Community: Making the leap from attendee to organizer

by Robert Tomb, Jenn Strater, Jenna Pederson, Randall Meeker, and Casey Helbling | at MinneBar 11

We have a strong tech community here in Minneapolis & St. Paul. Participants and organizers drive a ton of options for local tech user groups.

Have you ever wondered what it takes to contribute to this awesome community? Come meet a panel of local organizers, hear about their experiences building and maintaining community around tech through user groups and hackathons, and ask them questions about how to get involved. You'll be hearing from:

Whether you're looking to get yourself out there into the community, or you're a perennial user group attendee, helping to organize a user group or event is a great professional growth step. If you're trying to figure out how to get one started, wondering about details like finding a space, or are looking for a group you can help out with, show up!

We will start with some base questions to tease out the experiences of this group, but if there is interest in the audience, we'll open it up and answer your community-related questions to make this as interactive as possible.

Lastly, here's a nice little hint for any of you who are running a user group and looking for help: this might be a good session to drop into if you're shopping for co-organizers.

All levels

Robert Tomb

Well, on Twitter, this is who I say I am, "a nerd in the twin cities who has a family and a bike and some other stuff," which is pretty accurate.

Beyond that, I currently work in Minneapolis as a Director of Engineering for Shipt, by way of a couple of years in Target's tech organization. Prior, I'd worked in online advertising where I got my start in the SaaS world. Even before that, it was all on-prem software in the ERP world. I've helped build remote, local, and hybrid teams starting as far back as 2006. I like to build on those experiences to help new engineering managers grow their teams.

Most recently, I have formally gotten involved in Shipt's emerging engineer programs, where I'm building out the engineering side of what has traditionally been driven by Talent Acquisition.

You may recognize me as someone who has checked you in at a previous minnestar event, which I think might be the longest-running volunteer stint in my life.

Jenn Strater

Jennifer “Jenn” Strater is an experienced engineering leader who is dedicated to community work and contributes to new and innovative technologies such as Spring REST Docs, Codenarc, Apache Groovy, and Gradle. Her strong ties with the developer community including running the Groovy Community Slack Team, leadership experience within several organizations including as a founder of GR8Ladies (now GR8DI) and committee member for GR8Conf EU and US, and mentoring younger developers have prepared her for new leadership challenges.

Jenna Pederson

Randall Meeker

Co-Organizer and frequent host of Javascript MN

I was brought to the industry despite my best attempts to avoid it. I was a film school drop out who hit the road with a concert production company who ended up in Aspen, Colorado running security for major events like Winter X Games. During that time software development was a hobby. Companies I worked for and colleagues I worked with required solutions to business problems that the wonder of new technology could always solve. After more than a decade my hobby became a career and then a business.

The move to Minneapolis was a great catalyst for this and I am grateful for the opportunities it continues to provide. Recently I chose to become an organizer of the JavaScript MN meetup group. This was done to absorb more opportunities that can present themselves, but has instead turned into a fun and fulfilling way to give back. I have found that participating in these communities and meetups is a full circle means by which those who get involved can benefit and give back both at the same time.


Casey Helbling

SfG Team Bio

Linked In

Twitter @caseyhelbling

Twitter @softwareforgood