Article by Erica Mixon and Josh Garcia
In the shade-less plaza of Boston City Hall, I wove through the thousands of people who were gathered for Mass TLC’s Boston TechJam. I carried a small reporter’s notebook, but I appeared to be the only one who was still in “work mode.” Some people engaged in a casual game of corn-hole, others navigated the rows of tents that offered free merchandise, and a brave few dared to ride on a bucking mechanical shark. Most people held sweaty cans of beer in lieu of business cards.
TechJam felt more like a party than a networking event—a celebration of Boston’s tech community, which is saturated with startups and students from the world’s top universities. Rather than actively trying to pursue candidates, recruiters at TechJam knew to play it cool. As one recruiter from software company SmartBear put it, “If you want to recruit from the Boston tech community, you’ve got to hang with the Boston tech community.”
Boston’s explosive startup community and concentration of academics results in a high level of entrepreneurial density, especially at occasions like TechJam. With so much talent in such a small space, the odds of serendipitous business encounters increase exponentially. These chance meetings can lead to just about anything: a new job, a new partnership, or a valuable relationship that may not bear fruit until later. While these serendipitous encounters are impossible to plan, events like TechJam make them more likely to occur, with thousands of members from the tech community milling around like-minded individuals.
Networking isn’t all about swapping business cards and strategizing, however. When asked their goal of the day, most recruiters answered “to meet as many people as possible,” or “to drink beer and have fun.” In order to form a relationship between recruiter and candidate, it’s not only important to familiarize yourself with the inner circle, but also to interact and get along with its members. Nothing promotes community-building like playing a round of arcade basketball with a stranger to score drink tickets.
There’s another shared priority for the attendees of TechJam, and one that is crucial in today’s crowded startup environment: company branding. Branding is essential because it creates long-term value among your customer base. This value leads to name recognition, word-of-mouth, and most importantly, new customers. For startups, simply getting your name into the tech community is vital, but the opportunity to make a splash in front of fellow colleagues, partners, and potential customers is impossible to pass up. There’s no better place for leaving a memorable impression than a gathering of 4,000 individuals from the tech community.
Mayor Marty Walsh
While events like TechJam are becoming increasingly important to the community, their overall importance is further bolstered by appearances from prominent guest speakers such as Marty Walsh, who recognized that even President Obama has taken an interest in the Boston tech scene. Mayor Walsh spoke about the importance of technology to the advancement of the city and the nation as a whole, and his appearance proves that the country is starting to take notice of New England in the same way that it took notice of Silicon Valley years ago. Indeed, a priority of TechJam is “community branding” as much as company branding.
After the mayor left the stage to the applause of thousands, I watched and laughed as a co-worker tumbled off the mechanical shark and then took my spot in the increasingly lengthy line for beer. Looking around me, I realized there may also be a simpler reason why the Boston tech community needs TechJam.
With the stress and tension that can come from recruiting, building your own startup, or simply from existing in such a fast-paced technological environment, sometimes it’s nice to enjoy the sun of a warm Boston evening, all while meeting others over the exchange of drink tickets and carnival games.
Erica Mixon is a content writer for Argosight and a first time attendee of Boston TechJam. Additionally, Mixon serves as a community manager for the largest LinkedIn group in the world dedicated to Talent Management, with over 375,000 members.