Why 3,000 Tech Developers Came to Brooklyn

At a Greenpoint conference that included execs and engineers, they embraced the borough's 'cultural openness'

The winner of a drawing for a drone, @riazhack, shows off the prize (Photo courtesy of DocuSign API, via Twitter)

A sign of Brooklyn’s evolution as a tech hub is its ability to convene big numbers of experts, and not just from other boroughs. In May, the Smart Cities NYC ’17 conference drew 2,000 attendees from 30 countries for four days of talks and demos in the Navy Yard. Just a few days later, on a more esoteric plane, the Ethereal Summit drew hundreds to Gowanus for a sold-out conference on blockchain technology. This week came another milestone. DeveloperWeek NY brought three days of tech buzz to the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint, where more than 3,000 engineers, developers and executives gathered to hear talks, browse among exhibits and, for the sporty ones, dive into a 300-person hackathon.

DeveloperWeek is the brainchild of Geoff Domoracki, CEO of DevNetwork, who launched the conference series six years ago in San Francisco. Since then, it has become the largest conference of its kind in the tech world, the company says. (One popular presentation from the San Francisco conference: “Getting Customers Excited About Your Unfinished Product.”) This year, Domoracki is taking the show on the road, first to Brooklyn and in November to Austin. Domoracki got his start in the Midwest, where he graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in philosophy and later launched Techweek, a startup conference.

The team from Workey, an anonymous job-search platform (Photo couresy of Workey, via Twitter)

How did he decide Brooklyn was ready? One of the key things that sets DeveloperWeek apart from other tech conferences, he says, is an emphasis on collaboration. Domoracki is attracted to cities that display a certain level of “cultural openness,” he said. Unlike a typical trade-show format, where selling tends to be the priority, Domoracki puts an emphasis on creativity and the idea that exhibitors and attendees can work together to advance one another’s projects. “What are you working on? How can I help?” These are two of the questions that you’ll hear an exhibitor ask an attendee. Among this year’s exhibitors were Amazon Web Services, DocuSign, Honeywell, and Microsoft.

The DeveloperWeek agenda broke down the broad scope of the conference into more specialized themes covered by more than 70 speakers. A DevExec track was for chief technology officers and other managers. Guy Dassa, senior director of engineering at Yahoo, spoke about the difficulty of building engineering teams that are both efficient and enduring. Another track, DevOps, focused on getting new apps delivered at faster speeds. Other sections focused on artificial intelligence, JavaScript and financial technology.

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Recruiting was another theme of the conference. A hiring mixer at the Greenpoint Terminal Warehouse was an especially popular event for hundreds of hirable candidates to hear pitches from more than 20 companies. At the hackathon, teams competed to build apps from scratch over a 30-hour period.

Many of the jobs featured in future DeveloperWeek events may be in New York, given the growth of its tech industry. Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a 114-page plan, called “New York Works,” to create 100,000 jobs over the next decade. While the plan was vague in some respects, 30,000 of those jobs were related to technology.

Arden Phillips is a New York-based writer and a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, where she received a degree in Television, Radio, and Film.