At the start of July, I visited the Softwarecampus Kickoff Event. The Softwarecampus is a project targeting self-described “EntrepreNerds” and sponsoring research projects with an industry partner with up to 100k€. Having been to a few ice-breaker events with fellow nerds I anticipated an awkward day but I was pleasantly surprised. In the hope of being pleasantly surprised again in the future, I wanted to share some ways the Softwarecampus team made the event stand out to me.
The environment: The kickoff event took place at the Forum Digitale Technologien in Berlin. The room we used was a large, open space and included a small exhibition of other research projects. Together with the relaxed pacing of the event, this provided interesting things to talk about and felt less like a forced getting to know people and more like an exhibition tour.
Short, random group chats: This was the more classically-awkward part of the event but it was still well done. We were assigned to small (3-5 person) groups to present and talk about our projects to the others in about five minutes. The groups were created by gathering around home towns first and larger research areas later.
Collaborative comic writing: This was the highlight of the event for me. With our last group (organized by research area so everyone roughly knows what the other people are doing), we were asked to choose a hero and create a three-panel comic/story that included references to our projects and how they are used to overcome challenges. We chose Alice in Wonderland and built a beautifully absurd story about how Alice has to find good open data (my project) to convince the sexist Mad Hatter and his bunnies that they are wrong and she should be let into Wonderland. While we talked about our story, artists walked from group to group and drew the comic panels from descriptions (edited to add a link to their business: Miss Vizzz). Because we had to try to find a way to fit references to all our projects into the story, we had to discuss what we were doing in detail but always with the absurd background of helping Alice into Wonderland. Finally, we had to explain our story (and by extension our projects) to the artists and present our story to the group. All of this made for a fun activity that, without feeling forced, communicated a lot of info about everyone’s goals.
In the end, we voted on who had the best story and presentation, we did not win (which, for the record I heavily disagree with and is a scandal) and went on to have a nice dinner. So, thank you Softwarecampus-Team (Susanne & Stefan) and other people planning kickoff events for nerds: Consider hiring artists and drawing some comics.