London Technology Unconference 2012
At Thomson Reuters, some 16,000 people – 25 percent of all employees – work in technology development and technology operations. Although they often face similar challenges, their assignments and locations are so diverse that they don’t often have the chance to meet in person to share ideas, experience and knowledge. Last month, a group of technologists in the UK decided to change that: they organized Thomson Reuters first Technology Unconference in our office in London’s Shoreditch – an area so filled with tech companies it’s otherwise known as Silicon Roundabout or Tech City.
What’s an unconference? It’s a gathering of people with common interests who create an ad hoc agenda based on materials attendees bring along to the event. The agenda is participant-driven, with lots of time for meeting people with similar interests, gaining a deeper or broader understanding of some topics, and an opportunity to make unexpected connections.
For our first unconference, over 120 Thomson Reuters technologists from London, Exmouth, Yorkshire, Nottingham, Northampton and Glasgow gathered together for the day.
It included 40 sessions - talks, presentations, demonstrations and discussions – designed and delivered by attendees. They covered subjects from ‘The Linux Way to World Domination’ to a demonstration of Raspberry Pi, from a debate on ‘Technology: Enhancing or Impeding human intelligence?’ to a presentation on ‘Submerging Servers – Liquid Cooling Future IT’. A coding competition and technology quiz added to the sense of buzz and camaraderie.
Senior Software Engineer Cariad Eccleston summed up her experience of presenting on ‘Maintainable code is the most important thing in the world’:
‘The sessions were brilliant triggers for conversations which continued long afterwards. This is how change begins, and taking part in events like this gives everyone an opportunity to shape the solution.’
Dave Phelan, from datacentre networks who was one of the organisers, described his own impressions:
I was honestly startled to discover that everyone who invested a day of their time on the unconference got something worthwhile out of it, and to hear the stories of the unexpected connections made. I had hoped something good would come of putting technical people from different parts of the business together, but it was extraordinary to see it happen before my eyes.
The technologists who came up with and delivered on the event idea are already planning how to keep the spirit of the event alive – not least by sharing their learning with colleagues hoping to run similar events in locations as far apart as Hyderabad, Beijing and California’s Bay Area.
Check out some photos from the event on the Thomson Reuters Facebook page.