Creating Peer Groups for Technology Industry Specialties

Greatly appreciating the conversation I was having with Ryan Hagan, Software Development Manager, Email & Apps, Rackspace Hosting, that began with The Really Interesting Conversations in the Technology Sector, I followed up with an email containing this question (edited for clarity):

I welcome help with deepening my understanding of your point point that "The really interesting conversations in the technology sector just aren't being had here, because there aren't more than one or two people who are interested in the latest and greatest, up and coming trends."
What are topics that participants in "interesting conversations in the technology sector" might have all read or have in common?
And if "one or two" isn't enough, how many conversationalists does it take to screw in a technology sector conversation light bulb – and make light?

With permission to quote him, Ryan Hagan replied:

I can give you one specific example that is a problem for me right now.  I've got one guy that is passionate about large-scale data storage and data retrieval.  A growing trend in this space is that people are moving away from SQL-based solutions and exploring schema-less or "nosql" based solutions.  My guy is very  involved in this movement, but there is hardly anyone else in this area (that we're aware of) that shares his knowledge and passion for the nosql movement.  In order for him to really be involved in this movement, he has to travel to NYC, San Fran, Austin, or some other far away locale.

It's these specialized communities that are hard to get started or get involved in around here.  Broad subjects are a little easier.  For instance, I co-run the NewVa Corridor Technology Council, NCTC Software Developer Peer Group Forum with Michele Wright at NetVentures.  We generally get anywhere between 10 – 30 developers, certainly a good turnout.  However, software development is an extremely broad topic, and it would be nice to narrow that down a little into specialties.  Nosql, language and compiler design, concurrency, software engineering, agile process management, etc. – these are all topics that fall within the realm of software development, but for which no specific groups exist here.

How do we define a group?  We first need people in the industry that share particular interests.  Then we need people who are willing to lead a group and create that spark that gets people involved.  Then we have to have enough people to keep the fire going.  The software developer peer group has a core of about 5 or 6 people that show up to every meeting, and also tend to be the ones that contribute the most.  Could we run that group with just those 5 or 6?  Yeah, probably, but when you look at the potential pool (every software developer in the New River and Roanoke Valleys), 5 or 6 isn't a great percentage.

On the other hand, if we could keep adding more software developers to the area, maybe we could reach a point where more and more (higher percentages) start joining these peer groups.  Kind of a critical mass type of reaction, where we tip the scales and let the momentum alone carry these communities.


Rackspace is a client of Handshake 2.0 and sponsors the Rackspace Tech Showcase.

The Really Interesting Conversations in the Technology Sector is part of Handshake 2.0's series on regional economic development, Building a Region.


In our Building a Region series, are we asking the right questions?  What are better questions?  What are the answers to those better questions?  We welcome guests posts and comments.  With a guest post or an idea for one, please email us at [email protected].

One Regional Economic Development Strategy - Relocation
The Really Interesting Conversations in the Technology Sector


  1. This is one of the reasons I left the area for a technology/startup hub (Boulder). There just isn’t enough concentration of these types of people around the NRV.

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