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Creating a community feeling in an ever-changing world

  • Geplaatst op donderdag 28 mei 2020

Working with technology means constant change. Being part of a community is a great way to stay inspired. In this post, you will read about just one of the ways we create a place for sharing our passions and innovations.

Ancient history

A long time ago a colleague and I found ourselves blowing new life into the Software Developer Focus Group (SDFG) evenings. The format was simple: we would find two colleagues who wanted to present to the rest of our engineering group, we would have the event catered and we were off to an evening of connecting with peers and hearing about all the cool things Avanade was doing at different clients. Skipping ahead nine years to where we are today, Avanade Netherlands has grown tremendously and many things have changed, including the SDFG.

Putting the community in Talent Community

It changed for the better that is. Avanade is built on thousands of professionals, grouped in Talent Communities (TaCo for short). Now, you can’t just take a group of people and slap the label “community” on it and hope everyone gets along. And yet at Avanade, this community feeling is very much alive. One of the ways this community feeling is achieved is through our monthly TaCo evenings where every community comes together to celebrate their successes, share knowledge and stay connected.

Less talk, more action

TaCo evenings differ from community to community, but in our Software Engineering Talent Community, these evenings are very different from what the SDFG used to be. Instead of attending long presentations, they are now more interactive and focused on learning new skills. This usually means that there is an introduction to a subject and then you split up in groups to build something. You come away from these evenings with a new skill and the inspiration to use it.

Growing skills and... plants?

To give an example of one of the topics you might come across at these community evenings, I recently gave a presentation on Internet of Things and Azure IoT Central. I prepared a short introduction to what IoT Central was and showed all the ins and outs with a demonstration I built at home. The demo was a connected chilli pepper plant that I had hooked up to a smart bulb and some sensors. Most of my preparation work was putting together a fun tutorial that we spent the rest of the evening building. While most people didn’t have much experience with the sensors and devices we were using, almost every team ended up building a complete IoT application!

So, why invest time in this?

Preparing a presentation for an evening like this takes a lot of time. So why would anyone do it? A common trait amongst our people is a shared passion for technology and innovation. What better way to celebrate this than by sharing it with your colleagues? And in my case, I wanted to share more about a topic I’m passionate about (both IoT and chilli peppers). But giving a presentation at these community evenings is also a great way to practice public speaking.

Avanade offers a lot of great resources to give better presentations, but nothing can substitute standing in front of a group of people and trying to convey information effectively. These community evenings offer a very safe environment to share an interesting topic with your peers. The fact that you get an awesome TaCo T-shirt is really just a bonus!

Online events

After reading this, you’re probably not surprised to learn that our TaCo evening has transitioned to the new situation the world is currently facing. The need for a community feeling has never been higher and meeting each other online to stay connected is a great way of addressing that. Giving online presentations is completely different from standing in front of a large screen and comes with its challenges, but for us, that’s just another area to explore and learn from.

Back when I was still organising these evenings, I was often asked if we couldn’t just host the event online, but I was adamant to keep them in person. However, with the right tools and resources the event has successfully taken this online format. Microsoft Teams allows everyone to participate and interact, regardless of their location. Sure, the communal meal is hard to replace, but we still get together to share our passion for technology! I guess it took a pandemic to change my mind.

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