It goes without saying that 2020 has been an unprecedented year as COVID-19 has inextricably impacted our lives. For many, this has meant overcoming new challenges such as learning how to work remotely, juggling out of school children, managing distracting roommates, and coping with loneliness.
For the Halihax community and its volunteers, this has been a period of growth and adaptation. We started the year with goals to host a series of monthly meetups growing to a large year-end conference to inspire, teach, and connect.
Shifting gears in 2020
Instead, we went back to the drawing board and focused our efforts on virtually connecting the Atlantic Canadian technology ecosystem. In a time period where we were all physically distant it was increasingly important we had a way to feel supported and a sense of belonging. We were fortunate to be able to help fill that need and have seen some amazing growth as a result:
The Slack community has grown to greater than 1,240 members (+150%) from 499 at the end of 2019.
Hosted 10 events with 24 speakers (46% diverse and 16% from outside of Nova Scotia)
Introduced the opt-in
channel which has made over 101 1-on-1 introductions in just five months.
Watched new communities form around front-end software development and a C++ book club
through new questions, a easier viewing format, and growing the number of respondents (up +150% year over year)
Began publishing a newsletter to highlight our amazing members, new job opportunities, and events occurring in our ecosystem.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, we’ve begun laying the groundwork that will enable us to continue our investments in the community over the long term by setting up a non-profit entity & starting to build relationships with sponsors who identify with our mission to connect and grow the Atlantic Canadian technology ecosystem. An early outcome of this work has enabled us to bring on the incredible Rylee Hurley to help coordinate our programs & events across the board.
Looking ahead to 2021
As we turn our attention to 2021 (and beyond), we’ve taken time to reflect on what we’ve learned about how to grow the community and how to positively impact the ecosystem as a whole. Over the next twelve months, we plan to focus our attention on three key themes:
Focus on building a big tent where anyone who works or is interested in technology can find a home in our community where they feel welcomed, appreciated, and respected.
We believe strongly that cross-pollinating ideas from multiple disciplines give everyone the tools they need to succeed. For example, by better understanding the challenges of a product marketer an engineer can build better data analytics, a product manager can better understand the limitations of new technology, or a front-end engineer can understand the challenges of implementing GraphQL on an existing backend.
This year we want to double down on this effort by empowering community members to grow topic-focused channels surrounding their disciplines or favourite discussion items. We’re still working out the details of how we will accomplish this audacious goal and are looking for feedback and volunteers to help us pull it off.
Delivering high-quality events that inspire, teach, and connect us together. We believe deeply that in order to grow the ecosystem we need to create forums where we can dive deeply into specific topic areas, bring in outside perspectives and experience, and provide new voices with the opportunity to speak.
To date, we’ve focused on creating monthly events that have been a mix-mash of content across a whole spectrum of topics. While these are amazing for cross-pollination of ideas we want to begin experimenting with discipline-focused events (e.g. front-end development or engineering management) so we can explore these areas more in-depth.
Building on our efforts to build a big tent, we’ve begun to build an event roadmap for 2021 that makes room for community leaders to help shape the content and speakers at discipline focused events while we continue to deliver on community-wide themes.
Accelerate the careers of new graduates by providing them with the connections, opportunities, and mentorship they need to become successful members of the technology ecosystem.
By analyzing the data from our annual survey it became clear that we’ve underserved those who are either still in school or are just starting out on their careers. For our ecosystem to grow, we need to ensure that those just starting out have better opportunities and are armed with better tools & connections than we may have had at earlier in our careers.
With that in mind, we want to begin working on building relationships with the many universities, colleges, and organizations in our ecosystem so we can serve as an on-ramp for their graduates as they take the first steps into their careers. This work could include events focused on new graduates, mentorship programs, and surfacing job opportunities focused on hiring juniors and intermediates.
Taking the first steps
We’re on a mission to build a diverse, inclusive, and welcoming community that empowers its members to create great software and achieve their wildest career goals. We believe that by focusing on creating better outcomes for individuals we can grow the Atlantic Canadian technology ecosystem and enable all of its constituents to prosper.
This is an outcome that is not achieved in a day, month, or year. It’s a long-term mission and we’re just getting started taking the first steps of many. We’re excited with the progress we’ve seen over the last year and are looking forward to seeing the impact of everyone's work as we turn our attention to the future.
You can learn more and get involved in our community through one of the following ways: