The New England Guide To IBM i
March 12, 2012 Dan Burger
The annual training and education event known as the Northeast User Groups Conference has been an IBM midrange tradition in New England. It draws primarily from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Maine. And it’s unique because it combines the several active local user groups from New England along with devoted volunteers from areas where local user groups no longer exist. This year’s conference is scheduled for April 2 through 4.
As anyone who is connected with a local user group knows, it takes a group of dedicated volunteers to row the boat. In this case, they’ve been rowing for 22 successful years. Think about that in terms of volunteered hours and you’ll get an idea of the commitment.
Last year the head count was approximately 235. That number is expected to remain about the same for the 2012 event.
The list of tech conferences run at the local user group level that have attendance in that range is short. It include the WMCPA conference in Wisconsin (March 21-22), the TUG Tech Conference (April 23-24) in Toronto, the OCEAN Tech Conference (July 20) in California, the MITEC conference (June 12) in Michigan, and the LISUG May Day (May 16) in New York.
The five primary tracks at the Northeast User Group Conference contain a total of 75 sessions. The tracks are RPG and Programming Tools, SQL and Database, Systems Management and Security, Web Development, and Professional Development. Individual session abstracts along with speaker identification are available online.
The speaker list is stacked with experts including Aaron Bartell, Susan Gantner, Jon Paris, Rob Bestgen, Dan Cruikshank, Pete Massiello, and Mike Pavlak. The list goes on, and you can find short biographies here.
“The core group of speakers we rely on are well-known educators and are big draws for our attendees. We attempt to bring them back each year,” says Paul Rogers, one of the volunteers who helps organize the event. “For a change of pace, we rotate some of the speakers on and off from one year to the next. We try to introduce new speakers to the mix.”
In addition to the main two-day conference, there are two deep-dive workshops available on Monday. One is Mike Pavlak doing PHP for IBM i and the other is database modernization with Dan Cruikshank. These are priced separately from the conference registration. The full conference registration fee is $575. If you add one of the Monday sessions, it’s $625. For those not attending the conference but signing up only for one of the Monday sessions, the price is $100.
IBM i shops with training budgets have been the major support for NEUGC for many years. By Rogers’ best guess, there are only a few attendees who register with out of pocket money. Businesses have their choice where to send their IT staff for training and over the years this conference continues to provide a good training value. The quality of education is likely the top priority, but one of the contributing factors is that travel expenses are minimized when the education is close to home.
“We have attendees who come every year and we have attendees that are put on a rotation,” Rogers says. The company sends different people each year, but it always sends some of the staff. Some of the individuals are attending every other year. In some instances, the year one individual isn’t coming here he may be going to COMMON or to some other training opportunity.”
More than 60 companies are sending IT staff to NEUGC, Rogers says.
Another aspect of the NEUGC tradition is having a familiar and convenient location.
“We have been in the Sheraton Framingham for close to 20 years,” Rogers says. “It’s a long-standing relationship. They work with us to keep the costs in line and they work very well with us. It’s allowed us to keep the same registration costs for at least four or five years and maybe longer.”