Canterbury software developers like nothing better than a BBQ, even in the depths of winter.
For three years the local IT community has gathered each week in Christchurch to hear the latest news and gossip, make friends and even strike a few deals.
The “BBQs” were started three years ago by Christchurch PR consultant Christine Moore as a way for local IT firms to network for business and pleasure.
Now relaunched and run by Canterbury’s “software cluster”, the gatherings have gained a more serious side with monthly presentations from local businesses.
But at a recent BBQ session at Alchemy Software in Christchurch, fun remained the focus of proceedings, even if some participants also hoped to do a little business.
Grant Ryan, director of Search Learn and Improve (formerly GlobalBrain), attends most of the BBQs, hoping to meet developers and potential staff.
“Lots of people have found jobs from this forum,” he says. “But mostly I enjoy meeting up with other people. We have such a small IT community; we need somewhere to have a beer on Fridays.
Self-employed software developer Jason Lea says he attends the gatherings “to get to know other people in the industry, get some leads, or other contacts”.
Lea has been attending the BBQs for three months, since he launched his own company creating software that tracks workflow tasks.
“When you get invited to a business, you get to see what other people are doing. I haven’t got work through this, but I hope to,” he says.
Veteran software developer Malcolm McConnell attends the gathering about six times a year.
“It’s a great place to meet up with people. Once I met a friend here I hadn’t seen in years,” he says.
Beer in hand, soundcard maker Eliot Blennerhasset says the Friday sessions give workers who work at home like himself a chance to “talk shop” with peers and colleagues.
“I get out and meet the local people and socialise. We talk about the latest processes and technical stuff. I’m not here looking for business. Christchurch has many people that work from home, solo.”
The BBQs usually take place at someone’s business, with the monthly “elevated café” presentations held at the Canterbury Innovation Incubator.
Howard Nicholls, a business analyst for Alchemy and cluster executive member, says companies who host social events get to meet people and show their businesses to potential staff and customers.
For Alchemy sales rep Dean Ashby, Friday’s events gave him a chance to meet clients face to face, rather than communicate by email.
The newly appointed project officer for the Canterbury Development Corporation, James Saruchera, says he will be attending the events as often as he can.
“The key thing is you don’t just have people who specialise in software; [but] people in related industries.”
The Alchemy gathering of around 30, including designers and non-IT authors, highlighted this.
Kim Ryan, another cluster committee member, says more non IT-related people are attending the events, which is good for generating business between the sectors.
IT people, despite being talented, are notoriously shy, she says, and the informal nature of the gatherings helps them make friends and win business. Many, she says, form small groups and give work to each other.
Jade software hosts the July 18 gathering (www.canterburysoftware.org.nz).