Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Opening My Big Mouth

Engineers generally attend meetups to learn and network with colleagues - not be recruited.  So I try hard not to be that recruiter at the meetup, opting instead to sit quietly and soak up whatever content isn't too far over my head.  Other than a few 30 second sponsor spots for buying the pizza, my meetup speaking history was essentially zero - until a DCTech event last year.

The DCTech meetup generally has three parts - start up demos, panel discussion, and the open mic.  That evening featured some strong demos and a great Big Data panel.  But it was the open mic segment that prompted me to step up and finally speak.

The open mic session went something like this:

"I'm the Founder of Startup A, we do something awesome and we're hiring engineers"
"I'm the Founder of Startup B, and we also do something awesome and we're hiring engineers too"
"I'm the Founder of Startup C,...."

On and on it went.  At least 25 start ups were looking for engineers, and each of the panelists and demo presenters had made similar hiring pleas.  Here we had over 1000 people active in the start up community, but each was already busy with his/her own project.  Seemed like a problem to me. So up to the mic I went.  My message was simple.  

Unless we attract more talented people to the local startup ecosystem,  nothing will get built and we'll all fail.  

The DC startup community has never been more visible, but we're still dwarfed by the sheer volume of IT spend and staffing on the Federal side.  Just this week, I met an engineer who'd worked for a successful startup in college, but upon relocating to the DC area ended up in Gov't contracting.   He thought that's all DC tech was.  When I told him about some of the amazing products being built locally, he was both surprised and excited.  I think there are others like him who, if they had the information, could be very interested in working on the commercial side.

So this Thursday, April 18th, Fluidhire, AddThis and CustomInk are putting on an informational event to help Federally focused IT professionals learn about the commercial/startup scene.  We'll share the upsides, and downsides, of working in the private sector.  We'll provide a basic framework for engineers to learn more about their options on the commercial side and position themselves to make the switch, should they choose to do so.

Some attendees might think the commercial side sounds great and choose to come join us.  Others might think we're insane - and that's OK too.  But at least, for those in attendance, they will know that the DC tech scene has options for them and their colleagues outside of Gov't contracting.  And that's the goal.

A handful of seats are still available for the .Gov to .Com event.  Info and registration at the link below.