BAIA Geeks: exploring new ways of networking

Articolo apparso nel gennaio 2016 sul blog di BAIA.

BAIA was started in 2006 by a very small group of Italians, my friends Michele Ursino, Matteo Daste and Giorgio Ghersi. I joined the association only a few weeks after it was founded. The founders’ long term goal was to build a business community of Italians in San Francisco and in the Silicon Valley who didn’t identify themselves with the historical group of Italian-Americans or with those well-established Italians who had immigrated to California in the 70s and 80s.

At the time, in the Bay Area, we were starting to see several professionally qualified Italians who moved here to take well paid jobs. I was one of them. The existing local Italian associations, despite being very active, were not targeting this new group of immigrants and their traditional cultural activities were not catching our attention.

BAIA Geeks Logo
BAIA Geeks Logo

Today the history repeats itself. The San Francisco Bay Area is becoming home of  hundreds of young Italian professionals, mostly taking jobs in the tech industry or starting their own companies. BAIA seems to have some difficulty to  stay relevant by capturing their attention and producing events able to attract young people.
To expand our presence and visibility among those young Italians, at the begin of 2015 the board of BAIA decided to run an experiment, and they put me and Michele Ursino in charge of it. We decided to start a series of monthly meetings targeting people with a strong technical background. We selected the meetup.com platform as a main platform for the experiment. Meetup.com is a popular website that provides full support for building and running meetings of groups of people who share common interests.
With Michele Ursino, we created a new Meetup group that we named BAIA Geeks, based on a set of basic rules, inspired by the the traditionally open approach of the BAIA Association and by other popular meetups:

  • The meetup is open and fully transparent in every aspect of the organization: money, events, selection of the speakers, membership, rules.
  • The initial goal is to gradually reach a point where the meetup functions as a full bottom-up system: the meetup finances itself, selects the speakers, and runs the meetings autonomously.
  • Differently from other BAIA events, our meetups are intended to be a congregation of peers coming together for a talk by a speaker that is just one of the peers. Therefore, the Q&A session following the talk is replaced by a discussion where the group, in a very friendly way, can exchange experiences and technical opinions about the topic of the event.

To date, we have already organized over 11 BAIA Geeks events, each one with a different speaker. The meetup group includes now about 300 members and is constantly growing. Bootstrapping the group required a lot of work from us, but the result are so rewarding that we want to continue and possibly keep expanding the group activities with more events, more speakers, and more members.

A few notes from our very positive experience with BAIA Geeks:

  • The Meetup.com platform provides a great support for the organizers making everything easy and fast. We really appreciate it.
  • After the first few initial events we started noticing a very interesting and unplanned side effect: many people were starting to come to the meetups not only for the speakers but also for the group. The BAIA Geeks meetup provides a great opportunity to meet a group of similarly minded people and the regular schedule of the monthly events allow, not only to network, but also to start building stronger and more personal relationships. At the meetings, it is not uncommon to hear people talking about building or starting something together. I don’t know if those talks are still at the stage of ideas or if they are already becoming something more substantial. From our point of view, as organizers, we consider this as the best reward for the time and energy we invested in BAIA Geeks.

If you are a geek and you live in the bay-area I have an important recommendation for you: join us!

2015 BAIA Geeks Meetups

  1. Michele Ursino: Relaxjs a node.js framework
  2. Roberto Pieraccini: Building Machines That Understand Speech
  3. Antonio Pellizzaro: Scala and the Typesafe stack: experience at Autodesk
  4. Luca Dellamore: Introduction to the Salesforce Platform
  5. Cosimo Spera: The evolution of recommendation systems
  6. Massimo Arrigoni: SCRUM: lessons learned… and learning
  7. Cristiano Ghersi: The age of reason in Software Programming
  8. Francesco Lacapra: A distributed file system built for scalability
  9. Leonardo Zizzamia: Benchpress – An easy way to benchmark your web app

Update (Gennaio 2017)

Nel gennaio 2017 il gruppo dei Geeks e’ diventato uno spinoff di BAIA rendendosi completamente indipendente dall’associazione. Nell’ambito di questa nuova veste i Geeks si sono ridenominati come ItaliaGeeks e continuano ad organizzare eventi con la stessa costanza e attenzione ai dettagli di sempre.

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