How often do you meet a group of geeks discussing the new VR/AR/AI trends (and who knows which abbreviations we will need in the future) together in one place with a millionaire driving a Ferrari who is right next to you buying his coffee, alternative artists wearing crazy post-hippie clothing all together watching a tattooed half-naked rapper on the stage?
(reading lenght 6 min or jump to *** and you will finish in 2,5 min or play it on SoundCloud mp3)
May be you have some other tips, but in this case I vote for: SXSW = tech-news & music & art festival (#austin #capitaloftexas #capitaloflifemusic). Originally it was a local festival for a few people which has grown since 1989 into a mega event for more than 300 thousand people.
Actually, I could barely imagine it in the beginning… But when you get directly into the heart of the event, everything starts floating somehow by itself. And fortunately you do not meet these thousands in one spot (the only exception are loungeswhere they serve free food:). And sometimes it is during a highlight workshop with a VIP. The rest of the crowd is circulating somewhere in the downtown at dozens of parallel workshops in different buildings.
The decision-making paralysis above the events catalog/app (especially in the beginning) is the daily reality. But all “SXSW veterans” tell you that you should plan in advance, but on the other hand you should leave a lot of space in your schedule for some serendipity. So let’s keep our eyes, ears and head open for new business contacts, investment opportunities, networking, new friendships, for broadening our horizons … and let’s flow.
And how did I get to this type of event? Actually it was part of the flow and part of the active creation of space for new opportunities …
Shorter version: networking - networking - networking.
Longer version: Two years ago I actively ask Czechitas (an organization supporting diversity in IT, mainly through workshops) for cooperation. I like what they do and mainly how they do it! Their approach is close to mine so I decided to send to them, instead of the classic cover letter, an infographic (with pink dots) expressing that I would like to train career workshops for them. And sometimes it just clicks and it is love at first sight:) We gradually expanded our cooperation and I started talking about them enthusiastically to my friends and people around me. One of these messages went to Ryan Turner (an American who is working this year for one Czech non-profit organization, Spiralis) who activated his contacts in the U.S. in Austin and helped Czechitas with their nomination for the Community Service Award. So Czechitas unwrapped a very nice Christmas gift in December by winning this award - as the first organization in CEE (Central and Eastern Europe). #bigjoy #czechitasgoglobal #weproudlyrepresentczechrep :)
So we (me and Monika Malátková, who is a Czechitas co-founder together with Dita Přikrylová) packed our suitcases and went to the capital of live music (as Austin proudly calls itself) to accept the award. But, especially during SXSW, I would rather call it the capital of tech & networking & art creativity.
It is unbelievable how you can meet literally the whole world in a few square meters. I travel a lot but this big mash-up of different points of view on business innovations, tech news and art is really really amazing.
When, at a private networking dinner, all the people you see are involved in great business or non-profit activities, and you are there as the only white European, you really fully realize how the world is connected and how it moves.
I know you have definitely read or heard plenty about globalization …, but I just had to share that strong experience.
And what did we finally see (over and above the abundant music on every corner)? We divided our energy and Monika visited many events (workshops, panels, meet-ups, …) about relations with investors, social business and women in tech.
Meanwhile, I mostly went to the events about current trends in hiring and (not only personal) branding.
Sometimes we just chose something that just sounded interesting - e.g.: “Cloaks, Daggers, and Dice: How the CIA Uses Games” or the presentation “Copying Is Good” by some Chinese guy #obviously … or we saw live:) Ray Kurzweil in a duel with his daughter Amy.
Some things were super interesting, some were more just assuring what we know. Nevertheless, we spent 14 inspiring days there surrounded by people who are open to discover, discuss, and network.
But not to speak just generally, I decided HERE to share my complete notes from the field … (just please be patient with my EN grammar because everything was written very quickly and I often just use my cell phone).
When I was chatting in the airport with Monika about what we are actually taking back home as our main message (for me and maybe for you, too) we agreed that:
if you want to succeed (in anything) you should, briefly said, have a strong brand and be able to sell yourself (the base is a good elevator pitch and intense networking)
In what we are doing we are already performing quite well and we are following the brand new trends:)
passion was probably the most frequently mentioned word at most of the workshops
Talking about the last bullet (about that passion) I want to add something more.
From my point of view the most inspiring part of this www.sxsw.com was the blending of the tech and art worlds i.e. The blending of hard skills (in the tech field and as well in art within its craft) and soft skills (represented by, e.g. presenting our passion, vision, and being able to communicate and network).
Next to this, I would like to remind you of some other “favourite proclamations” which I very often read/hear in our Czech media:
“... it is necessary to support tech schools first - we should send them more kids …”
(= and we send them there even if they do not want - we will persuade them that it will be great)
“... we should minimize pseudo universities that are humanities & art oriented …”
(= e.g. our former president, Vaclav Klaus, and his son, Klaus jr. strongly favors andragogy, which, according to them, produces only unemployable graduates:)
I should say that I have always hated these slogans because they are misleading (and especially in the media without any links to proper relevant data). But finally here, at SXSW, I saw the absolute opposite thing - and it was the blending of the tech and the art world. And maximal usage combining hard & soft skills.
So no more dichotomy (= we have here A and B and A is better so we should delete B), but synthesis (let’s combine A + B and may be we will create a better - C).
Specific example: VR/AR (virtual/augmented reality) technology is useless if it does not contain catchy, nicely designed content.
Technology will move forward if people see its benefit for themselves or for their business. If people like it and/or they have to use it (for some reason). But if it does not drive the business, then the chance for extension is minimal. There are a lot of really interesting technological/chemical/… discoveries which are still sitting somewhere in folders in laboratories. Just because we still have not found how to apply them in real life (= business opportunity).
OK, we really need IT developers, technical experts, handy engineers with IT backgrounds etc. who produce the innovation, the creative prototype.
But for the growth of the idea and the next step to production and distribution we also need experts who add a great modern design to the first idea we need creative people who create a great campaign (graphic designers, musicians, directors, video editors, soc-med pros, …) and get the new idea out to the people.
We needed “A and B” in the past as well but as time passes and the differences between technical parameters of products/services become smaller and smaller (check my favourite book Funky business forever) we now increasingly need to attract new customers by way of a perfect design and emotions.
To conclude this blog:
technically focused people should be able communicate and present their great technical ideas but also their personal vision (yes, even they will be more and more often asked what are their emotions, passions - or at least about their their career management)
humanities and art graduates should be able to deal with IT very well as well - minimally on the level to be able to understand tech people and ideally on the level to be able to do some of the tech tasks on thier own - coding language is going to be a “must have” as it is the knowledge of a foreign language
both sides should be able to present their ideas so that they are persuasive, engaging, understandable (and with insight into the business context)
The world is connecting and mingling more and more not only geographically and informatically but as well in the field of professions! So be open to all that the approaching multi-culti bringss (btw, the topic of the next development of AI and multicultural society was quite a popular SXSW topic), for all mash-ups, remixes and other techniques - because this is the door to the innovations and our future (... actually it is already the future :).
I wish a nice spring to all of you
Petra Drahoňovská www.CareerDesigner.cz
PS - do you not want to read? play the mp3 version on my SoundCloud profile
PPS - whoever wants to start learning some very basic programming - try for example: