With over 4 million acres of wilderness, rolling farmlands, rivers, and a statewide population of less than 2 million people, Idaho might not be at the top of your list when you think of the tech industry, but if you walked into the Stueckle Sky Center at Boise State University during Idaho Tech Council’s (ITC) Develop.Idaho (#DEVID15) you would have thought differently.
Nearly 500 tickets were sold for the event, with representation from dozens of Idaho companies in the tech community around the state.
Develop.Idaho is an annual event put on by the ITC that brings Idaho tech companies together to brainstorm, collaborate, and help each other grow the tech industry in Idaho.
The theme for this year’s conference was “208: Code For Growth,” which focused on how software creates growth opportunities for Idaho companies. The event was held at the Stueckle Sky Center at Boise State University.
Keynote speaker Hadi Partovi, co-founder and CEO of Code.org, talked about the importance of introducing coding to school-age kids, especially girls, so we can prepare a future workforce that is increasingly technology-focused.
— Matt Messinger (@BoiseMatt) April 23, 2015
Following Hadi’s keynote, our own MetaGeek CEO Ryan Woodings (also an ITC board member) kicked off the conference by challenging attendees with a simple question: “Are You Building Something Awesome”? Ryan discussed that to build a great company that does great things, you must first start at the “Why” level. Companies need to ask themselves not, “what does my company do”, but “why does my company exist?”
After your Why question is answered, you can use it to check the alignment of every single other thing you do as a company. MetaGeek’s Why statement is short and sweet, but speaks volumes: “We believe that work should be awesome; something that we love.” It seems simple enough, but how do you turn a platitude into a real statement of how your company is going to operate?
Citing companies like Netflix and Apple, Ryan explained that companies must have an intentional and purposeful culture that only retains high-performance “A Player” employees, but treats those employees with respect and freedom (not to mention fun workplace perks.)
— Jody Sedrick (@jodysedrick) April 23, 2015
“Deliberately teaching company culture through actions”, as Ryan posited in his presentation, will rally your entire team so you can work together to build something truly…wait for it…awesome.
Following the main speakers, attendees then had the opportunity to participate in three breakout sessions, where panelists discussed everything from surviving the “Valley Of Death” (periods of financial stress in your business), to “Learning to Lean” (implementing agile development) and the Continuous Deployment model of software releases.
In the breakout technical panel “What Differentiates Top Engineers”, leaders from MetaGeek, Clearwater Analytics, Bodybuilding.com, Cradlepoint, and Keynetics discussed hiring practices and how to source the best engineering talent. One audience member asked if, in this merit-based day and age, a degree in Computer Science was a mandatory requisite for consideration.
“I look for someone that’s committed to self-improvement. That oftentimes coincides with a degree in Computer Science, but not necessarily,” explained Brian Tuttle, MetaGeek’s CTO. Other panelists agreed, and went on to discuss the necessity of writing actual code during an applicant’s job interview, degree or no, and emphasizing the word “Viable” in building an MVP.
After the breakout sessions, there were more social opportunities to round out the day, including networking sessions from local Boise meetup groups like Girl Develop It (led by our own Marianna Budnikova) and Startup Grind Boise.
The overall theme at Develop.Idaho 2015 wasn’t necessarily nitty gritty technical stuff, but addressing how to grow tech-focused businesses that face all the very same challenges that all businesses face – hiring talented people, keeping money in the bank, and building a great products. If the success of Develop.Idaho is any indication of the tech industry in our state, then 208 truly is “Code for Growth.”
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