We occasionally get questions about where or how to find ASNA Visual RPG (AVR) programmers. There aren't hard and fast rules for finding an AVR programmer, so you'll need to tailor the process to what works for you and your team. The question doesn’t have a good, single answer, but here are a few thoughts and considerations for that challenge.
Start your search by giving your ASNA salesperson a call (or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org). Our salespeople are in contact with customers constantly and are usually the first know if an AVR programmer is available. This call may not turn up a coder right away, but it never hurts to let your salesperson know that you’re looking. We’ll do all we can to help. And by the way, if you are an AVR coder in search of work, please let us know!
Grow your own
If you can’t quickly find AVR programmers you may need to think about growing your own. It’s long been debated in our community what kind of programmer can most easily learn AVR: a green-screen RPG coder or a .NET coder. RPG coders know the system and all of the IBM i idioms (both inside and outside RPG), but RPG coders often don’t have much experience with modern environments and best practices. Good C# coders (usually, VB seems to have gone way under the radar the last several years) often understand most of the environmental and best-practices issues, but don’t have a clue about the idioms of the IBM i.
It’s been long debated in our community what kind of programmer can mostly easily learn AVR: a green-screen RPG coder AVR or a .NET coder AVR
While the general syntax of AVR isn’t much of a stretch for programmers from either side of the fence, unique challenges lurk. RPG coders make friends quickly with the AVR language but some will encounter a few speed bumps as they learn Visual Studio and the vagaries of Web development. C# coders won’t have much trouble with AVR’s syntax (they will likely grumble about AVR’s verbosity compared to C#, but that isn’t a major stumbling block) but expect them to struggle with record level access concepts and other RPG/IBM i idioms.
Make it two
In an ideal world, perhaps the best option is to get one of each: an RPG coder and a C# coder. The RPG coder can help teach the RPG model and its idioms to the C# coder and the C# coder can share environmental, tooling, Web development, and best practices. It’s likely, but not a given, that a C# coder will have Web skills. If you need Web work done, make sure you interview appropriately to ensure the C# coder brings needed skills. Beware the C# coder who is enamored with the latest bells and whistles. You need programmers from whom you can enlist willful cooperation in doing what you need done, not programmers who want to chase shiny silver balls and do want they want to do!
A curious mind
If you can only afford one programmer, based on pure programming talent, it’s probably a toss. While it’s important for a candidate to have some technical skills, a lesson I’ve learned from training programmers for the last 20 years or so is that formal development skills matter less than having someone eager to learn and not afraid of the unknown. An open mind and technical curiosity are key. It’s also important to factor in the candidate’s soft skills and personality. Do your best to find a candidate who will integrate well the existing team. This often distills down to considering the candidate’s listening skill: a candidate who can’t listen is down two strikes!
That said, do your best to find a candidate with at least some programming experience and knowledge of the basics. The faster that new coders can get productive, the better. It’s possible to teach a bookkeeper or a forklift driver how to program, but it’s going to take a lot longer for that humble beginner to generate an ROI on your training.
Depending on your physical location, you may need to reconcile yourself to the fact that you need to hire a remote programmer. For many businesses, this is often a major hurdle. If your business is in the hills of Wyoming, a worthy candidate living 2500 miles away may be your best shot. With chat apps, Web screen sharing, video conferencing, and distributed source control, it’s quite possible to effectively manage remote programmers.
You may need to reconcile yourself to the fact that you need to hire a remote programmer
As you search for an AVR developer, if time becomes an issue, remember that ASNA’s Services Team is available to pick up the slack and help out with any aspect of your AVR project. Our developers can take over creating enhancements and updates, but also can help out with typical maintenance and bug fixes as they are needed.
Hug ‘em if you got ‘em
If you are lucky enough to have good AVR programmers at your business today, take good care of them! They comprise one of the pillars that keeps your business humming. Also, if you do have that AVR team, carefully consider their age and their retirement trajectory sooner than later. Finding an AVR coder is best done without a crisis looming!