Birmingham Tech Meetups: Connecting the Community Through Tech

September 1st, 2022 Written by Andy Tipton

Andy Tipton, Client Practice Lead, rounds up our recent Birmingham tech meetup – the first of its kind to be held in-person.

Our success as a company and as an industry relies on our ability to foster discussion and learning across all levels. That’s why I’m pleased to see that our expansion into Birmingham has opened up fresh opportunities for Infinity Works, our people, and the communities in which we operate. 

In June, we took to Birmingham’s Everyman Mailbox to host the first of hopefully many tech networking events in the city. Our meetups play a central role in our investment in the community. They are a chance for industry players from all levels to meet up in person, share ideas, and ultimately broaden everyone’s tech horizons.

Why are tech community events important?

The tech industry is changing at such a fast pace that it can be hard for tech enthusiasts from all areas and all levels of expertise to stay in the loop with the latest insights. 

At Infinity Works, we feel a responsibility to provide our people with the support networks they need – both with colleagues and in the wider tech community. We’re also keen to help current and new employees adapt to different working patterns – be it remote, in-office, or hybrid working. Through tech meetups, we can encourage ideas sharing and champion different ways of working.

We started the events with three goals in mind: 

  1. Knowledge sharing – providing a platform for passionate local tech experts to deliver short talks on the latest tools, processes, and ways of working. 
  2. Networking – connecting like-minded professionals in different sectors to forge long-term connections, share insights, and ask questions big and small.
  3. Having fun – unwinding and relaxing with people who have similar interests and valuable contributions to make within a relaxed, no-pressure environment.

A promising Birmingham debut

Our first Birmingham meetup had a balanced crowd, as inexperienced newbies rubbed shoulders with industry heavyweights in our 60-strong audience. 

The event centered on four expert talks followed by discussions, which helped us create a relaxed and social atmosphere where anyone would be comfortable asking a question. We had the privilege of hearing from a few first-time public speakers, some of whom told us how much they enjoyed the receptive and friendly nature of the event.

The talks

Each of the four talks tackled a different area of tech. The sessions were designed to be short and insightful, but cover diverse topics in order to reach the wider tech audience. The agenda unfolded as follows:

Cloud-First Transformation – Ekip Kalir, Infinity Works

Cloud computing can be a difficult topic to wrap your head around if it’s not your area of expertise. Referring to the literature alone can be confounding, so a chance to discuss with experts is invaluable. 

This talk by our own Full Stack Engineer and Consultant, Ekip Kalir, demystified the basics of cloud transformation and scale, resource utilisation, and how to get the edge in the market.

Ekip talked us through an issue a lot of companies face when wanting to shift to the cloud. While a direct lift-and-shift approach is possible (and often the fastest option) it fails to unlock the true power of the cloud for the business using it. It was fascinating to discover the best practices of cloud-first transformation from a true expert in the field.

Leveraging Traditional Git Workflows with Terraform (Infrastructure as Code) – Faizan Raza, Infinity Works

Since Infrastructure as Code (IaC) has become the status quo, the industry is attempting to utilise mature DevOps practices to maximise the benefits. 

However, IaC is highly stateful, which throws up new and unique challenges. Unlike traditional software, git branching with IaC doesn’t provide each developer with their own  isolated development environment, meaning only a single developer can work on it at once. This can lead to developers stepping on each other’s toes as they’re unable to work collaboratively – ultimately, impacting efficiency.

This talk by Faizan visually explored a specific challenge facing Infrastructure as Code and mature DevOps practices. Using working scenarios and visual tools to stimulate and engage the audience, he provided a feature environment framework to solve the developer experience issues surrounding IaC.

Many guests were surprised at the limitations of IaC – and enjoyed the visual approach of the presentation. 

Use of Serverless to Rapidly Develop Internal Tooling – Matt Harwood, BT

The next talk explored how serverless technologies offer developers the ability to focus on delivering business value, using the example of BT’s internal web app.

AWS serverless technologies offer a solution for the complex undertaking of developing a new internal tool in a large organisation. They solve the issues of time and cost, and slim down the team involved significantly.

BT required a user-friendly internal tool allowing non-tech-literate people to take control of automatic deployment. As a sub-project, the budget was limited, and there were few developers available in the company to take it on.

Serverless provided the solution, as with it there is no need to manage the infrastructure, so it can be utilised without the resources of a large team. This freed up staff to focus on value adding functionality.

The serverless example demonstrated how a large user-base tool can be managed and developed by only a handful of developers, or even a single individual. The audience seemed taken aback at the ease of serverless and the affordability of the pay-per-cost model.

How Many Microservices Are Too Many Microservices? – Dom Henjes, Infinity Works

Dom discussed microservices and their purposes – weighing up the questions of optimal numbers of microservices and the disadvantages of overusing them. Given this is a relatable topic for many developers, Dom did a great job of making it light-hearted and even humorous, while capturing all the necessary technical details. 

The discussion afterwards was just as stimulating – touching on the technical considerations and project management perspectives of this multifaceted subject. The use of a shopping app-based example perfectly summarised this issue which, while obvious to many, can be frustrating if not addressed.

The future of Birmingham’s tech networks

Our first Birmingham event is a small part of our community investment. We are committed to being an active participant in the Birmingham tech community, working alongside other organisations to encourage more people into tech.

A key point to make is that tech has more of a presence at all levels of education and industry than ever before, making it the future for everyone – not just a few gatekeepers of knowledge. 

Demystifying tech conversations is essential to maintaining our industry’s growth. Tech meetups provide a safe space for beginners and the tech-curious to ask questions and share their thoughts with a like-minded community. Support will always be available for those with drive and curiosity, regardless of their current knowledge or skill level.

Examining current tech and the challenges it poses is a fascinating exercise for tech experts of all disciplines. Through these discussions, we’re able to brainstorm cutting-edge solutions and community-led approaches to tackle these challenges. This keeps us ahead of the curve and stimulates discussion. 

The format of the events have plenty of room to evolve and vary, and we plan to try out different approaches to keep things fresh as we want to keep it engaging for a wide variety of professionals. 

Meetup events are sure to keep Birmingham engaged with the tech world and, alongside initiatives like our Academy, provide growth opportunities. The potential for building and strengthening connections through these events is endless. 

It was great to see some active members of the existing Birmingham tech community in attendance. It bodes well for future meetups. I can’t wait to meet again with the varied and talented individuals of Birmingham’s future-focused tech community.

Join Infinity Works at the Birmingham TechMids Conference in October, for a day of world class talks, community engagement, and tech chat.

Written by Andy Tipton