Coffee & Code meetups in Phoenix started around 2012 in Heatsync Labs in Downtown Mesa. It was a cool thing to see. At the time I was a coffee shop owner across the street from a hackerspace, and all these hellaciously nerdy kids would come in and show me little circuit boards and shit. At the time I was a little to busy to understand the importance however.
What Is It?
Coffee and Code has provided a lot of things through out its years of existence. We have helped spawn companys that have been sold for millions of dollars. We have also assisted folks in gaining confidence in their day, and for that we should all feel the most rewarded. Soemtimes people would come to the event just looking to pick up a new skillset. We helped people get jobs, and helped people who had just lost jobs. In the tech industry both of these facets are extremely common, and I'd like to think we did our part to help with it!
Basically the concept of Coffee & Code spawned from a couple folks that had met up and and needed a place to work. Heatsync Labs was a good candidate for it because of its obscurity and proximity to them. Luis Montes & Blaine Bublitz fostered the event in its early years with me. I owned a coffee shop across the street called Lo Fi Cofee, and the concept was simple. I would provide coffee, and they would provide nerds.
Through out the years we have had anywhere from forty people attend on a random Wednesday in July to two people the day before Christmas in 2014....Myself and Luis Montes because we had forgot to buy Christmas presents for our girlfriend and/or wife making our Christmas presents on the laser cutter in the lab.
We Stay Diverse!
Diversity is crucial in the code world. Through out the years I have noticed that tech is completely dominated by males. At Coffee & Code we managed to somehow keep an open feeling for folks of all races, colors, and genders. It lends itself well to our goals, and also the mindset of us when we realized the treasure that we had built.
Tech is an amalgamation of people's thoughts and beliefs. If we were to create a situation where we succor ourselves into a male dominated landscape that would limit our ability to grow. We are AT BEST utilizing less than fifty percent of the brain power the world has to offer by keeping to a less diverse male driven group. EVERYONE has something to offer.
Even the new folks who are there to learn, or the 17 year old looking for help with his Python homework. We have something to gain from just being in their presence. By having a student ask a question, it challenges our programmatic fundamentals. By having a woman come in and ask for help with a knitting project, it pushes us to help with newer things. By having confrontations about ethics, and rules, we can discuss and think about our own morales and values.
Diversity is a crucial aspect.
We Built A Family
Coffee & Code has an alumni almost. Ask anyone who took part in it what they think. Some people had their views pushed in a heated conversation. Some people found the answer to a question about code they had been thinking about for a long time. Some people came and had a well-needed laugh while they were looking for a new job, or looking to sort out something in their life.
People know who we are in the neighborhood. They know what we do on Wednesdays, and we never turn them away when they come to us. We can often reach out to a person we haven't seen in years and they will still remember us fondly and have wonderful conversations.
People Learn At The Event
I will never forget one time sitting at Coffee & Code when a man walked in carrying a clear plastic bag, clearly coming straight from the Maricopa County lockup. Normally I get pretty tense in situations like this, but he had a bewildered look on his face that spoke of wonder. I saw this and it softened my attitude quite a bit.
I went up and introduced myself to him, and he told me he wanted to know what we were up to. I explained to him that we were a programming meetup, and he wanted to know more. He did not have a computer or anything of that nature with him, and he probably would never come to the event again, but I figured it would be fun to work with him anyways. We sat down and I showed him how to post his resume to the internet over the next hour, and we learned a little about HTML and what we can do and utilize by using it in our personal and professional lives. At the end of it, he had a resume, and I had learned a little bit more about how technology can help us.
Companies Grow Out Of The Concept
When you bring together a weekly meetup where hundreds. I can think off the top of my head atleast 5-7 companies that came from folks meeting at our event, or using the event space to organize their company. Heatsync Labs has a knack for that. Not to mention the countless amounts of contracts folks would get from coming to the event.
Seeing these companies grow, or seeing a contractor get a job and then move into a company from the event is a super rewarding feeling. In fact, I am one of the people who benefitted from this when I decided to switch to being a computer programmer, I had already built my networking skills well from going to Coffee and Code and meeting other people with like minds!
Growing With The Meetup
At the point of me writing this, Coffee & Code is almost seven years old! That means folks that were introduced to it as teens are now in their middle twenties, leaving college, and entering the workforce. For some of those teens they may ahve gained the skillset to just enter the work force straight out of college. Over time we have all grown from the meetup. The meetup still exists, and people still go to it!
The future for Coffee & Code is still bright, it's going to take a community effort to keep it going. I've ran spinoff meetups before, and I'm looking to establish another Coffee & Code in Portland where I live now. For right now you can still go to the meetup page and attend if you would like!