On October 24th and 25th, 100 developers from 10 countries gathered together at the GDF for eMerge – the first ever Allianz conference for developers. Not only was it a large event, but it was also a milestone for developers across Allianz. For the first time, developers from different Allianz OEs (operating entities) have the opportunity to present their work in front of their colleagues, exchange ideas in person, and network with one another face-to-face.
To learn more about the conference, we interviewed one of eMerge’s creators and organizers, Clinton Lee Pidlubny. Read below to find out from how the idea of eMerge was conceived, to plans for the next conference.
The eMerge conference is the first of its kind. Can you tell me about how you first came up with the idea for this conference?
The idea actually came to me from my days at AllianzLife, where I was managing several development teams. It occurred to me that the type of problems we encountered at AllianzLife was probably not unique to us, and that it would be good to bring developers from across the world together to see how we all solve the same problems.
Fast forward 3 years later to where I am working at the Global Digital Factory #gdf and I brought the idea up with Desmond Field Corbett (the other creator and organizer of eMerge) in late August. He agreed that there is a need, and together we started the planning. I was responsible for the logistics of the event while Des was responsible for organizing the workshop sessions. It was only after we started organizing it that we figured out it would be the first developer conference at Allianz.
How was the conference set up?
The conference consisted of two days. The first day was hands-on coding sessions followed by a networking event, where the participants got to spend time meeting colleagues and discussing the challenges they all face. I feel like this is a very important part of the conference.
The next day comprised mainly of workshops. There were a total of 13 workshops that participants could choose from, with 2 to 3 very different workshops always happening simultaneously. This serves to bring together people who are all interested in the same topic in one room. We had a variety of sessions that touched on all aspects of development at Allianz. Des did a great job of curating the topics and presenters. His attention in this area really helped to create the value that I wanted to see this conference deliver for attendees and their organizations.
What about the conference surprised you the most?
The turnout. We did not expect the response to be so enthusiastic. At first, we thought we would just get 20 to 30 participants, but then people started signing up very quickly. We finally had to cap it at 80, and eventually getting to over 100 with the addition of presenters. In the end, just about everyone who committed to attending showed up. There was even a waiting list of about 20 more people that we could not accommodate. The reaction definitely exceeded our expectations – stretch goal of 50 participants. Participants came from over 20 OEs and represented 10 different countries, including Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, UK, and even the US. To be clear, we did work very hard to market the event, but I won’t get into details. That could probably be a whole other interview on its own.
Why do you think the turnout was so big?
I think this is because all of the participants have a strong interest in sharing and collaborating. As an organization, Allianz does a great job in bringing high-level leaders together to discuss our group strategies, and align to local OE strategies. But people who are not managers and above rarely get the chance to meet in a global setting. There is a clear want for groups like developers to get together. It is important to share what is happening within OEs as well as at the group level, and create a sense of community and collaboration between OEs who normally would never talk to each other
So what’s next after eMerge?
We have gotten feedback after the conference that people would like this to happen twice a year. I have started planning for another one next year, potentially expanding the technical scope beyond developers and including the business side of Allianz. We want it to be a flagship conference where we get not only the developers, but also the system analysts, data analysts, solution architects, and business owners all together in one place. The aim would be to have around 500 participants for this conference. A conference this size will require a larger investment in time and money. This year, we organized it in about 2 months. If we grow it, next year will take much more planning.
One other thing we are considering is the possibility of bringing a smaller version of eMerge to Asia for several days since our entities there have shown interest and we have a huge development community in both Thailand and India.
To get an idea of the impact of eMerge, we have also interviewed some of the participants. Here is what they have to say about the conference:
“The most interesting part of this conference is to see what other developers and OEs are doing, and to get an idea of how they solve problems differently than us. Here, we can see a boarder picture of what is happening at Allianz and develop new ideas on how to solve problems.“ - Friedrich Reutter, Allianz Deutschland
“I am really glad to see this conference happening – it is an important event for developers. I like the way that it was put together and it is a good showcase of the GDF to show others what kind of working style is possible.“ - Wolfgang Herder, Allianz Technology Austria
“I have been attending different conferences in Allianz Technology but this one is more developers-focused, which I think is great. Getting to know people, finding out the challenges they are facing, and learning the topics featured at the conference are all really interesting.“ - Sujith Pillai, Allianz Technology
“I really like the conference - there are a lot of interesting things to learn. The highlight so far has been the Angular NDBX Design System workshop because I think it’s a nice system that we might want to work with in the future.“ - Markus Misa, Allianz Austria
“We love the presentations about SprintBoot Cloud and creating accessible applications. We think it’s great to share our knowledge and experiences.“
- Tony Amirault, Julien Demare, Bertrand Tissot, Rafik
Ferroukh, Allianz France
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