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Techies team up to program geekier nation, spread network

In the early 90s, Bulletin Board Systems connected the young and nerdy through computers, encouraging them to organise micro meetups, a precursor to technology communities.

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The AWS community has five heroes in India. (Representational photo)
Long before Slack channels and social media groups, or even the internet, geeks in India had a functional network to communicate with each other online. In the early 90s, Bulletin Board Systems connected the young and nerdy through computers, encouraging them to organise micro meetups, a precursor to technology communities that currently thrive across Indian cities. “Discussions then ranged from philosophy to food to technology,” recollects Udhay Shankar N, founder of Silk, one of India’s oldest surviving mailing lists.

Since then, tech gatherers of the Indian information technology ecosystem have come a long way. Titles alone — Women Who Code, PyCon, AIMinds, Container Developers Meetup, Bangalore DeepLearning Club — reveal that IT communities have branched out into scores of technology and gender-specific verticals. Communities function largely as not-for-profit evangelists, helping the fraternity to learn, network and get referred. Entry to community gatherings, or meetups, held at least once a month, is usually free.IT firms volunteer with space, and sometimes with snacks. But the once-a-year community days are a big fete, organised and funded by community members themselves.

Different communities come together at times to do collabs or joint sessions when tech topics overlap, which helps members save time and learn better. For example, Docker (software used to run containerised applications) and Kubernetes (an open-source container-orchestration system) communities regularly do collabs.

Every community is led by a passionate set of people who volunteer to spread the word on new technology, reach out to companies and academia, train the newbies, nurture new leaders, and learn and experiment with new tech developments. Their silent work, sometimes, gets noticed. Parent technology firms themselves come forward to honour their heroes. Amazon Web Services (AWS) has introduced the Heroes programme to support some of their strongest evangelists, who go beyond just sharing knowledge with the community. “We support them through a series of capabilities — they get access to certain content, sometimes ahead of time — which helps them blog, build technical content and share it with the larger community,” says Madhusudan Shekar, head of digital innovation in Amazon Internet Services. The AWS community has five heroes in India.

One of them is Gaurav Kamboj, cloud architect in Hotstar. He says the Bengaluru AWS User Group has been inspirational for him to start the Mumbai AWS meetup, which is now two years old. Mumbai participants vary from students to professionals, and Kamboj says that makes planning a session quite challenging. “Sessions usually begin with a general intro, and gradually move to advanced topics. This helps the speaker to gauge the audience and pace his talk,” he says. Kamboj draws his inspiration from Jeevan Dongre, who was instrumental in setting up the Bengaluru group in 2011. Dongre is a devops engineer at Nutanix now.

The only woman AWS Hero is Bhuvaneswari Subramani, director of engineering operations at Infor. From a learner, she quickly groomed herself into a mentor/ leader in the past four years.

CloudYuga’s Neependra Khare, who played a key role in growing the 200-member DockerBangalore to a 7,000-strong group in seven years, says that all communities share the same DNA. “Going to companies and giving sessions on Docker technology were part of Docker-Bangalore community activities. Then Kubernetes came along, managing multiple containers together. Even that then became a part of our talks,” he says.
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