IT Global Meetup: An Inside Look. The ideologist of the Piter United initiative on quarterly gatherings of St. Petersburg IT specialists

    Today’s iChar blog guest is Mikhail Ryzhikov, one of the ideologists and activists of Piter United, an association of IT communities in St. Petersburg. Three times a year, Piter United holds a rally of IT communities called IT Global Meetup , where the entire IT gathering of St. Petersburg is gathered and representatives of other cities come (the next global meeting will take place this Saturday, November 28 ). Michael has been working in IT for a little over 6 years, has been developing medical information systems and specializes in management and business analysis. He told us how the association of St. Petersburg IT communities came about and how the favorite event of Petersburg IT specialists was organized.


    Piter United: The Beginning

    At the launch of the Piter United initiative, we (I and Nikolai Ryzhikov) were inspired by two interesting events that we were able to attend in 2012 and 2013. The first of these is IT Jam 2012 , which was held in Kiev that year. Once there, we were imbued with a very interesting format and atmosphere. The event was held in a large building on two floors. Both floors were large open spaces, divided into many islands. Some of the islands were organized by companies, some by the IT communities of Ukraine. An atmosphere of continuous communication reigned in space, people circulated from island to island, talked, drew something on flipcharts, asked each other questions and argued! In general, we enjoyed communicating with each other.
    The second inspiring event was Ulcamp 2013, which is regularly held in Ulyanovsk on the banks of the Volga. The event is held outside the city, in a campground. In the camp, in the forest and on the beach, barcamps are organized, i.e. spaces for communication equipped with flipcharts. Anyone can submit a topic for a performance at the barcamp, for this a special place is reserved with boards on which you can indicate the time, place and topic of the performance. Ulcamp is organized by the city IT community in Ulnovsk. Which was created by the forces of the city’s IT companies. There, we seriously and thought about the power and benefits of the communities, seeing this in a living example.
    In that 2013, both of these events formed a single concept ... And we moved on to practical actions!

    At that time, several IT communities already existed in the city: SPb Ruby User Group, DevOps, Linux, UX communities, testers, and managers. We brought all the activists together at one meeting, discussed the idea and launched the Piter United initiative . The main goal of Piter United is to create a favorable ecosystem within the city for the emergence and development of IT communities. The main principles of Piter United are publicity, self-organization, and all this should be free. We want any city IT specialist to find a community of interest, become a member of it and attend regular meetings.
    Within the framework of Piter United, IT Global Meetup is held three times a year - a rally of St. Petersburg IT communities. Its main goal is to introduce IT communities to each other, to be a launching pad for new communities and to stimulate cross-community activities. Each community, in addition to participating in rallies, holds regular (most often monthly) meetings. Each of them has an online platform where questions that are significant for participants are raised, upcoming meetings are announced and ideas, materials and links are exchanged. IT Global Meetup is, as the name implies, a global event that glues local communities into a single IT party in St. Petersburg.

    First IT Global Meetup: how it was

    The first IT Global Meetup was held in December 2013. It was attended by 9 IT communities. The event was attended by about 80 people. In those days, we had no organizational experience, the mitap turned out to be small and chamber, but it was already organized according to the principle of islets, that is, communication took place on the islets, each community had its own islet and program. Having dealt with the first event, we set a goal: to make each subsequent mitap better than the previous one. I dare to suggest that we are succeeding: now 750+ IT specialists are gathering on rallies. And a strong growth potential is visible, the question rests on the sites, because our format requires a lot of space!
    Looking back, we see that we have grown greatly. Learned how to engage IT companies in the initiative. We organized the first meeting on our own investments, but even then we had both food and flipcharts =)

    Since the time of the first IT Global Meetup, there have been exactly three times more communities: their number has grown from 9 to 27. The initiative works, people organize communities and attract colleagues to them.

    Progress is noticeable in equipment, in choosing a site, and in the format of events. If earlier the islets gathered and dispersed on a hunch, now the IT Global Meetup has a single time grid. We have achieved synchronization in the life of the islets: at different ends of the venue, speakers start and stop speaking at the same time. In this way, event participants can plan who and when they would like to listen.

    We learned how to do information support, branding. At every global rally in St. Petersburg, there are T-shirts for speakers, press presses, and gifts for active participants.
    But the most important thing is probably loyalty to oneself. We are able to keep the brand and attract specialists from the IT sphere to the meetings, while remaining an event for professionals, with an interesting format aimed at communication and exchange of experience.


    For some reason, many find it difficult to realize / explain that Piter United is a non-profit initiative whose main focus is the professional development of its participants and the exchange of experience. Such explanations have to be made both at the level of communication with companies and in personal conversations with representatives of communities or potential representatives.

    Another difficulty for us as the organizers of IT Global Meetup is the lack of active participants who are ready to help ... Alas, it is already established that in any community only 5% of the total number of participants take the initiative. We really miss the drivers, and we are working on it. We try using the formats of mitaps, explanations and the general atmosphere to draw people into discussions, to kindle a fire of activity in them. We always try to convey to the participants in the communities that they will get more benefit if they are active: ask questions, get acquainted, enter into discussion, argue and make mistakes.
    Piter United promotes self-organization. In the community, all participants have equal rights and opportunities. The interest and usefulness of the community depends on each of its members. Everyone can propose a new topic for discussion, speak and participate in the organization of the community rally.

    About the introversion of IT specialists

    The idea of ​​IT professionals as introverts in stretched sweaters has little to do with reality. The programmer profile has, in principle, changed a lot in recent years. Now I see young people at our events - open and proactive. Maybe 10 years ago everything was different, but now IT specialists do not look like silent hermits. Although, of course, in any area there is always a certain percentage of uncommunicative people =)

    About support from

    We strive to engage IT companies in the initiative, get to know companies, talk about Piter United and its events. Many become our partners and provide venues for local and global meetings. Currently, there are about 20 IT companies among our stable partners. They help us in promoting IT Global Meetup, providing information support.

    We also work with universities and laboratories that have grown inside universities. There is a certain percentage of students among visitors to the IT Global Meetup and global rallies that we strictly control so that Piter United remains a community of professionals.

    At the moment, we are negotiating with the state to support the initiative.

    About plans for the future

    We want to further develop the initiative at the same pace, to hold global meetings three times a year. It is good if in the city there appear communities covering the full cycle of software development and operation: from marketing to software delivery to the consumer. Now a number of communities are sorely lacking: in mobile development, in databases, in a number of languages ​​(C / C ++, Java), in IT marketing, etc. Also thoughts are already emerging about communities at the intersection of IT and subject areas, such as “IT in medicine”, “IT in education”, etc.

    We plan to hold the next gatherings on more spacious venues so that we don’t have to choose which communities will fit this time and which won't. So that you can comfortably place all the communities at the event and not close the registration a week before (fearing that the site will burst from the influx of participants) =)

    I really want to develop new formats that involve all participants in the discussion, exchange of views and experiences and get away from the usual ones, “one says and the rest are silently listening. ” We even have an idea to organize free sessions on moderation / facilitation of discussions. So that activists and all interested community members have acquired this skill and were able to hold round tables and professional discussions.

    About the benefits of communities

    For all activists, Piter United is a hobby, not a professional activity. Each of us is an IT professional and a member of a number of communities. Communities are a tool of strong companies and mature professionals. They expand the professional horizons, allow you to see the market and get acquainted with companies, show yourself as a specialist and find like-minded people, get a decent dose of motivation in difficult moments of their professional activity. We invite all active IT professionals to join the initiative, participate in communities and meetings. Our doors are open!

    Recall that the next IT Global Meetup will be held on the upcoming Saturday, November 28th. In the IT HR section, iChar IT recruiter Victoria Posledova will speak. Her theme is “Why do candidates fail a probationary period?” We will be glad to meet you!

    More photos from IT Global Meetup # 5 here:

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