August 18, 2020

Article at IBM Systems Magazine

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iTalk With Quinn Kramer

In this episode of iTalk With Tuohy, Paul talks with Quinn Kramer, a software engineer at IBM Rochester.

Paul Tuohy: Hi everybody and welcome to another iTalk with Tuohy. So I'm joined today by yet another of the fresh young faces within IBM, another software engineer, Quinton Kramer. Hello Quinn.
Quinton Kramer: Hi Paul.
Paul: Okay so let me just check: You prefer Quinn to Quinton?
Quinn: Quinn works just fine.
Paul: Okay perfect. So—so Quinn you are one of the software engineers working on database on Db2 for i?
Quinn: That is correct.
Paul: Okay so let's start with maybe a couple of practical things. So first of all, so how long have you been with IBM?
Quinn: So I started with IBM, it would have been January—sorry—I started five years ago in January, so—
Paul: Okay. Oh God, some people are just so young. Okay so did you join IBM straight from college, Quinn?
Quinn: Yup, straight—straight out of undergrad. I had actually been interviewing around campus, and I was already all dressed up in the suit and what not. I got an email saying IBM was interviewing. So I jumped over, did the interview. I actually—long story short—offered me a job in database, which was by far my favorite undergrad coursework. So it was kind of a match made in heaven.
Paul: Wow. So was—so it wasn't one of these things for you where you had gone "I always wanted to work for IBM," or it was in the back of your mind? Was it just a thing of well this email come and you sort of went "IBM, why not?"
Quinn: Yeah it was—for me, IBM was a—was there in the background, but it wasn't at the forefront of my head for, you know, somebody in Wisconsin, software developer or even database initially—I've been over these past five years.
Paul: Yeah.
Quinn: My past self has been proven very wrong as far as database and IBM goes.
Paul: So—so tell me something: When you sort of arrived in Rochester, had you ever heard of IBM i before that?
Quinn: No. As a young developer IBM i was not a—not on my radar before that point so it's been a big learning—learning process.
Paul: Yeah, I mean did you have suddenly like when you got there suddenly a gut wrenching feeling going "oh my God, what have I let myself into on this platform I've never heard of?"
Quinn: Yeah. Actually that gut wrenching feeling on multiple fronts. So I don't know if you've ever been in the big blue building there but the developer section there, the dress code is shirt, jeans, you know, T-shirt: be comfortable. I showed for my first day in a full blown suit thinking that I needed to dress to impress, you know, and then I started looking at the code and I had the "oh my God what is going on here?"
Paul: So yeah, it's kind of the reverse there. I mean once upon a time IBM was the suits. Everybody had to wear them.
Quinn: Yup.
Paul: Except for developers, I must say. Always in the labs they were allowed to be casual.
Quinn: Yeah.
Paul: So—so over the last few years then I mean okay you've been working on database. So what kind of things have you been working on?
Quinn: So I started working out on the—my team likes to joke that they threw me in the deep end right away. I started converting parts of modules over to newer code base, and then once I did a good job with that I started working on internal issues or customer problems, and then most recently obviously I've been working on Db2 Mirror [IBM Db2 Mirror for i].
Paul: Okay. I know it's-it's only five years, but I mean of the different things you've been working on, has there been any one of them, you know, or even style of work that's been grabbing your interest going "yeah this is what I really like doing"?
Quinn: So most—my most recent work with Db2 Mirror specifically. DDL work has been a ton of fun. So I work with Sarah Mackenzie on a daily basis on DDL and it's—I've surprised myself a few times just how passionate I've grown over the code that she and I have tweaked and written and created together. So by far DDL is my favorite thing to have worked on so far.
Paul: Yeah so are you in that stage of ownership where it's yours, not IBM’s?
Quinn: Yeah for some of those pieces of code, absolutely. Others I'd—I'd like to pretend that I didn't have anything to do with it [laughs].
Paul: And so speaks the true developer.
Quinn: Yeah.
Paul: I like that. So—so the other thing, Quinn—because we've met in person a couple of times—is that you started out on the speaking circuit so I've bumped into at a couple of conferences in different parts of the world. So is that something you were kind of pushed into, or something that you wanted to do?
Quinn: So that was—I had talked with my manager about you know wanting to be more client-facing than what I was. I say that because—or I said that because in undergrad, I—we did capstone projects where we had to go out and interface with people and create something that they wanted, and that was a space that I really felt like I was lacking—just you know, coming into the office and developing it. It was kind of like the faceless customer that I was creating things for and I wanted to know what—what—what—what clients and customers were actually speaking like, actually interested in. And at the same time I've learned about IBM i from the people that develop and maintain it. I wanted an opportunity to learn about IBM i from the people that use it. So—
Paul: So how—I mean how have you found that? I mean did you have an impression of—of the base? I mean is it kind of what you expect, not what you expected, or you had no expectation?
Quinn: You mean the customer base?
Paul: Yeah.
Quinn: I've been surprised. So I have—so I—like I said I learned the code and whatnot from the developer, so I think about the code base in a certain way, and that's not necessarily always the way that the customers talk about it. So that's maybe a struggle for me to convert but I was surprised by the number of people that have native or still use—still using native applications quite heavily. As a young developer I was taught everything in SQL. That's the way I thought the world worked. I've been proven wrong in that.
Paul: Yeah, there's a lot of very, very old code, right?
Quinn: Yeah, absolutely.
Paul: Yeah so—so I mean—sorry tricky question in a way Quinn this one, but you mean—as you sort of look to the future, I mean would you prefer more of your future to be that sort of customer facing, or more sort of lab based on the development side. Or do you want to try and find a happy medium?
Quinn: I think a happy medium it needs to be is what I would like to be struck. I mean the few engagements that I've done coming out and speaking I've enjoyed—I've enjoyed a lot. The customers and clients and what not have all been very supportive and encouraging when I've been out speaking. But at the same time there is something to be said for just being able to sit down in your office some day and pound out lines of code. so.
Paul: So okay I've got to ask you this Quinn so when you've been speaking at conference, how many times have people asked you what age are you?
Quinn: That's—I think that's come up a few times [laughs].
Paul: That’s nice diplomatic answer.
Quinn: Yeah. I'm always impressed by when I look back on the change, place and dates in some of the code that, you know, I've helped maintain; some of the code is older than I am, so.
Paul: Yeah. Yeah, I was thinking that when I was asking you when you started and I was going "oh my God, five years," I mean.
Quinn: Yup.
Paul: So anyway let's not go down that rabbit hole. So with other things I mean with all the stuff happening on the system, Quinn, do you see yourself now as being sort of like a database guy or are you sort of enticed maybe over towards some of the open source stuff or that?
Quinn: No, I'm a database guy at heart. I mean that's—like I said in school and what not that was—those were the classes, that's still the stuff that just resonates and speaks with me. Open source stuff I try to play with, but in playing with it, I'm going to work computer and inevitably I end up back working on database again, so.
Paul: So that's it: Database guy to the core.
Quinn: That's a good way to define me.
Paul: I think—I think whoever was doing the hiring for IBM—I mean this obviously they spotted [laughs].
Quinn: Yeah.
Paul: Okay Quinn, so usually on these things I like to end up talking to people about, you know, something they like to do personally. But with you I'm really dreading this conversation—
Quinn: Oh here we go.
Paul: As I know because we talked about this before. So anyway so why don't you just tell people, you know, what one of your outside interests is?
Quinn: So I am a die hard Liverpool Football Club supporter. Can't wait for them to come back, the 17th, so.
Paul: Hmmm. Liverpool supporter. Yeah, yeah, tell—excuse me as I grit my teeth here: Yeah so tell me more about that, Quinn.
Quinn: Oh I can't. Let's see. What else do we want to talk about?
Paul: I mean so how did you end up being a Liverpool supporter? I mean okay—I mean it interests me one of all how somebody in the U.S. ends up, you know, supporting them I mean, but how did you end up with Liverpool?
Quinn: So I actually ended up with Liverpool because at some point in the my childhood I stopped watching cartoons in the morning and started watching the Premier League with my dad. My dad was a Liverpool supporter so I jumped on that and the rest is history. I keep supporting them because I like what the club is about and it's very easy to continue to support them right now, so.
Paul: So it's—so have you been to Anfield?
Quinn: I have not. I have—I believe I've convinced the fiancée though that's part of the honeymoon trip if we can get tickets over there at the right time.
Paul: Yeah. It's-yeah well I'll tell you: I have been to Anfield and I've been in the Kop.
Quinn: Oh my God.
Paul: As you know from our conversation before, I'm a Chelsea supporter and I was there—and this is actually maybe before you were born, actually. It could have been that long ago—but I was there watching my team being beaten 5-1 by Liverpool as I stood in the middle of the Kop—
Quinn: Oh my.
Paul: Yeah. The only reason I was there was that my son, my eldest son was a Liverpool supporter and I brought him to it. He was 10 at the time, so.
Quinn: He sounds like a good lad.
Paul: Ahhh yeah, so—yeah so I can tell I wasn't wearing my blue scarf while I was standing in the middle of the Kop, either. I had more sense than that—and I applauded politely whenever Liverpool scored [laughs].
Quinn: Oh that's awesome.
Paul: But I mean obviously you must support a team there in the U.S. league as well.
Quinn: Ah yeah so MN UFC is Minnesota's MLS team, the Loons as they're called. I have season tickets to Allianz Field in Minnesota—so, Twin Cities. Yeah.
Paul: Cool. So yeah. So well I'll tell you, Quinn, when you head this direction and you're going to Anfield, let me know and I'll see if I can get a Chelsea supporter to sit beside you.
Quinn: All right [laughs]. That sounds awesome.
Paul: Okay Quinn, so listen: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me and for sharing that with me, and I hope we meet again in person really soon.
Quinn: You bet. I hope so, too.
Paul: Okay, everyone: That's it for this iTalk. Talk to you all soon. Bye for now.

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