Ed note: The following is a post by guest author Jeff Carey who is a candidate for the COMMON Board of Directors.

I’ve been a proud member of COMMON for almost 20 years now and a volunteer for about 6. Attending my first meeting in 1993 in New Orleans, I was struck with seeing a cross section of the (what was then) AS/400 world. Coming from a small shop at the time, I was thrilled to see that yes there were those with the same issues as I had. I was even more thrilled to find out some answers that helped me. I, for the first time in my professional life, felt part of a community.

Much has changed since then. Electronic communication has become the norm instead of the exception. The AS/400 went from a successful star of IBM to the “best kept secret” of IBM i.

But the need to connect with others and to succeed by leveraging the experience of each other has never been greater.

“Doing more with less” has become less of a mantra and more of the default method these days. That leaves people with precious little time to go outside of the routine tasks and explore new skills and ways of doing things, just when that ability is the most critical. We need to find ways to “work smarter, “ but who was the time?

COMMON is first a solution to that problem. The Annual Meeting and the conference allow members to gather and get top-notch education and most importantly to share their experiences. It has always seemed to me that a week at the COMMON Meeting was like months of pouring over online discussions and technical documents.

Chances are you, like me, had some interesting times the last couple of years (or at least thought you might!). COMMON was a constant through that time really helped me keep current and on track.

COMMON is also a way for people to help each other. COMMON events and offerings aren’t just things presented by a group, they are things created through the effort of fantastic volunteers.

When I mentioned to someone that I had been on the Board of Directors of COMMON and was running again, they asked me (quite seriously), “Why would you do that?”

Honestly, it was a question that took me aback a bit. From those first days, the excitement of this community really grabbed me as it did so many others. But really, why? It involved a lot of time and effort.

The answer, when I examined it, was the community. I, like probably most of you reading this, always took pride in my work. I know I became better at my job because of the people I’ve met and things I’ve learned through COMMON. I wanted that to continue. That seems even more important these days, when COMMON’s health and well being is not a foregone conclusion.

Then it struck me. COMMON is us. All of us. The person attending an event just to get some needed education. The volunteer giving their time and talent. The person reading this (and hopefully going on to cast their vote or reminding their COMMON representative to do so). The company having its employees attend virtual education.

COMMON is you. COMMON is me. COMMON is “i.”

About Jeff Carey:
Jeff Carey first became a member of COMMON in 1992. After years of benefiting from COMMON's education and community, he decided to start giving back. He began volunteering as a speaker for COMMON in 2005, consistently earning Speaker of Merit. He first served on the Board of Directors from 2006-2010. He is also the current President of the Omni User, a premier IBM i user group. He has worked on the IBM i platform for almost 20 years as a system administrator, manager and technical support specialist. He is currently employed by at SXC Health Solutions, a growing service and software provider in the Pharmacy Benefits Management space that uses IBM i as its platform. He holds a BA from the University of Chicago, an MBA from the University of Illinois at Chicago and an MS in IT from Northwestern University. He lives in Chicago with his wife and two daughters. His pastimes include theater, Toastmasters and all things Disney.