N2i Gains Traction Among IBM i Newbies
January 25, 2023 Alex Woodie
The YiPS made a big push to inject youth into the IBM i community over a decade ago. But when the youthful vigor ran low, members of the community regrouped, re-energized, and rebranded into a new group called New to IBM i (N2i). And judging from N2i’s recent success, the group has hit on something.
N2i has its roots in the YiPS, according to Marina Schwenk, who was a YiPS member back in the day and now is active in COMMON and the WMCPA. But there’s a crucial difference between N2i and YIPS, she says.
“The group that we’re looking to attract . . . is anyone new to the platform,” Schwenk tells IT Jungle. “And that doesn’t necessarily mean those who are coming straight out of college. It can be those who are literally new to the IBM i platform. That could be someone who, this is a second carer for them. Or maybe they’ve been working in IT for 20 years, but they’ve been working on a Microsoft or a Linux platform, but now they’re coming to IBM i.”
Schwenk originally worked with COMMON marketing manager Anna Marrah to transform YIPS into N2i in 2019, and soon was joined by Richie Palma, an account executive with iTech Solutions and Shelly Petty, who works at Everbrite with Schwenk (and who we profiled last year).
The recharged group was ready to make a big splash in 2020, but then the pandemic hit and things were pushed back. After holding virtual meetings in 2020 and 2021, N2i held its first in-person get-together at the COMMON POWERUp conference in New Orleans last May. And now it’s looking to take the group to the next level.
“The group has literally just taken off,” says Schwenk, who was just named an IBM Champion for Power again. “We have seen an exponential growth in our numbers, especially in attendance at a lot of these events.”
Education is the focus of the two virtual meetings that N2i holds every month. The group has found an audience with its “getting started” series, usually held the second Monday of every month, which group attracts top-notch speakers, like Jesse Gorzinski and Carol Woodbury, who give talks on entry-level topics, such as getting started with IoT or getting started with security. Other popular topics that have been covered include getting started with RPG and getting started with Python.
“Our focus has pretty much been anyone who needs education on IBM i who has never touched it before,” Schwenk says. “Those are the skills that we are trying to hit, regardless of where they’re coming from.”
Folks just starting with the IBM i platform can also attend the N2i track at POWERUp, which is being held in Denver, Colorado, this spring, and NAViGATE, which will be held in Virginia Beach, Virginia, this fall. It’s important to pick conference sessions that truly are suitable for beginners, which isn’t always as straightforward, Schwenk says.
“Some of the beginner sessions, they’re fine. N2i people are able to hit it. But for other N2i people, it might be a little bit too advanced,” she says. “Some sessions are marked beginner but they’re a little bit more advanced. Some are marked beginner and they’re really beginner.”
Later this year, N2i and COMMON will take their joint educational mission up a notch with the launch of N2i bootcamps. These educational sessions, which are modeled after existing COMMON bootcamps, will allow N2i and COMMON to go deeper on a particular topic that’s suitable for beginners. While participation in most N2i events is free and open to anybody, bootcamp participants must be COMMON members and there will be a fee involved.
“This is where becoming a COMMON member is a benefit to someone who is part of N2i,” Schwenk says.
Finally, N2i has launched a mentorship program that seeks to pair IBM i newbies with experienced hands on a virtual basis. “If you have experience in RPG development or SQL – that kind of stuff – then you can mentor somebody who is looking for that skillset,” Schwenk says.
Ideally, a mentor will have at least 10 years of experience on a particular aspect of the platform and is willing to share their knowledge with somebody new to the platform, Schwenk says. But that number is not set in stone.
N2i has already matched six people in the mentorship program, and it’s looking to match more. “It’s very successful and it’s thriving,” she says.
All told, N2i appears to have succeeded where the YiPS group petered out. The participation level is up, and Common Europe has even started its own version of the N2i for the Old World, dubbed NextGen Common Europe.
Last week, N2i and NextGen held a joint event, the Loopback Hackathon, that brought together platform enthusiasts from around the world. Judging from the success of that event, there are likely to be similar ones in the future.
“What we’re seeing in Europe is that the COMMON NextGen is very excited, very passionate about the platform,” Schwenk says. “What I see for the future is there’s going to be a lot of synergy between N2i and NextGen.”