This PowerUp blog post was written by Laura Ubelhor, who owns and operates Consultech Services, Inc., a Rochester, Mich.-based consulting company established in 1992. Laura has extensive hands-on experience specializing in IBM i application technologies and working with a long list of clients in a variety of businesses.
Some years ago when I began my journey into a career as an IBM midrange system professional, I purposely sought out others locally with the same interests. I realized early on as an IT professional there would always be change--something new to learn, new tools, new technology, new methodologies, new ways to improve and enhance solutions.
Exploring how to meet the need to keep current I sought training, education and also interaction with like colleagues. With some research I found several local user groups meeting on a regular basis with the guiding purpose of IBM midrange systems education. After visiting each group I settled in and haven’t waivered as a dedicated member of SEMIUG.
LUGs (local user groups), an important component of the framework within local i communities, shouldn’t be overlooked as a source of learning and interaction with other i colleagues. LUGs across the country differ greatly. Some are more formal than others. Some groups are larger and have more volunteer resources to meet the local community education needs. Meeting times vary from group to group. Some have chosen morning or afternoon gatherings while others meet in the evenings. Some LUG meetings are held at local IBM sites, i community organization sites, restaurants, conference facilities, libraries, community centers or a combination of sites. All have a website for i community members to visit to find out about upcoming and past events and activities.
Volunteers are the driving force behind running a LUG. User groups have strived to provide a comfortable environment for i colleagues to get together, interact and learn. Some hold webinars, monthly meetings, one- or two-day conference events, hands-on learning activities and a variety of other activities focused on providing the local i community with education opportunities. Some areas/regions have more than one group. Often groups within regions coordinate activities including conference events or having a speaker visit multiple groups in a whirlwind tour. One thing is constant, however; activities are organized by volunteers. So you may find some sites that aren’t as elaborate as others or some may not have the latest name or logos included on group sites or communications. All are nonprofit volunteer-run organizations. LUGs are dependent on membership dues, which vary, but all are reasonably priced. Dues fund the LUG activities and provide a means of bringing education to your local area.
Don’t overlook the power of the LUG. Although, our numbers may not be as big as they were at one time, we’re still out there thriving, and recently seem to be experiencing some growth. COMMON is the super LUG that reaches many people throughout the world. Not everyone can attend a COMMON conference or COMMON activities because of cost or logistics. No fear or need to be left out, likely a group in your area is just waiting for you to participate. LUGs provide current topics presented by world-class experts and provide a great opportunity to meet and greet fellow i colleagues.
I fondly recall many user group activities. Even when it might not have been a presentation or education event focused on something that I was using or had used, I’ve always appreciated the impact of being able to learn something new and interact with other i colleagues. I’ve never been let down through any user group activity that I have attended. I always walk away learning something new. The interaction, learning and insight are invaluable.
So where do you find contact information on a LUG in your area. Here and here are a couple of websites that list most of the LUGs. If you don’t readily find one in your area don’t hesitate to contact and reach out to a LUG within your region or to COMMON. LUG members are a friendly bunch and will go out of there way to help i colleagues find answers and learn. What does it take on your behalf? Not much. Seek, participate and you shall be rewarded.
Are you a LUG member? If not–why? If you are a LUG member, what are some of your favorite experiences?