledge to work on multiple side projects, like serving on the board of directors for WMCPA, to hone and refine her programming skills. “I’m constantly looking for ways to learn and expand in this industry, and I’m thankful for all the people I’ve met throughout my career that are willing to help me move forward,” she says.

Jean Boris Konan // Great Lakes Rubber 

Jean Konan
Jean Boris Konan says curiosity is the reason he’s gotten involved in the IBM i platform. As a former front-end developer, Konan wanted to explore what else was out there. With exemplary programming skills, Konan found the confidence to embark on a new software development journey. 

Konan notes that receiving the certificate of completion for imPOWER Technologies’ “Programming in ILR RPG” was highly influential in his early days on IBM i. It gave Konan the skills to modify some free- and fixed-format code sources upon request. The imPower courses have been a major help for Konan, as well as Jim Buck’s weekly RPG and IBM i concepts meetups for current and past students. “It can be daunting to share your work there when asking for help, but the atmosphere there is very safe and friendly for beginners,” Konan says. 

The lack of access to free, entry-level resources is one of the biggest challenges Konan has faced when it comes to navigating the platform. Coming from the front-end community, Konan did not know what to expect when making the switch to IBM i. He’s hopeful that educational resources will become more accessible in the future.

Throughout the last nine months as a software developer for Great Lakes Rubber, Konan has thoroughly enjoyed his experience with IBM i and is excited for what the future has in store.

Holly Lacher // Seiden Group 

Holly Lacher is fascinated by the modernization of data delivery. After starting out in front-end design work, Lacher was eventually asked to create a CRM and reporting tools using the m-Power Development Platform. Once she was introduced to the world of data analysis and began learning the basics of SQL, Lacher felt drawn to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes. Dedicated to making information more accessible, she appreciates being able to deliver data to users regardless of their location or device. 

Currently working as a consultant for Seiden Group, Lacher is grateful for being introduced to the company during a large PHP migration. “I feel privileged to now be one of the Seiden Group, it has opened up a whole new world of opportunities within the IBM i world and open-source community,” she mentions. For Lacher, the IBM i community has always been very friendly and supportive.

Lacher recently completed imPOWER Technologies online courses and learned how to program in ILE RPG. During her three years on the platform, Lacher has also successfully managed and completed the migration of a large, complex system of old PHP applications to PHP 7.4 with very minimal downtime and with little documentation to work from. 

Trae Livingston // Groupe Beneteau 

Trae Livingston
As an IT project manager, Trae Livingston has learned how to adapt and manage challenges as they come. Livingston was first introduced to IBM i after being promoted at Groupe Beneteau and realized that learning the platform came with a fair share of difficulties. With no prior background in ERP management or development, Livingston worked to familiarize himself with the IBM i interface and languages to get up to speed on all things RPG/Db2/CL. 

Since then, Livingston has become proficient in Db2, ILERPG, SQL and AS/400 administration. Livingston attributes a lot of his success with the platform to mentor Jim Buck and his work with imPower Technologies. “The training and guidance I received from Jim and imPower has been invaluable in my career. I certainly wouldn’t be as proficient in my job today without a mentor like Jim Buck,” says Livingston. 

Livingston has taken all that he has learned from imPOWER Technologies and put it toward his role as a system manager. In his four years in the industry, he’s gained confidence in his ability to modify and write programs on IBM i and has most recently been implementing new credit card processing software for a customer. 

Rochelle (Shelly) Petty // Everbrite, LLC

Rochelle Petty
Shelly Petty, junior full stack developer, wears many hats at Everbrite, LLC. 

She started as an intern working on the application help desk and doing small development projects. Today, her fast-paced role involves running production applications on the IBM i server, leading the help desk, processing Jira tickets and handling other development projects, including planning and design. She primarily works with CL, RPG, Db2, SQL and Java.

In addition to her role at Everbrite, Petty is an active member of the COMMON user group and WMCPA’s Women in IT (WIT) Student Competition Committee, for which she serves as social media director and a liaison for WMCPA’s student chapter at Gateway Technical College. She is an N2i committee member and volunteers on the education team, co-presenting on N2i and personal development sessions with COMMON for the past three years. When she’s not presenting, Petty works to improve the N2i group to educate, engage and connect more new users to the platform.

Stuart Porlon // ARCAD Software 

Stuart Porlon
Stuart Porlon’s interest in IBM i comes from the need to meet the challenges of modernization trends in information systems by developing software solutions. He says, “New technologies are making information systems more and more complex; the main challenge is approaching the different responsibilities and interactions of the implemented technologies.” 

Porlon picked up his skills through IBM Redbooks, the IBM website portal and conversations with senior developers. 

In his time on the platform, Porlon has closely collaborated with consultants and partners to find the best answers to their technical problems. He developed Eclipse plugins for RDi to facilitate the adoption of modernization tools and automated interfacing by integrating Git through DevOps—this enables RPG program to collaborate with Java APIs and interact with remote repositories hosted under GitLab.

He also devotes his time to tutoring junior developers to develop their competencies on IBM i.

Amit Sharma // 

Amit Sharma
Amit Sharma began his career in the IT industry with IBM i AS/400 in 2020 and became interested in developing IBM i applications with a web-based user interface. Sharma has created several web service-based applications and has worked with the modernization of greenscreen using technologies like Java. Sharma has spent the last two years as a software engineer at honing his skills and building his social media presence as a source of guidance for people that are new to IBM i technologies.

Sharma’s YouTube channel, “Tech Sharmit,” was created to inform people about IBM i technology and produce basic to advanced lectures on IBM i AS/400, RPGLE and Db2-related topics. With more than 800 subscribers and over 30,000 views, the goal of the Tech Sharmit channel is to reach as many people as possible and help viewers enhance programming skills. Sharma uploads daily videos in both the Hindi and English languages, bringing awareness to the IBM i platform and IBM i modernization.

Sharma is currently working on an IBM i project that involves gathering, analysis, technical recommendations, rigorous testing and final deployment for a logistics and household moving services company.