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Spotlight: Morag Hughson, Lifetime IBM Champion

By Stephanie Wilkerson posted Thu February 18, 2021 01:00 AM


Morag Hughson achieved the rare status of IBM Lifetime Champion, which is about as far as you probably want to go. It’s an acknowledgement of her indefatigability as a blogger on all things IBM MQ. After 18 years in the MQ Development organisation, including ten years as the MQ Product Architect with IBM in the Hursley Lab, in 2015 she joined MQGem Software, an IBM Business Partner and provider of MQ tools, where she leads technical training and continues her incessant output on the Middleware Community. She and her husband Paul Clarke (founder of MQGem) currently live in New Zealand and gaze out the window at gently undulating green fields.

David: Congratulations on being named Lifetime IBM Champion for your prolific output on the Middleware Community and elsewhere. Why do you blog?

Morag:  There’s a lot of stuff in my head and you don’t realize it’s there until someone asks a question and then you say, ‘Oh yea… Maybe I can turn that into a blog post.’  In that way, often a question in a discussion thread becomes a full blog post.  A simple yes or no answer isn’t enough.  If they asked the question, it's because the answer is not obvious.  Sometimes the answer is, “Here’s the link you want in the Knowledge Center.”  There’s good reference material there, but if the question is ‘Why?’ or ‘How?,’ unless you know the surrounding material you won’t really understand, so I’ll add some examples; I’ll add a screen shot or two and then this forum answer is big enough to be a blog post.  I have a rule: If I answer the same question more than once, it becomes a blog post. I can answer one person, or I can write it up so the whole Community understands it.

David: How did you start with IBM MQ? What is your education?

Morag:  I was a Maths and Computer Science major and I got a job in Hursley as a developer on the MQ product in 1996. I came straight in as a developer because I became fluent in the C language at university and that was what Hursley needed.  They put me in the z/OS team, which was a completely new platform to me. So I learned z/OS. I was very fortunate, I think, because of project delays when I first joined Hursley, I had 6 months to play with MQ. And those 6 months of just playing with the product gave me such a deep experience in all the things that you can do with it, that it serves me to this day.  I wish everyone had 6 months to play with a platform!

David:  You are obviously a Lifetime Champion, because you have become a role model as a communicator. What would you tell other people who are thinking of contributing a blog post to the Community?

Morag: The only thing you really have is your knowledge and your reputation.  Your knowledge is useful on the forums and your reputation remains strong if you stay on forums and in the forefronts of people’s minds. Besides, there is an immense degree of satisfaction when someone says, ‘Oh wow, that’s exactly what I needed. You helped me solve my problem because you wrote it out.’ Either immediately because you wrote it for them or two or three years down the line.  And it’s fun.

David: What would you tell people who say, “I wrote the code. Why do I have to write a blog post too?”

Morag: They DO say that, and I tell them, ‘That’s WHY you have to write a blog post!’  Often the people who write the code just want to hide behind their keyboards and keep their head down. But the information that’s inside their head is incredibly valuable! I understand that it sounds like work. When I was in Hursley, we started something called Bite-sized Blogging to encourage our developers to just write a couple paragraphs about the feature in the product that they'd just coded. Just get it out there. And once they get going, they say, ‘Well, I’ll just put this in and that in,’ and they end up with a full page anyway. Think of how much knowledge would be available to our users if every developer just wrote one or two blog posts on their piece of the puzzle. I'm very happy to see that there are a number of developers from IBM Hursley blogging at the Middleware Community.

David: Since leaving IBM, how do you continue to stay current?

Morag: I am, and always have been, a huge fan of the IBM MQ product. I am very fortunate to now be working for a company that develops MQ tools, utilities and training. This allows me to continue doing what I love most, working with MQ. MQGem is part of the early program for MQ, so we stay in touch with what is happening in Hursley, feedback to the developers as they develop the new releases, and get to know the new features as soon as they are available.

David: Thank you, Morag. I’m inspired by your example! I’m going to end this interview with a link to a recent article by you on the IBM Community, Morag’s Quirks