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How to build a great tech community

How to build a great tech community

Step 1: CTO & Product Meetups

 

Why is building a great tech community so important for us?

We invest into profitable technology companies with small high-quality teams. Our companies have managed to build effective businesses that don’t require lots of people.

Usually, there are no layers of management in these companies – we just don’t need them. However, the side-effect of running businesses with small effective teams is that our CTOs, CPOs or lead developers often don’t have the opportunity to exchange their domain knowledge and get fresh insights from within their own companies.

In order to deliver great value faster, we initiated knowledge exchange events to build and foster an open tech & product community. 

By now, these CTO & Product meetups are a crucial part of our DNA.

We give our tech and product leaders a platform to share their knowledge on their state-of-the-art technology solutions, learn from each other and get inspiration from the other members of the community. 

This allows them to start playing in the product & tech champions league and bring their tech infrastructure and product development processes to the next level.

Let us take you on a ride with our CTO & Product Meetup bus across Europe to find out how we built our tech & product community in no time: 

Stop #1 (Vienna):

The idea of a broad knowledge exchange was always a vision within Russmedia and there had been a couple of “exchange” workshops organized by the top management in the past. However in Autumn 2017, great minds of Russmedia gathered in a small room in Vienna.
The goals were very simple:
– What
would be the ideal way to find the best way to deliver great value faster?
– How could we put this on a whole new level and not only on a C-Level Management level?
– And what would we need to make that happen in the future in a more professional but still fun way?

The challenge is getting way harder if you have in mind, that Russmedia is a group of loosely coupled companies, running different digital businesses often with different technology stacks and for sure with different roadmaps.

During that day, discussions and presentations about IT trends led to one solution: only through sharing we can reach our goals.
But how do you share across different units, in different countries, having even different tech stacks?

In the IT world you can share on different levels:

  • Product
  • Infrastructure
  • Microservices
  • and much more

As all the companies have a lot of great stuff to share, how do you build the process? And which channels of sharing should they use? These questions were very hard to answer in the beginning. At RMEP we never go out of the meeting without clear deliverables and action points, and in Vienna it was no different. 


The first task was clear: to build a cross-companies team, which takes the role of the router, helping companies to synchronize and expose the best things they can share. So we all jumped on the RMEP bus and decided to take the road through the European cities, building bonds in the group as well as finding the most talented players (companies) and bringing them to the RMEP team. But most of all – we from now on we defined these events as community driven – even bottom up events.

Ah, and since Vienna, we have never eaten sushi again at a meetup later on 😉

Stop #2 (Berlin):

Berlin was our next target. We met there in the spring of 2018. The city of freedom, open minded people and a multicultural startup hub. Can it be a better place for innovations? Berlin was the place where we really started implementing things into real life. 

We already had Filip onboard and Eryk started shifting from working exclusively at one company to the RMC DevOps core team. The presentations were ready and we had a meetup plan in place, but a last minute entry of Daniel Zutavern made a big difference.

Daniel is a very experienced agile & management consultant and he basically re-designed the whole layout. It was a spot-on change. The meetups are very dynamic, we know the expectations up front and we can adjust accordingly. We also gather feedback right after, but no one is forced to do anything 🙂 
To be honest, leaving home, after the meetup is usually a really sad thing now. It is like ending the vacation. And this was really what we were aiming for. 

 During the meetup we discussed the importance of infrastructure as a code,  we had a demo and workshops about terraform and we agreed on common patterns we will take – we will be sharing modules, we will be building microservices along the companies to avoid any work overlap – it turned out a lot of us are developing the same things in parallel.

Usually not knowing about it, so sharing common stuff between companies will be a huge gain and a perfect time saving opportunity. We also decided we will be shifting toward Kubernetes. Our sharing initiative really took off at that point. So we spent a lot of time talking, drinking and chilling out on the great rooftop balcony of Erento’s office.

 And since a lot of us are coming from Austria, we obviously decided to try out a Wiener Schnitzel in a restaurant nearby. None of us comes from Belgium, but we ordered Belgian beers anyway 🙂 It was a really good choice.

Stop #3 (Budapest):

As the RMEP bus is getting faster, in Autumn of 2018 we have landed in Budapest. If you have never visited this city, especially during the night, you have to do it asap!

In our 2-days meetup we have managed to tighten our community, and the Budapest nightlife mood definitely helped. It’s even hard to say the name of the street with many karaoke bars and dance clubs, but even there, RMEP took over the floor and made a difference.

But as the meetups are not only about the nightlife, we also did really great sharing, covering some of the hot topics like sharing microservices across companies, GraphQL in our applications, pipeline as a code in Jenkins or why ML is no piece of cake.

Definitely the thing which makes the team spirit is competition, and we could not avoid it: 

how would you build your startup on GCP in 1h and sell it to business sharks – such a challenge was placed in front of the participating teams. The thing was that the teams were created just before the competition, as a mix of product and tech people, none of them from the same company. Sounds cool? You wish you saw the presentations – I would invest in most of them for sure if they were real.

The fun was not over yet – we cannot forget the best barbecue ever on the rooftop in Budapest – thanks to the CVOnline team for hosting that!

Stop #4 (Malaga):

It was a long and unpleasant winter, so this time we decided to meet in the warmest possible place in March 2019. We chose a one place really close to Africa – beautiful Malaga. Awesome place, awesome people and perfect atmosphere. We could not wait to get there.

After arriving in Malaga we realized it was a spot of choice for our ‘workation’. Sip of wine and a large portion of paella made us all feel really relaxed and we all agreed the timing will be counted in a spanish way: so 5 minutes of break was usually lasting 15 minutes and we did long, relaxing lunches and siestas. In the morning we were racing electric scooters and in the afternoon we did bike sightseeing tours. But also during the day, in the meeting room, a lot of important things took place.

We talked about blockchain and its use-cases, and we shared our experiences with Progressive Web Apps. We did a lot of creative workshops and some of us drank massive amounts of energetic drinks (sugar-free of course). We found a way of sharing knowledge about AB testing and some of us gathered a lot of new knowledge about testing in general. It was a really awesome experience. Of course we ended the day with the beach party 🙂

Returning home we all shared our electric scooters top speed records (mine was 28km/h) and we agreed on the next location. This time we planned to do it in the surroundings  of beautiful mountains and lakes –  in the Russmedia HQ.

Stop #5 (Schwarzach):

After Malaga, fully equipped with seaside memories, in September 2019, our RMEP bus has moved to where Russmedia has started off – Schwarzach in Austria.

We knew each other very well, we have met there like old friends, and realized that with such a mood, side-talks in between the breaks are as important as the main agenda. And also this time, the agenda was really full of interesting talks. We made deep dives into the story mapping, having the hands-on with mix groups, we shared AB testing results, and talked a lot about different databases and frontend solutions.

But as most of us like the competition, we could not miss that chance and made the exciting tournament again – this time building the chatbot (of course with new team-mates). Is it by accident that half of the chatbots were specialized in dating? Don’t think so, as the fun is always there in the first place. We all already learned that meetup is not only about learning, it’s mostly about fun, and we landed, or maybe better say, we went on board and admired the sunset on Bodensee from the great boat, tasting local beers and wines.

Stop #6 (Barcelona):

Schwarzach was definitely not the last stop on our road, but so far the last we have managed to be all in the same place. The reason is unfortunately obvious – coronavirus has made it impossible for some of us to reach our Barcelona meetup beginning of March 2020.

But in RMEP, like in the whole agile world, we have to always adapt to new situations. As some of us joined us on-site in Barcelona and some in their homes in front of their monitors, we made the decision to try a first time part-remote meetup two days before the meetup. We completely overhauled the meetup concept within 24 hours and prepared a completely new experience for the community. cancelling was even not an option, as we already had more than 20 people prepared to give the lighting talks!

As we have decided to share, we need to go along. So some of the lucky ones were able to enjoy the motorboat ride in Barcelona, but all were lucky enough to watch live all the lighting talks and presentations.
Which topics were presented? It’s hard to mention all of them, but we cannot forget especially how to make the chatbot a persona and the remote collaborations how-to. This time we could not really do mix-mode competition, so we have tried knowledge hubs aka topic groups covering 8 different areas of our daily challenges.

For all of us, not meeting in person for the first time since the bus has started was almost like missing your best friend’s bachelor party. Hopefully soon we’re gonna grab the beer together and make another awesome competition

Outlook:

It turned out that our experiment of hosting our own dedicated tech & product meetups really paid off. We have managed to build a strong community, enable high-class knowledge sharing and take our tech businesses to the next level.
And most importantly: these meetups have contributed to building great friendships along the way.

All the fun, parties and learnings we had in our previous meetups have enabled us to keep the community engaged even during corona lockdown and beyond where in-person meetings are no longer possible.

We are already planning our next meetup, this time in a remote-only setup. But again, we will make sure to deliver the community another unforgettable experience!

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