Last weekend I had the pleasure of being a part of the first Skyline Give Camp. If you are not familiar with the Give Camp concept you can found out more here. What it boils down to is a bunch of people, mostly developers but project managers and designers as well, get together for 2 to 3 days, typically Friday through Sunday, and do some sort of work for a charity. Typically this involves either creating a new website for the charity or enhancing the charity’s current website. I have been involved in Give Camps in the past and find them to be very rewarding. The Give Camps that I have been involved in in the past have been in the Chicago area and open to the public usually with only the die hardest of community geeks attending.
About a month back I was approached by my boss and two of my colleagues about helping with an internal Give Camp for a charity called Riverview Gardens. I thought this would be a great learning opportunity for everyone involved as well as an opportunity to give back to the local community so I got on board…but I was leery. By this time the people I was approached by had already been working with the charity and had mock ups of what they wanted. In my past Give Camp experiences the work had always been limited to a public facing website, but this charity already had a public facing site in the works. What Skyline would be providing for the charity was a full featured volunteer management system not only for the desktop web browser, but also for the mobile web as well as native iPhone and Android applications. Needless to say this was a huge undertaking.
The amount of work was not my only concern. Typically these events are held in major hubs, like Chicago, and they draw developers from all over the Midwest. For this Give Camp the pool was Skyline employees, currently about 100 people, so I was worried about the turn out. Would there be enough interest in the event to even get it off the ground? We put out a survey to all employees and I was amazed by the great response. Out of a pool of 100 people, where actually only 80 or so are developers/designers/project managers, we had 30 people signed up. That is outstanding, and truly a testament to the type of people I have the pleasure to work with at Skyline Technologies.
Another concern I had was that in order to make the event a learning experience and to get in some free training for the attendees we chose to go with ASP.NET MVC 4, Entity Framework Code First, jQuery and jQuery Mobile for the desktop web and mobile web applications and Web API for our RESTful service layer. These are all new technologies that the majority of the people signed up to participate had very little working experience with.
So we did some planning, broke everyone into teams and prepared for the big event.
The event went off without a hitch. The eagerness to learn and to teach by everyone involved was outstanding. I was amazed at not only the amount of work that was accomplished but by the quality of work. At the wrap of day 2 we estimated that in total we where ~85% complete with the work. Unfortunately since the sites and apps we created are not public you will have to just take my word for it
This event was truly a testament to the type of organization that Skyline Technologies is and to the people that make up the Skyline family. I look forward to being a part of it for a very long time and hopefully we can make the Skyline Give Camp a yearly event, or maybe every other year…I am not as young as I used to be.
Oh yeah…did I mention we are hiring!