At a recent Amazon Web Services (AWS) community event in Pune, about 600 participants lined up to learn how developers solved critical challenges, such as reducing storage costs on the cloud and faster ways to shift applications from an on-premise server to the cloud.
Events like these are rapidly gaining in popularity across the tech community, as people become more active in sharing knowledge.
There is, however, more than just knowledge sharing taking place at these large scale gatherings.
In the last few years, tech communities have turned into a hunting ground for companies looking to recruit people with niche skills, as well as an opportunity for job seekers.
While offers are rarely made at the event itself, both sides find it easier to scope out available options.
Companies have a better chance of finding the right talent at these events since they are often targeted at a particular tech community, says Prashanth HN, chief technology officer of WheelsBox, an upcoming startup in the automobiles space.
Prashanth, an AWS Community Hero, has been actively involved in participating and organising AWS community events, where companies typically set up booths with games or problems for people to solve and start a conversation.
“One of the reasons sponsors come on board is their hiring drives. People will go to the booth and they start the conversation with the right set of people. Finding the right talent is hard and this is a good platform targeted at the right audience…,” he says.
AWS has over 30,000 members in its user groups across 15 cities. It also runs a Heroes program where influential people within the community are given additional access to amplify their reach and build their personal brand. All its community events are organised and run by volunteers, but the funding comes mostly through sponsorships, with ticket sales also contributing.
Last year, AWS held four community day events, and is targeting over a dozen in 2020. Apart from an annual community day in different cities, there are also regular smaller-scale meetups.
“In the last three years, AWS communities have grown into something substantially large with about 15 user groups across India,” says Madhusudan Shekar, Head – Solutions Architecture, Startups, Amazon Internet Services. “We have users and developers who champion the need to come together, and most run a meetup every month. This is also a great talent hunting ground, so a lot of sponsors come in.”
About 80% of participants at such events are professionals, while the rest comprise entrepreneurs, freelancers and students.
For them, looking for work opportunities is as important as staying abreast of evolving technology.
“When you think about meetups, there are many that happen for different interest groups. There could be meetups on Kubernetes, Docker or Python itself, so definitely, you have a VP Engineering or CTOs who are key participants in most of these meetups and people get a chance to meet them. It is definitely a good route to recruit,” says Maneesh Sharma – Country Manager – GitHub, the world’s largest online open source developer community now owned by Microsoft.
The way companies hire technical talent is changing. There is now greater emphasis on actual skills than qualifications.
Participating in hackathons and being active members of a tech community offer people an opportunity to build their personal brand and convey a clear message to potential recruiters that they are on top of what is happening in the industry. For students, events like these are a good way to understand companies that are working within a specific technology area.
And, sponsoring such events has a signalling effect – that you are serious about the technology, says Zainab Bawa, CEO, HasGeek, which runs several technology events in India.
Aawaz.com, a platform that hosts podcasts and spoken-word audio on-demand, has recruited candidates from such community events, says co-founder Sreeraman Thiagarajan, adding that the talent at such events is usually entry-level and not senior executives.
Hiring tends to be high on the agenda for a lot of participants during tech community events, says Gautam Rege, cofounder of Josh Software, which actively promotes programming languages Go and Ruby. Josh has been closely associated with organising and sponsoring events on Ruby for almost a decade.
“As a company sponsoring the event, you send out a clear signal that you are supporter of the community and a thought driver, which helps in building your brand,” Rege says.
It also helps companies stay in tune with specific technology and market requirements and hire accordingly, he adds.
As part of its recruitment process, Josh also looks at a potential employee’s GitHub profile to see how active she is within the open source community.
“If you look at the open source community — if you’re active and contributing to open source code and working collaboratively on projects with people across the globe, you are enriching yourself and are making yourself visible in the community,” Sharma of GitHub says Many specialised technology events end up attracting senior talent, who often tend to stay away from the more regular meetups, providing them a platform to network and look around for opportunities.
These events are a great conduit for people, especially women, who have taken a break from work to return, says Bhuvaneswari Subramani, Director Engineering Operations at Infor and an AWS Community Hero who often participates in tech community gatherings.
“This gives them a chance to see what’s happening and discuss the certification and learning curve. I have a lot of people pinging me independently to ask for suggestions,” she says.
Beyond hiring, community events also play an important role in peer reviews, according to Bawa of HasGeek. While the medical fraternity can publish its work in peer reviewed journals and be validated for new work, there is no such platform for peer review and validation of technology.
“This creates a space for practitioners to talk about how they did something — like how an ecommerce business is building its recommendation engine,” she says.
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