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Overview – Pune User Group: Forum for Microsoft Technologies Developers & Students

(The Pune User Group is one of Pune’s biggest tech user groups, and is a platform for all people interested in Microsoft Technologies in Pune. In this article, we try to give an overview of PUG, it’s structure, and activities. The answers have mostly been provided by Mahesh Mitkari, co-founder of PUG, with additional inputs from Vikram Pendse and Pradnya Naik.)

What is Pune User Group?

PUG is a group of technology enthusiasts who are dedicated to spreading knowledge about Microsoft Technologies. It consists of people from various educational background and different age groups – students as well as professionals. PUG is a not-for-profit organization, a user group supported by Microsoft Corporation, the International .NET Association (INETA), and GITCA (formerly Culmanis).

How did PUG get started?

PUG was formed in February 2003 through the combined efforts of a few volunteers, Microsoft and INET. It started as an online discussion group for .NET Developers of Pune. In December 2003 the first offline user group meet was held in Wadia College and after this PUG has never looked back back. It’s no more just a .NET user group, and now it became a group for all Microsoft technologies. Every year new sub-groups have been added to PUG and now PUG became a big family – including PUGStudent – Pune User Group for students, PuneITPro – Pune User Group for IT Professionals, where we generally talk about IT related topics like servers, clients, networking etc., PASS Pune Chapter, for SQL experts, and PUG-MED i.e. Pune User Group for Mobile and Embedded Devices, SharePoint, SIG etc.

How big is PUG now and what are its major activities?

PUG is almost 8 years old now. We have around 7 special interest groups, around 20+ campus clubs in various colleges, 2100+ online members, around 8000 mailing list subscribers and a Team of 40+ volunteers. PUG regularly hosts lots of online and offline activities for professionals as well as students. Activities include regular monthly User Group meetings, various Product launch events for Microsoft Products, workshops, boot camps, online webcasts and our very special annual events like DevCon (developers conference for professionals), AcadDevCon (developers conference for students) and SharePoint Day. At college level, we have a team of 20+ MSPs (Microsoft Student Partners) who actively run campus clubs in their colleges and regularly conduct seminars, and workshops.

What help are you getting from Microsoft to run PUG? Also, what other organizations are there that help PUG?

PUG is an independent not-for-profit organization. It relies on the support of its various sponsors. PUG is officially supported by Microsoft Corporation and also by various international Associations like INETA, GITCA, PASS, and Microsoft UGSS. Support comes in various forms, specially funding for events and speakers, pre-release product trainings to our speakers, and books, training material, beta products etc. Along with these there are many IT companies and educational institutes of Pune who always support us by sponsoring our event or providing their Infrastructure for our activities, best example of this I can say is Persistent Systems Ltd.

Has your involvement with PUG helped you personally or professionally? How?

Mahesh Mitkari writes:

Of course, yes! PUG has played a big role in my carrier development. I was part of PUG from its birth, as I was one of the founder-volunteers of PUG. Today I feel very proud of this. I meet many technology gurus at PUG and learn so many things from them which always helps me in my Professional life. I made many friends not only in Pune but many other cities of India. They are just a one click away from me – for professional or personal help. I’ve been awarded “Most Valuable professional (MVP)” award by Microsoft 5 times so far, and I don’t think it could have been possible without PUG and the biggest support of all my friends here.

Vikram Pendse writes:

I joined PUG online forums as regular “User” who logs in to check on the latest Microsoft Technologies at PUG. At that time I was a student doing my post graduation. I got inspired by various PUG enthusiasts and I started conducting PUG sessions in my college and also slowly started contributing to the online forums. PUG lead, Mahesh Mitkari, and other members recognized my contribution and encouraged me to attend PUG meetings and I became a volunteer of PUG. Due to this, I was able to get the Microsoft MVP Award in the Year 2008

It was because of PUG that I started Silverlight activities, and as a result was awarded the First South Asian Silverlight MVP. PUG has given me recognition in the Pune community as well as various other communities across India and outside India as well. PUG has helped me to enrich my technical skills and added much more to me to become good IT Professional. PUG is fun and learning, and it is a good friend and teacher for me, and will be with me for years to come.”

What other related user groups could be created in Pune, and how?

As mentioned earlier, from last 8 years we adding User Group for all Microsoft Technology, While thinking about Expanding PUG and starting other related user group, I think we still have big scope to expand PUG, we still don’t have a User Group for Office Users, Architects, Project Managers, Business owners, and one biggest community of Consumers – the regular users of Windows or MS Office – specially non-technical or semi-technical people.

What do you mean by INETA APAC, GITCA, PASS, MVP, MSP?

Well out of these INETA, GITCA and PASS are international associations who support User groups worldwide. MVP is the award given by Microsoft and MSP is educational program.

  • INETA APAC: The International .NET Association Asia Pacific (INETA APAC) provides structured, peer-based organizational, educational, and promotional support to the growing worldwide community of Microsoft .NET user group, INETA’s mission is to offer assistance and resources to community groups that promote and educate their membership in Microsoft’s .NET technologies. INETA welcomes user group or special interest groups from all facets of the .NET user community including developer, architects, project managers, and IT Professionals.
  • GITCA: The Global IT Community Association represents over 1000 member organizations and over 5 million IT professionals. GITCA is the world’s largest international not-for-profit independent organization powered by dedicated volunteers devoted to the development and growth of the IT community by providing services to support leaders and connect user groups, associations, and student IT organizations. GITCA stands committed to the free exchange of resources, ultimately elevating the status of the IT Professional both in their industry and in the community.
  • PASS: The Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) is an independent, not-for-profit association, dedicated to supporting, educating, and promoting the Microsoft SQL Server community. From local user groups and special interest groups (Virtual Chapters) to webcasts and the annual PASS Community Summit – the largest gathering of SQL Server professionals in the world
  • MVP: Most Valuable Professional: The Microsoft MVP Award recognizes exceptional technical community leaders who foster the free and objective exchange of knowledge by actively sharing their real world expertise with users and Microsoft. Over 100 million people take part in technical communities every year. Microsoft awards around 4000 MVPs, in recognition of their exceptional community contributions, sharing of real world expertise with others. We have around 4000 MVPs in over 90 countries, speaking over 30 languages and awarded across nearly 90 technology areas. Over 65% of MVPs are outside the USA.
  • MSP: The Microsoft Student Partners is a worldwide educational program to sponsor students majoring in disciplines related to technology. The MSP program attempts to enhance students’ employability by offering training in skills not usually taught in academia, including knowledge in various Microsoft technologies.

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