The first time I saw Aaron Bartell was in a manufacturing plant.  He was talking to a college-aged brunette female who seemed to know him.  Around his neck was a loud tie wrapped in a huge windsor knot.  Dangling about 7 inches below his neck, the tie seemed to be screaming for a little more length considering there was roughly 9 more inches to go before reaching his waist.  At the time I couldn’t tell if the abbreviated length of the tie was intentional by design or simple user-error.  I’m still asking the same question.

Today Aaron Bartell is an IBM Power Systems Champion – an honor bestowed on a grand total of 19 individuals worldwide.  That’s kind of a big deal.

As explained from IBM:  The IBM Champion program recognizes innovative thought leaders in the technical community — and rewards these contributors by amplifying their voice and increasing their sphere of influence. An IBM Champion is an IT professional, business leader, developer, or educator who influences and mentors others to help them make best use of IBM software, solutions, and services.

In 2001 I decided to marry the brunette female I first saw Aaron talking to (who happened to be his sister).  In 2006 I joined him at Krengeltech after he had single-handedly finished writing the first version of today’s RPG-XML Suite software.  At the time RPG meant nothing more to me than a pretty fun Role Playing Game I thought the two of us may play.  To date we haven’t played any role playing games but instead have established hundreds of software installations and solved countless technical business problems.  Let me clarify that:  Aaron has solved countless technical business challenges while I’ve simply been a customer liaison.

I’m writing this from the Common 2012 Annual Conference – one of the largest single gatherings of IBM Power Systems users in existence.  Aaron’s not here due to varying demands on his travel schedule.  I have however informed him that next year I will need a name badge that says “No Aaron is not here” which I can politely refer inquiries to in the event he can’t make it once again.  All kidding aside – I’m sure he’d willingly exchange Minnesota for California most days of the year!

I’m glad I get hassled regularly about Aaron because it means he’s good at what he does.  He gives a rip and others notice.  Customers still call and ask for him directly because he makes them champions within their businesses. I know 9 times out of 10 if a Power Systems user has an XML web service challenge and Aaron is involved they will soon be a customer.

But a champion is made by more than just writing good computer code, offering superior support, and being a good cheer leader, mentor, and educator within a technical community.

Aaron’s a champion in my book as a father, husband, brother-in-law and friend.  Plus he can do things with Gold Bond most people only dream of.

Well done my friend.  IBM Power Systems Champion.

BTW – Have you heard the one about the wolves and the duck tape?


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