I became a Head of Engineering almost three years ago. Other Vinted’s developers voted me unanimously into the role. I appreciated and still appreciate the show of confidence. At the time I had no idea what I was getting into and how different it will be from writing code.
I’ve struggled. As I’ve learned later, like a lot of new leads struggle at the start of their switch to a leadership role.
Even as I’ve struggled, I’ve had good examples to learn from. I’ve read multiple books about leadership. I’ve started listening to podcasts related to my new role. I’ve also started looking for people in similar roles. I’ve wanted to learn from them and to talk with them about my struggles.
I wanted to find a group of tech leads. In Vilnius, I only found cio.lt. Its slogan was and still is “informal, private, invite-only.” I chose not to try joining because that does not match my values of transparency and openness.
I eventually found the LeadDev conference. I’ve participated in the first one ever. To the second and third one, I brought my team.
LeadDev was amazing. I wanted to replicate that experience in Vilnius. The idea to build a meetup focused on tech leadership was born. It took me a year to go from “this would be a great thing” to “ok, no one else will do, I want it, I’ll kickstart it.” I’ve found in confidence in the fact that I’ve co-started another meetup group once (that’s VilniusJS).
Vilnius Tech Leads
The first meetup was a doozy. Especially all the preparation and nerves thinking “how will it go?”. Afterward, I ended up being very happy with how it went. We managed to get a great speaker group by asking each of them to speak five minutes about what the statement “leadership is something you learn, not something you’re born with” means to them. The meetup itself garnered a lot of interest.
Eight meetups later, I can’t believe how well the whole is doing. I did not expect it to become as popular. I thought that we’d have ~200 registered to the group total and ~30 people coming each month to a meetup. In reality, there are almost 800 registered with a varying number coming each month, the lowest being ~40 and the highest number being much more than that.
I believe that by improving tech leadership in Vilnius, there will be a positive effect on the whole tech community in Vilnius. I want no one else to ever look around and wonder like I did “who can I talk about tech leadership to?”.
The popularity of Vilnius Tech Leads meetup group shows a need. A lot of people want to learn more about tech leadership.
While I learned a lot about tech leadership due to Vilnius Tech Leads, there are also a few things I’ve learned about building this community.
Gathering a great speaker group for the first meetup was very important. Even if they did not do long presentations, their names and the names of the companies they work for helped immediately attract a lot of people.
I remember how hard it was to find speakers for VilniusJS. With Vilnius Tech Leads, it goes much more smoothly. People in leadership roles are more inclined to speak, for one. But that’s not the only reason. Having a defined topic for each meetup made finding speakers a lot easier. The first speaker we find defines the topic. And then everyone else we ask “do you want to speak on X?”. It’s a more straightforward question to answer than to also trying to figure what to speak on. A lot of leaders have stories about X, whatever that X may be, they didn’t consider before that those stories might be interesting to someone.
We did an excellent job with marketing too. At one point, I thought that we might be over-communicating, but no one ever reprimanded us for that. We posted at least one message on social networks each month about the meetup.
You’ve probably noticed that I’ve switched from writing “I” to “we” when I started writing about the meetup itself. That’s because there are a lot of people who make Vilnius Tech Leads possible.
People at Vinted, who organize the meetups - Aidas, Aurimas, Monika, Paulius, Tomas. They arrange the food, prepare the space and help me stay calm.
Speakers, who graciously accept speaking. They spend their time preparing talks and then bravely give them in front of a crowd.
Everyone in the community. Vilnius Tech Leads is not a place, it’s a people.
And last, but not least - meetup.com platform. It makes the whole experience of organizing a meetup much much easier.
Vilnius Tech Leads will be back in September. The goal stays the same: Building a community of tech leads and improving tech leadership in Vilnius. I look forward to an incredible second year!