“I need to build a website using Microsoft technology that will help startups in Philadelphia. Would you be willing to help out?”
The eight developers sitting around a table at Seed Philly had each been asked this question by Brad Denenberg while attending a training series. He had recently started a seed level incubator and was hoping to build a content management system (CMS) that would provide more visibility for startups in Philadelphia. The site would allow both startup members and investors track milestones for the companies in the CMS. It was a cold Saturday morning and instead of sitting at home watching television this group was coming together at 1650 Arch St. to help a Philadelphia business. This was the first time I had seen developers come together on a weekend to work on a project. Fueled up on coffee, Red Bull and pizza we quickly hit our first hurdle.
“I’ve never used Microsoft ASP .NET MVC,” said one of the members of the newly formed team. He was not alone. Only four in the group had ever worked with Microsoft’s web stack and a few were mobile or desktop developers with not much web development experience in general. This could have been a huge stumbling block for the hastily assembled hacking crew if not for what happened next. The four developers who had the ASP .NET MVC knowledge took to the whiteboard and began to teach the rest of us. After about an hour of impromptu training we divided up the project and started furiously coding to Brad’s spec for the website. Periodically someone would show off what they had built and the energy would be reignited as individual efforts started to form into a functioning website prototype.
Each of us in the group hit bumps in the road. However, every time a bump was encountered someone would step in and help out. At the end of the weekend we had a decent prototype. Although it wasn’t the full site the group set out to build I was really inspired by what this group of developers accomplished over the weekend. It is really amazing to see what developers can produce when they come together as a team and share knowledge. This was my first exposure to the community aspect of software development. Everybody there sacrificed a big chunk of their spare time to help Seed Philly but also ended up teaching and learning from each other as well. I have always enjoyed teaching and helping others so seeing that there were community efforts like this was really eye opening for me. I left that weekend in Downtown Philadelphia knowing that I wanted to focus on the software community in my career.
My name is Brent Schooley and I recently joined the Developer Evangelist team at Twilio. I live just outside of Philadelphia, PA and I am excited to work with the amazing software community here. Over the past year I worked as a Technical Evangelist for Infragistics where I helped foster and support their community through speaking at events, writing blog posts, and even writing a book about designing user interfaces for Windows 8. The best aspect about this role was constantly getting to talk to people about the problems they are solving with software.
I spent a lot of time traveling around the country meeting software developers in my previous job. Being on the road didn’t afford me too many opportunities to see what was going on in the city closest to where I live. Since joining Twilio I have spent most of my waking hours in The City of Brotherly Love and I can surely tell you that the tech community in Philadelphia lives up to that name.
Welcome to N3RD St.
I’m happy to be working in the city at a coworking space called Indy Hall in Old City on N. 3rd St. Actually, the street on which Indy Hall is located is better known there as N3RD St. The community recently had a resolution approved by the City of Philadelphia that will officially recognize the name “N3RD St”. Many cities try to force the creation by officially declaring a certain section of the city to be a tech district. The N3RD St. cultural district formed when like minded people rallied around common beliefs and the notion of community building. Instead of renaming N. 3rd St. to N3RD St. in hopes that a community will form the city is acknowledging that the community is already there and has renamed the street themselves. N3RD St. isn’t the only area of the city with a strong tech focus. There are coworking facilities and successful software businesses scattered throughout Downtown Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs.
The software community in Philadelphia is varied and growing and I am really looking forward to learning more about the incredible things being created in this city. The Twilio community is awesome to work and I know there are a bunch of you in and around Philadelphia The first example I found in person while in the city came when I met Adam Stokar. Adam is the founder and CEO of Club OS, a company that offers a CRM for modern health and fitness clubs. They use Twilio to help clubs and personal trainers follow-up with potential sales leads. Another great example of Twilio usage in Philly is The Philadelphia Police Department. The city’s police force uses SMS to help fight crime by allowing people to submit anonymous tips via text message. The ease of use and anonymous nature of the service have increased the number of tips that are submitted to the police by citizens.
I have great confidence that there are more success stories to be created in Philadelphia. I’m excited to see what problems you will solve with Twilio here in the city. I’m in Philly to help you build great applications using Twilio. There are a lot of great developers in Philadelphia and I can’t wait to meet all of you! If you see me out and about in the city, at an event or at your favorite coworking facility, please don’t hesitate to say hello.
I hope to see you soon in Philadelphia and beyond. If you want to contact me, I can be found in the following places: