A Barcamp YYC Review - #barcampyyc

Well, it’s almost a week late! Better late than never, so here goes.

Last Saturday, I attended my very first Barcamp here in Calgary. I was curious to see how the “unconference” format worked, as well as see who would be in attendance.

Long story short: I had a great time, met many engaged members of the community, and learned a lot from my peers. A worthwhile experience I would recommend to anyone. I’m going to keep this brief, but if your curious, check out this long well written review of Barcamp.

The day started off with some breakfast, networking, and a few keynote speeches. This was one of the highlights of the day for me. Ray Depaul (entrepreneur program at MRU), Tara Kelly (Splice), and Shawn Abbot (investor, mentor, innovator) shared with us some tidbits of wisdom. It’s almost been a week, and I didn’t take notes, but here is what I remember:

  1. Hustling your butt off for years will eventually lead you to look like an overnight success (ala Pebble).
  2. Do what excites you in your company and hire other smart people around you to take care of the rest.
  3. You don’t have to know everything.
  4. Invest in developing your brand pyramid, this will help turn your employees into powerful advocates.
  5. Check your ego at the door.

My first session of the day was 4 months in the bay. Bruno and Christian told stories and answered questions from their experiences working/learning in San Fran. It was great to hear about the good and the bad in an open group discussion. A good part of the discussion was around if it’s worth it to go, or worth it to send your employees. I’m not sure we decided on an answer one way or another, but here are some pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Easy to connect with the community and like minded individuals
  • Abundance of opportunities
  • Offices with ziplines and go-cart tracks
  • Fast pace environment

Cons:

  • Expensive!
  • Your team at home won’t be ready to handle your new pace (see pros)
  • Employees may be poached

Next up was a discussion on employee engagement. This quickly turned in to a conversation surrounding allowing employees to work remotely. Some key highlights include:

  1. Trust employees you hire, this includes to work remotely.
  2. Don’t set up remote offices in an effort to reduce overhead expenses (office space). This will be quickly eaten up by extra communications tools required to keep the team connected.
  3. Employees don’t always work their best between 9-5, be flexible and allow remote working to retain the best talent.
  4. Allowing remote working exclusively can result in lack of team cohesion. Ensure days in the office and face to face team building are scheduled. Especially critical when the team is first getting to know each other.

I have to admit that at this time I took an extended lunch and coffee break. Third session was missed.

First up in the afternoon was a rapid prototyping session with Micheal Tighe. We explored using tools like Foundation by Zurb for rapid iterations. The session was timely as last week I was exploring Bootstrap by Twitter for a similar purpose. Topics relating to when to involve the client were also discussed.

My final session of the day was on the Brand Pyramid with Splice’s Tara Kelly. She’s a passionate entrepreneur, with a refreshing point of view after a day of tech talks. Branding is never an easy exercise and often takes the back-burner to technology in startups. However, it’s a key element in empowering your staff to make solid business decisions and turn them in to powerful advocates for your company.

Tara also introduced the concept of “bad money”, this is $$ offered from a potential customer in exchange for you to build a product or provide a service. The catch is that what you are building/providing is outside your core competency, risking taking the business off track. When your staff is aligned with your brand pyramid, they’re better equipped to make decisions regarding projects and money.

There you have my summarized version. Can’t wait for the next community event!