In this episode of iTalk With Tuohy, Brandon Pederson talks about golf, the IBM Champions program, marketing IBM i and more.
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Paul Tuohy:Hi everybody and welcome to another iTalk with Tuohy. Delighted to be joined today by I think the man who has one the most difficult jobs in IBM i at the moment so this is Brandon Pederson which the worldwide IBM i product marketing manager at IBM. Hello Brandon.
Brandon Pederson:Hey Paul, good afternoon. Thank you for having me on.
Paul:You are more than welcome. So Brandon before we get to the nitty gritty, do you want to just give people a little bit about your-your background and that?
Brandon:Certainly. Yeah so I've been with IBM since 2014. I actually started while I was in my third year of university here in Austin. I started as an intern and worked as an intern for a year while I was in school and in 2015 I just became regular employee and continued on my normal job. In 2017 I came over to the IBM Power Systems side of the business and officially last August as you mentioned I assume the role of IBM i product marketing manager.
Paul:Okay so-so this is my math is correct here this puts you still in your 20s Brandon. Is that right?
Brandon:Yes, I'm 27. I just turned 27.
Paul:Okay. I hate when I'm talking to people who are the age of my kids [laughs] but still. So okay so-so Brandon you obviously and I-I-I probably you know come to think of it I probably knew you pretty soon after you joined IBM or at least the IBM i side of it I think is when our paths would first have crossed. I know that you know well when you were starting-okay let me put this way. When you were made product marketing manager, did have that feeling that maybe somebody was handing you a poisoned chalice?
Brandon:No, you know I requested to move to this job so you know I have been—as you know when I came over to Power Systems in 2017, I was working on our community relationship and management. You know I was managing the Champion program, which you know you've been a very active Champion for so long and that's where we met. You know I was leading our Fresh Faces program, which I still do actually, you know our relationship with the user group community and a lot more and I had been helping with product marketing really since the beginning of 2019 when we started to formulate our plan to announce IBM i 7.4 and Db2 Mirror, which we did last April. I was doing that kind of as a part-time job on the side of my other job and I had requested to my manager that you know I'd like to move up and be the product marketing manager for IBM i, which we didn't have a full time one at the time. So I assumed that role in August. I moved over to support Hadley Hempel who leads our mission critical-we call it mission critical-product marketing side of the business and she's been great. The team is awesome so yeah so it's been awesome so far.
Paul:So I just want to clarify this Brandon. You asked for this job?
Brandon:I did ask for the job. Absolutely. Absolutely yeah.
Paul:Okay like this wasn't sort of in lieu of community service or anything [laughs].
Brandon:No. You know yeah, I certainly asked for it and you know what? I'm very lucky to be in the role I am because you know IBM i has such a clear value proposition than our competition right? I mean the product is not the problem. It's the production. That's my job to tackle each and every day but yeah, it's awesome. The community behind the platform is so amazing. I mean I can tell you the rest of IBM would love to have the community and the passion that we have for our platform and it's just awesome so really having a great time.
Paul:Yeah. Okay so you're a few months into the job at this stage Brandon. You're well at least three months into it.
Paul:What kind of-of marketing initiatives are you taking on?
Brandon:Certainly so as I mentioned last year you know 2019 was dedicated-so let me even take a step back from there. You know in 2018 I was still working on IBM in my other role and 2018 as you know was the 30th anniversary of IBM i. We looked forward to the next 30 years and beyond that. We were just getting started. Last year we announced IBM i 7.4, Db2 Mirror and we took this theme of innovation and wanted to locate all the innovation that comes from our amazing community. We still do that on our customer story page. This year with the year being 2020 we thought there was only one theme that would be appropriate and so that's why we're announcing our 2020 iSight theme for this year.
Brandon:What we mean by that is our clear visions for IBM i and Power Systems not only for us at IBM and IBM i team but our clear vision for this community and our clear vision for IBM i in all of your businesses out there as you look to innovate and take your business to the future. So as part of this theme, we've started a blog. You can find it on ibmsystemsmag.com. It's called 2020 iSight. The first blog entry is from Alison Butterill, who is our product manager for IBM i and I'd like to invite the community out there to reach out to me to contribute to this blog. We want to get your perspective on IBM i and your business so love to have you contribute to the blog. You know something else we've done, we've announced recently is our community badge program so you know digital badging is kind of the new—it's the digital resume. It's the new digital CV not just for IBM but across the entire, really across the entire tech industry and even outside of tech and so you know as far as our amazing community that IBM i has, we wanted to reward and incentivize the community for all that they do to contribute to the success of our business and our platform so last August I believe at that time we announced our community badge program. So if you're out there and you contribute to the IBM i community, you know whatever you do whether it's blogging, speaking at a conference, leading our user group, whatever it is, you can be eligible to earn a badge so I have a blog out on LinkedIn. Please go look at that and you can learn all about the badge program and apply.
Brandon:So that's just some of what we're doing.
Paul:So-so-so just a thing touch on like the badge programs and things like that Brandon. Would you say it's a fair assessment that the community, great community and all that it is, it's not very good at blowing its own trumpet?
Brandon:I think yeah. I think you know there are so many people out there in our community that you know really don't get recognized. You know obviously we have our Champion program and you've been an amazing Champion. We appreciate all that you do for the community. You know we have our Fresh Faces program where we recognize the up and coming IT professionals who are working on the platform but other than that we have so many people in our community that don't get recognized and we wanted to fill that gap and recognize these individuals for all that they do for the success of our business and incentivize them to even more so definitely, I think—I think it will help people you know and something else we do to contribute to the success of our business is we listen to the community. You know you serve on TEAC. You know we have a lot so we listen so closely to the community and our customers and all their feedback. This badge program was actually a direct result of that is they requested something to fill that gap of the certification testing going away, something that they could use to recognize their skills for their resumes, for their careers and so this badge program will fill that gap.
Paul:Okay so—so all of that within community is fine Brandon but how about then the whole of marketing outside the community?
Brandon:Right, definitely. Yeah so that's something we're also doing this year you know I can give you an example. So our business architecture for open source on IBM I, Jesse Gorsinski, you know he's such an expert on open source and new technologies on the platform. What he's doing is he's actually traveling and going to a few new events outside the community. As you know we have such a robust event calendar within the IBM i community between COMMON, the Summit, TechU and all the user group conferences but Jesse's actually to some we'll call them non-IBM i events, Node Interactive, Midwest PHP just to name a few and speaking on the value of running these new open source technologies on IBM i. So that's just something we're doing to reach out beyond what I'd call our inner community.
Paul:Yeah so-so I mean would you think it's a fair statement Brandon that one of the big side benefits of the whole open-source initiative on IBM has been that it is bringing new people to the platform?
Brandon:Absolutely. Absolutely. I can tell you you know every Fresh Face that we interview and feature in the systems magazine, I can tell they're all doing open source right? They know RPG; they know COBOL; they learned. They were trained and they've learned those but they're all doing open source now. They're doing PHP; they're doing Python; they're doing Node.js you know not only because they're new and cool but because that is what they learned growing up. That's what they were taught in school. You know in all of these, let's take machine learning for example: While most of machine learning-most machine learning models are written in Python so if you want to do you know take advantage of these new technologies on IBM i, you know you're going to have get some open source skills on your team. So that's what these Fresh Faces are doing.
Paul:So—okay so let me throw a side one at you here Brandon. One of the things that you'll see coming up on whenever marketing of IBM i is discussed in any of the forums or that so are you planning to take that the ad at halftime in the Super Bowl for IBM i?
Brandon:You know I would love that but we're not going to do that and here's the re-it's not just IBM i. You know I think there's some confusion about IBM goes to market right? We don't go to market anymore by product. You know we're just too big, right. We're in services. We're in software. We're in hardware, you know cloud, new technologies like cognitive, Blockchain. You know if you all our advertising and I will preface that by saying there's a difference between advertising and marketing, right?
Brandon:I can get to that later but if you look at all of our advising I'll admit that we don't go to market by product anymore. We go to market by plan so when you see an ad for cloud, you see an ad—while IBM i is a part of that, too. You know IBM i is in the IBM public cloud and other clouds. You know IBM i can connect to Watson to take-to add value to your business applications. You look at an ad for let's say blockchain. Well we have a story. We have a customer story of a small wine producer in Belgium who is tracking their wine production with from grapes to glass, from the grapes in the vineyard to the glass on your table at dinner with a Blockchain application on IBM i and POWER9 right so IBM plays with all these new technologies but you know-that's-there's just some confusion but I feel like people when they see our advertising when we do go to market, you know we don't go to market by product anymore.
Paul:Yeah so I mean in fairness I mean IBM—it's something IBM hasn't done for well since the ‘90s I think is the last time.
Paul:Actually I think the only time they ever had anything that was specific was when the original launch of the AS/400 when they had the M*A*S*H team doing ads, like all the actors and actresses from M*A*S*H doing ads for AS/400—I'm sorry—before your time Brandon, way before your time [laughs].
Brandon:Yeah, I know. I remember the AS/400 yeah for sure but yeah, no, definitely. You're absolutely right.
Paul:So-so-so Brandon have you any sort of big plans for 2020 apart from the ones that you've just mentioned? Anything else in the pipeline?
Brandon:Sure. Well certainly so I can mention our highlight of our 2020 is our 2020 iSight team and that will not-it's not just the blog but we'll do an activation at the POWERUp conference in Atlanta in April for example so definitely come to that. You know we'll be at the THINK conference in San Francisco so yeah a lot to come there but yeah definitely like I mentioned earlier I'm just really trying to get the community involved so this is my open invitation out to the community. Please reach out to me and we'd love to get involved with the blog and 2020 iSight.
Paul:Okay so are you spending a lot more time now Brandon going around to things like the conferences and user groups and all of that involving yourself with the community?
Brandon:Certainly and I've been doing that before and I'm doing that even more now. I-you know I had mentioned to you before we started recording on-speaking at the WMCPA spring technical conference in Wisconsin coming up here in March. It'll be my first time to that event. I'm speaking at POWERUp at Atlanta. Alison and I will be speaking at THINK in San Francisco and I plan to get out to-you know I went to LUG for the first time in my career the week before last.
Brandon:So yeah definitely. I'm going to be in the community as much as I can and I love doing that. It's so much fun.
Paul: Okay so listen before we go Brandon I always like to end on a sort of personal question and we were just chatting about this briefly beforehand so your hobby, your pastime when you're not marketing IBM i?
Brandon:Yeah so I'm a big golfer so I've been playing golf since I was four. You know my grandfather got me into the game and we still play together. We belong to the same club here in Austin actually just west of Austin in a community called Lakeway so I've been playing with him my whole life. I played competitively at high level since I was about 8 all the way until really I got hired at IBM, then I stopped playing competitively so yeah I love to play. I actually play for fun now mostly but that's kind of my thing outside of IBM.
Paul:Now I just like want to clarify when we talk about playing golf. So what I asked you was was what handicapped you played off and your reply to me was?
Brandon:Well at my very best I was a +2, which is 2 better than scratch but that when I was 16 and playing everyday. You know I played in high school; I played competitively so but I don't really-I still play pretty well but I don't quite play at quite a high level as that. Like I said I play for fun but that was at my very best so.
Paul:So if I remember correctly in Austin where you're based, there is a driving range in that isn't there within walking distance?
Brandon:Certainly yeah. We have a-I live here in The Domain in North Austin. It's kind of our second downtown alley. We call it our uptown. Yeah, there golf right across the street. It's right next to the IBM office so yeah, I go there occasionally. It's pretty cool. It's a cool place.
Paul:Cool. Okay well I hope you can bring your golfing skills to your product marketing skills as well Brandon so thanks for taking the time to talk to me.
Brandon:Thank you so much Paul. I appreciate it.
Paul:Okay. That's it for this week folks. Tune in again for the next one. Bye for now.