Top Three Lessons From a 25-Year Journey

This final quarter of 2020 marks 25 years of dedication to development, innovation and service here at Central Park Data Systems. The journey through the infinitely progressive technology landscape has been at times a sprint, over time a marathon, and for sure, in uncertain economic times and times of retrospect quite an interesting stroll. Albeit a brief stroll, as the pace at which technology advances leaves us little time to linger.

Yet the reflection is warranted, if not necessary. It helps keep us grounded within our powerfully compelling virtual universe and properly directed as industry professionals amid constant change. And celebration here at CPDS is also time worth spent, as the spirit evokes a sense of gratitude for and stewardship of all the gifts we’ve realized along the way — the three most prolific of which just keep on giving, so I share them with you:

  1. Technical expertise – I embarked on this journey in 1995 as a team of one. Within two years, increasing recognition of the potential threat of Y2K had spawned epic panic worldwide. Luck had my back as four very talented developers joined the team and together we continued in stride over that mountain to the other side. Since then we have focused largely on development of application solutions to help bridge the gaps between user and enterprise applications and services that meet the growing demands of technology’s increasingly rapid acceleration. As application development continues to evolve, it has shifted to become more reliant upon external services, modernization and extending overall value and utility. We continue to apply our knowledge and skills to meet these critical yet exciting challenges, enhancing and modernizing applications and holding ourselves accountable daily to our end goal: to best exploit and leverage powerful tooling and technologies so our customers and fellow developers within the IBM i community are always in line with their own end goals.
  2. Mentorship – I don’t believe in too many “accidents” in such a synergistic world. Yet as if by chance, more business owners, tech peers and others than I can count have risen since the start to play key roles in my professional development and business navigation. Looking back I see how they’ve educated, enlightened, inspired and advised me in ways they were never obligated to do.  That spirit prevails at CPDS as we strive to give back in mentorship and support to veteran developers and startup entrepreneurs throughout the IBM i community by way of continuing education and our steadfast commitment to the IBM i platform. This includes speaking at conferences, assisting and hosting user groups, tutorial video creation, industry blogging and writing, and, as of most recently, representing as an IBM Champion and as the founder and host of the new iChime virtual meeting group, all to help others to grow and succeed as we continue to do. To this end, consider two questions for a moment: Where do you see yourself in the year ahead in terms of mentorship? And what is a mentor, really? Non-scientifically speaking, I suspect it is a hybrid breed, a cut above the average, inspired by his or her own sense of gratitude for and stewardship of the gifts of professional wisdom and integrity cultivated along one’s own journey. Find your mentors, and/or become one to others — even if “accidentally.”   I promise you: The rewards are endless.
  3. Teamwork – Above all else, I attribute the longevity of CPDS to its exceptional team of like-minded staff. I am convinced that more than anything  it is singularity in mindset that has delivered us to celebrating what in 2020 seems like light years together. While essentially simple, that mindset is perhaps the most powerful driver into the ever-unfolding future: It’s an ongoing commitment, in lock-step with our company mission, to deliver well-tested, reliable working solutions and nothing short of excellence in service to our customers worldwide.

If I could inspire in you anything at this point of reflection, it would be to heed and develop these three elements as they pertain to your own work, and to keep giving it all your best. You can never give too much of a good thing because, as you’ll witness, you won’t actually lose it. You keep getting it back, as it perpetually returns, in one form or another, to its generous and diligent source.  To everyone I have met on this wonderful journey, a very sincere and heartfelt thank you.  

Being an IBM Champion

“Congratulations, you’re an IBM Champion!”  And so went the email subject line I received in late 2018 for the upcoming calendar year.  The email continued, “Hello, and welcome! After reviewing and evaluating your contributions to the IBM technology community over the past 12 months, IBM is happy to announce that you have been selected as an IBM Champion for 2019.“  As I am now finishing my second year as an IBM Champion, I would like to share what the program means to me, the benefits of the program, and information about the nomination process itself.

On being an IBM Champion

Being a part of this program has positioned my career to a higher trajectory.  Below I have listed just a few of the many reasons of what being an IBM Champion means to me.

  • Community – Being a speaker in the IBM i community for many years has allowed me to expand my business relationships and friendships with like-minded professionals quite literally around the globe.   It is true, with the added value of the Champion program, that my professional universe has expanded many, many times, giving me unique access to some of the top people in their area of expertise.  There is an inherent global camaraderie that is second to none.
  • Validation – The IBM Champion program is highly respected in the community and belonging to this program affirms my commitment to both IBM and my overall career goals.  It also creates incentive to not only continue my community contributions, but to expand how I deliver this expertise.
  • Success begets success – Having access to relevant industry information enhances my professional standing.  It also provides me with the opportunities to more deeply research technologies and movements that I may not have been exposed to otherwise.  This in turn allows me to share topical information with my own customers and business associates.  It is a true circle of knowledge distribution. 

Some recent cool examples of events I learned about through the program:

IBM Expert TV – – Free shows, featuring expert advice on AI, automation and cloud

Call for Code – – “Invites developers and problem solvers around the world to build solutions that fight back against the most pressing issues of our time.”

Project Debater – – “The first AI system that can debate humans on complex topics.” In addition, you can join in on an active debate at

The benefits: Champions to the left of me, champions to the right

The Champion program is not about one platform or technology.  Instead, its members span a wide breadth of IBM expertise and experience.  For example, my specialty is IBM i and I am listed in the Power Champion group.  Champions are nominated and selected every 12 months, and the term runs from January 1st to December 31st.    From the IBM Champion website – “IBM Champions are experts and thought leaders around IBM products, offerings, and technology. And they are driven to share their knowledge and expertise to help others.”

To learn much more about the program details, visit the IBM Champion website  On this site you will be introduced to the program director, Libby Ingrassia.  Watch this informative welcome video, in less than four minutes you will have a much deeper understanding of the program’s full scope and mission.

Qualifications and nominations

Quoting again from the IBM website, “IBM Champions are experts and thought leaders around IBM products, offerings, and technology. And they are driven to share their knowledge and expertise to help others. IBM Champions are often answering questions, creating content, running user groups and events, and helping others in the community to better understand the possibilities their investment in IBM offerings brings.”

You can nominate yourself or someone else who you feel fits these criteria.  Learn more about the nomination process, including currently supported areas at  **IMPORTANT** The nomination period will run through November 30th, 2020.

Putting it all together

The richness of access to and learning from top experts in many areas of technology is fantastic.  Whether you are in the program or not, you can get readily engaged with IBM champions by searching for #ibmchampion on the popular social media platforms.

IBM’s Access Client Solutions highlighted in iChime

IBM’s Access Client Solutions (“ACS”) was featured at the July 28th, 2020 meeting of iChime.  Special guest Tim Rowe offered a live demonstration of the many features and recent enhancements to this product as well as additions to IBM i services.  Amazing!  One great example was a quick way to interrogate directory sizes in the IFS.  These new features will provide developers an even quicker path to adopting SQL into their application toolbox.  Any developer or system admin who is not using this very powerful tool is surely not taking advantage of one of the best ways to interact with IBM i. To learn more about ACS including how to download it, visit

Another item worth noting is Tim and Scott Forstie’s free video blog series iSee. These videos are hosted by COMMON and are available to both members and non-members.  These informative videos are worth your time and will accelerate your adoption and productivity in using ACS.  To learn more you should visit and click on the “Content” tab.

You are welcome to join!

Our next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, August 18th, 2020 at 2:00PM Eastern (New York) time.  Mike Pavlak will kick off our discussion with how technology is evolving in the era of Covid. Mike has been working with IBM midrange developing applications using RPG & CL, managed IT development and IT for power protection manufacturer Tripp Lite.  An advocate of open source solutions, he now works as a Solution Architect with Profound Logic. In addition to several roles as a volunteer with COMMON Mike also teaches part time at Moraine Valley Community College in Suburban Chicago.

To register and be notified of future meetings, visit

iChime’s community spirit recognized by IBM Systems Magazine

So many thanks to IBM Systems Magazine for their recent review of iChime.  You can read the article by clicking on this link –  When senior editor Claire O’Leary attended our last meeting, she was impressed by the participation and candor of the attendees. This is completely unsurprising to those in the IBM i community.  We are all friends; it is what makes this community so special.  It is why those who have left because of new jobs and other situations tell me how they are so sad when they leave.  There is truly a feeling of family.

When the pandemic started, conferences were quickly postponed or canceled one after another.  But our friendships, as expected, persevered.  And so has the need for in-person peer interaction, even if it is only virtual. With necessity being the mother of invention, iChime was born.

One significant benefit of having meetings with attendees spanning many time zones, and more importantly, many countries is the reminder of equality.  How, regardless of where in the U.S. or Europe our shops are, so many of our IT challenges are nearly identical.  And I do not attribute this to our mutual computing platform.  No, what I am referring to is how we approach application development, general IT challenges and user concerns.  Through our camaraderie, all of these have been revealed over the last several months of iChime.

So many thanks to everyone who has joined one or more meetings. Your participation is always welcome!

Another successful iChime meeting!

The group discussion circled around continuing employment in the IBM i marketplace, and how to be best prepared.  How business in general is being affected by the pandemic brought a lively conversation.  One idea was how this recession is different than others, in that it is more industry specific vs across the board.  For example, transportation companies are doing well while restaurants are truly struggling. The significance of having a current presence on LinkedIn was reiterated.

You are welcome to join!

Our next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July 28th, 2020 at 2:00PM Eastern (New York) time.  IBM’s Tim Rowe, Business Architect Application Development & Systems Management for IBM i will kick off our discussion with what he is seeing in the trenches and how customers are using IBM i to bolster their enterprises.  You can read more about Tim at this link –

To register and be notified of future meetings, visit

Open Source integration focus at recent iChime meeting

Alan Seiden was our June 24th meeting’s special guest. He started our discussion on the world of open source.  A big take away, though no surprise, is the world of ILE is far more than just RPG.   He then went on to describe the many other ways developers can adopt open source technologies to quickly create meaningful business results.  One example was the many benefits of using CURL, both for development and testing.

As always, trying to have a single photo with all 30 attendees was nearly impossible. Thanks to everyone who joined the meeting!

An excellent GitHub resource for IBM i that was referenced is OSSILE – a source of free functions readily available for download and reviewing.

Open source is not just about using the source code in production, but how it can also be used as education, to see how other developers solve a particular problem.

We were reminded how important it is to not use the words “replace” when it comes to substituting one language with another.  It is not a binary decision.  Once again, an integrated language environment is optimal.  Perhaps more important than ever before.

To learn more about Alan Seiden and his company visit

You are welcome to join!

Our next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July 14th, 2020 at 2:00PM Eastern (New York) time.  The kickoff discussion will be the essentials of Amazon Web Services.

To register and be notified of future meetings, visit

iChime reaches new members with each meeting

There were some new faces at our June 9th, 2020 meeting, and we are very happy there were.  Being involved with a global community brings insight you would not normally learn. The word is getting out!

Our featured guest for this meeting was communication expert, author, and professional speaker Jayne Latz.  Thank you so much for your participation in this meeting, your wisdom sparked great discussion with the group. Jayne shared her top tips on how to effectively bring your communication skills to the next level, whether you are on or offline.  

One interesting statistic was how most people judge you based on how you say something, versus what you are actually saying.  Twice as much, in fact.

To learn more about Jayne and her company visit

Some topics discussed during this meeting were:

How to properly position yourself for the most effective online discussion

General meeting tactics such as speech cadence, posture, and body language

The importance of having your camera turned on while presenting in an online forum

Working with IBM on general IBM i issues across the globe

You are welcome to join!

Our next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020 at 2:00PM Eastern (New York) time.

To register and be notified of future meetings, visit

LinkedIn Chimes in on iChime’s May 26th, 2020 meeting

Another sixty minutes planned, another thirty minutes over.  Hmm, really need to investigate this…

In this meeting we welcomed special guest Beth Granger, a trainer, consultant, and professional speaker on LinkedIn.  Beth described LinkedIn as an “always on networking event” and went on to answer some of the most frequently asked questions and demonstrate some cool tricks on maximizing our use of the platform.   Thank you so much Beth, your expertise was greatly appreciated!   Beth can be reached on her favorite platform at  You can also find her on the Facebook Group, Level Up with LinkedIn.

As has always been the case, since this is a networking and social gathering, people come and go, making it impossible to capture everyone in the room all at once.   There was a total of 32 people attending this meeting.

Some of the topics discussed at this meeting were:

Differences of free vs paid version of LinkedIn

How to quickly share your LinkedIn profile, even while not in front of your computer

An effective way to contact those who recently reviewed your profile

IT certification, pros, and cons (how it is viewed by peers and the IT community in general)

You are welcome to join!

Our next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, June 9th, 2020 at 2:00PM Eastern (New York) time.

To register and be notified of future meetings, visit

iChime continues community connection with meeting number 5!

Another successful iChime meeting!  Meeting number 5, which was held on May 14th went thirty minutes over our scheduled one hour, an event that is becoming a bit of a habit.

To kick off our meeting, we welcomed special guest Jean Marie DiGiovanna. Jean Marie is an international keynote speaker and leadership trainer.  She is a founding member of Cambridge Technology Partners and was involved with the company’s amazing growth to over 4000 associates worldwide.  Her website is Thank you Jean Marie for your contribution to our group!

Those who stayed until the end of the meeting!

We continued to have attendees from across the United States and Europe.  Some of the topics that were discussed are:

How different will our workplaces become when we return?

How we have an opportunity to create what our “new normal” workplace might look like.

How companies will begin to rollout plans for the new workplace, and how remote employees might remain long after COVID-19

Might working remote continue to be acceptable?

How will IT and application security be impacted?

Companies running legacy code and how to effectively educate management on business reasons to modernize

Our next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 26th, 2020 at 2:00PM Eastern (New York) time.  To register and be notified of future meetings, visit

IBM User Group Days – well rounded education and community support

IBM Virtual User Group Days is arriving May 19th and 20th!

What is it, you say?

A consortium of over a dozen user groups, which runs each day from 08:00AM (0800) to 04:30PM (1630) Eastern Time.

 This two-day FREE virtual event is branded with “This time, users take the stage.”  A review of the agenda has now made this event a must attend.    The notion of combining highlights and content from these popular groups and A-list speakers is incredible.  Featured groups are The International Informix Users Group, COMMON (Power Systems), Northeast Maximo User Group (New York based, Middleware), IDUG (Db2), Maximo (UK and Ireland based, Middleware) and COMMON Europe (Power Systems).  Their individual websites are,,,, and respectively.

How to get there and participate

The main event registration website is

You can register with your existing IBM ID or you can create your virtual event profile directly on the site.

If you cannot attend any session in real time, don’t panic!  All sessions will be recorded and available for replay for 90 days.  

Once you are logged in, you will enter your basic demographics and select up to five areas of interest.  The choices are AI, Automation, Cognos, Cloud Integration, Cloud Pak, Data Science, Data Ops, DB2, IBM Security,  IBM Storage, IBM Z, Informix, Maximo, Netcool, Open Source, Planning and Cognos, Power Systems and WebSphere.

Important note – Once you accept the data sharing checkbox with IBM and BeMyApp, you will not be able to edit your answers once registration is finished.

More details

As per the IBM website, there are six tracks each day featuring expert advice, lessons, demos, keynotes, feedback sessions, and more.  This is an excellent way to learn more about these particular groups.  It’s quite possible you’ve been missing out on a good thing all this time.  With “right-sized” session lengths of either thirty or sixty minutes, this is a great opportunity to quickly learn about other groups and their supported technologies.

Day one tracks are 1) Db2, 2) Planning Analytics and Cognos, 3) DataOps and Informix, 4) Automation, 5) CP4D (Cloud Pack for Data), Data Science, Netezza and AI and 6) IBM Storage and IBM Z.   Day two tracks are 1) IBM Security, 2) Netcool and CP4A (Cloud Pak for Automation) – WebSphere, 3) Power Systems, 4) Open Source at IBM and The Public, 5) Cloud Integration and 6) Maximo.

In addition, at noon two featured talks appear, one for each day.  The first day features Tom Rosamilia, Senior Vice President, IBM Systems.  Day two features Rob Thomas, Senior Vice President, IBM Cloud and Data Platform.

For a detailed look at the agenda, click on this link –

Final thoughts

I have added this event to my calendar and so should you.  Many of the speakers are with IBM and still others are not.  This mix looks to provide a ton of expert content from the trenches, without any fluff. Regardless of your IT specialty, you will surely find a session or three of interest.  User groups play a vital role in the life blood of our communities, and our involvement is an excellent way to reciprocate our support.