Dual-Purpose Tech Events
Tech events. Community building.
I’m always thinking about those two topics. Individually and collectively.
Today’s post is more specifically about how events created and hosted by tech companies can be leveraged or dual-purposed to build the regional tech community.
The spark for this post came from an event announcement email I recently received from PKWARE, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, tech company which provides encryption and compression software to enterprise customers and government entities. Their email said:
“You are invited to attend PKWARE’s first DevFest Deck Party on Thursday, June 23rd …
Calling all software engineers! Come hang out with our awesome engineering and development teams at PKWARE’s DevFest Deck Party…We’ll have tons of food…music, and even a free Raspberry Pi for the first 100 qualified attendees…”
When I saw the email, my thoughts bounced immediately to “if PKWARE is interested in discussing it, how can we leverage this PKWARE event into a community-connecting opportunity for the Wisconsin tech community?” Based on the email mentioning Human Resources (HR) as the primary contact for the event, it appears to be focused on developer recruitment for PKWARE, either short term or long term.
If PKWARE’s sole interest and perceived value for the event is immediate or short term prospects for developer recruitment, dual-purposing the event to also connect and strengthen the Milwaukee or Wisconsin tech community is unlikely to appeal to the company. However, to me it’s worthwhile to initiate with the email’s author a conversation about the potential long term value (to PKWARE) of connecting and supporting the region’s tech community. An open discussion with the company might lead to them deciding tech community building would be a worthwhile secondary outcome of the meeting
As a starting point, I suggested to the email’s author that they promote their event with the Milwaukee Makerspace, an organization which has members who are developers and are interested in Raspberry Pi and drones (two swag items at the party). Along with the suggestion, I provided a makerspace contact name and email address. I also offered to share the event announcement with the BarCampMilwaukee Google Group, whose members are primarily Milwaukee area tech people.
In addition to follow-up with PKWARE regarding the email, I pinged a contact I know at another tech company to see if they had an interest in collaborating with PKWARE on that or other tech events. The focus of our discussion was primarily related to the June 23rd party, and my contact felt PKWARE was unlikely to be interested in collaboration on something which appeared to essentially be an internal recruiting event. Future event-support discussions with that other tech company will be pursued since they’ve supported events in the past.
One example of tech companies supporting community-connecting activities is Lunch 2.0. I don’t know if a 2016 version of Lunch 2.0 is active in Silicon Valley or elsewhere, but there are other events and practices, e.g. unconferences, which launched on the West Coast ten years ago that are being experimented with in 2016 for the first time by companies in the Midwest and other regions with tech-lag. An article about Lunch 2.0 said:
“…Silicon Valley usually views lunch as an unwelcome break from the high-speed workday. Google and other high-tech firms even serve up gourmet cuisine to keep their workers in the office.
But a small group of high-tech go-getters…created a loose-knit community in search of a free lunch — and social interactions with their peers. They call it Lunch 2.0. Their slogan: “We really want to eat your lunch.”
At first, they pressed friends for informal lunch invitations. Afterward, they blogged about their experiences and posted photos and videos…As the concept caught on through word-of-mouth and on the Internet, more techies began to sign up — online — and show up.
Companies, seizing the opportunity to get face time with some of Silicon Valley’s top talent, began hosting lunches, handing out T-shirts and other swag, getting feedback on their products and collecting resumes. Now Lunch 2.0 circulates through Silicon Valley like a progressive cocktail party, the quintessential social network tapping the power of the Internet to create community and conversation…”
Was Lunch 2.0 just a short-lived dubious-value phenomenon, like some Silicon Valley trends, or do some aspects of Lunch 2.0 still have inherent value for tech companies? Was it a high-value activity for Silicon Valley companies in 2007, and might it have significant value in 2016 for NE Wisconsin, NW Michigan, or other regions not on the West Coast or in tech hotspots like Austin, Seattle, or New York?
Abundance Economy or Scarcity Economy?
There are numerous other types of events which can be dual-purpose for tech companies, achieving both an immediate company goal, i.e. connecting with potential recruits, and a larger-view long term goal which benefits more than just one organization. The prerequisite for productive conversations about dual-purpose tech company events is an embrace of the abundance economy concept, sometimes captured by the John F Kennedy catchphrase, “a rising tide floats all boats,” vs the scarcity economy where people primarily focus on getting their piece of a limited pie. [Caveat: IANAE — I am not an economist…]
There are a lot of companies which can be classified as tech companies, or which have a significant number of tech employees in NE Wisconsin, in NW Michigan (Lower Peninsula), and in other regions. Decision-makers at some of those companies are likely receptive to discussions about sponsoring dual-purpose events, and discussions with decision-makers who don’t see value in dual-purpose events may have other serendipitous outcomes.
If you’re interested in discussing or working on this type of dual-purpose events involving the tech community (regardless of your location), please contact me at bwaldron (at) gmail [dott] com. And regardless of whether you contact me, consider supporting, organizing or participating in dual-purpose tech events in your region!
Other posts highly relevant to connecting and supporting regional tech communities: