Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Cleveland GiveCamp 2013

This past weekend, I joined 200 developers, designers, project managers, and other volunteers at Cleveland GiveCamp to get tech things done for Cleveland area non-profit organizations. As a truly collaborative group, we successfully created 18 out of 18 solutions that made people cheer!

I work in a relatively quiet environment. We have cubicles and people whisper a lot. It's a pretty closed off and not very conducive to collaboration. This arrangement was a decision the owner made when he designed our new building after getting input from a wide variety of people within the company. To be fair, most of the people that gave him input (including me) have never really worked in any other type environment.

Spending the weekend working for a non-profit in a crazy collaborative environment like the LeanDog boat was an experience that will change how I do things for the rest of my life.

I started the project a bit early by meeting with Mary Kay, the Director of Malachi House, two weeks before the event. I talked to her and her staff about their mission and their message and received a tour to help me understand who they are and what they do. Everyone was great; they were prepared for this with tons of information.

After meeting with Mary Kay, I got in touch with Russ, the guy that handles all of their hosting needs, and he was able to get us up and running with the latest install of WordPress and MySQL. He was super helpful and this gave us a big leg up on our project.

The Friday of GiveCamp arrived and I was excited, like a kid on Christmas morning. A little bit happy and a lot nervous - this was definitely outside of my comfort zone! A handful of us from work were volunteering. We all left about 3pm to get ready and head up to Cleveland to begin our volunteering.

At 5:30, we went through initiation and learned what this was all about and left to meet out teams. Everyone was given a letter on our name tag and pointed to a map with locations that corresponded. I was on Team I and we were in the bow of the ship.

We had a great team - Hank, Joel, Adam, James, Kyle, Mary Kay, and myself. Communication was great. Collaboration was amazing. Mary Kay worked her butt off. I teased her a few times about the fact that she thought she was going to come in and relax - watch a movie or read a book - but she was in high gear, answering questions, giving feedback, detailing content, and so on. She hung tight with us until well after midnight on day one and stayed on with the team the next night as well.

I could get into the details of what we did and how we did it and that would be interesting but suffice it to say that we put in a lot of work over a very small window of time to provide a new content management site for a non-profit that does amazing things for people that have nobody else.

I learned that I need to get out of my comfort zone more often and that environment may be the most important element of collaboration. The workspace provided by LeanDog is open and inviting. Very few walls and not a cubicle in sight. Occasional music pipping from somewhere. A constant hum of busy people. Laughter and a conflict being resolved here and there.

In the end, this was a great experience for everyone that I spoke to. Watching team after team proudly display the results of their project, non-profits beaming and the occasional tear of gratitude; this was one of the best experiences I've ever had the pleasure of being involved in.

I already put next year's GiveCamp on my calendar...



  1. It was great having you on board for this year's GiveCamp! I look forward to possibly seeing you at events in the area. Otherwise, definitely at next year's GiveCamp!

    1. Thanks Sarah! It was an amazing experience. There is a lot to learn and I have a lot to give so I think it works out well. I look forward to getting more involved in Cleveland events and maybe integrating some of that energy into the Akron area...