How TechSmith Rocks Its Internal Developer Conference
Your employees can learn a lot from each other. This exclusive inside look at an internal developer conference at screen-capture software maker TechSmith shows how the right mix of informational presentations, hands-on sessions, frank discussions and a bit of fun can take employees out of their comfort zones and motivate them to achieve greater success.
Thu, December 19, 2013
CIO — Early on a Thursday morning, three blocks from the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, I park in an underground lot, punch a secret code to get through the door, and enter a world that's part fantasy convention and part tech conference.
There's no registration; you can't buy a ticket at any price. Of the half-dozen visitors to the event, five must sign an NDA promising not to reveal what they see. (I'm the only one who doesn't have to sign.)
Start with a dozen development teams that contain every role needed to ship software. Each team works on a different product or service, but most share technical architecture. The teams continually experiment and refining their process — but how you do get the teams to talk and share ideas, to push the good ideas out to a larger audience and share them?
That's the goal of DevCon, a one day, 99 percent employee conference for the technical staff at Techsmith. (The company also has a one-day, company-wide conference called EvCon.)
What does a conference like this look like? Is it worth the investment? Should your company do something like this? That's what I came to find out.
Once I get in, I pick up a schedule, map and ID badge at the sign-in table. Nothing unusual there — other than the staff wearing cloaks and carrying battle axes, it could be any technology event. Almost.
After sign in, I find a seat in the main conference room, say a few hellos, plug in the laptop, watch the "Welcome to DevCon" Lord of the Rings-themed video and take a look at the conference program.