Every Tuesday evening, the BuzzFeed Tech Team piles into a conference room to talk tech. The Tech Talks meeting series is a forum that provides members of the team an opportunity to share their knowledge and answer questions from rest of the tech organization. The second Tuesday of every month, we change it up and have Tech Brews, where we serve pizza and beer and bring in someone from outside the tech organization to share some of their insights.
Recent Tech Talks presentations have included an explanation of some of our algorithms by one of our Data Scientists, an overview of a recent design sprint experiment by a Product Design Manager, and learnings from the launch of the new Cute or Not app by our Experimental Apps Team. Some recent Tech Brews have included presentations by our CEO, Jonah Peretti, and the head of BuzzFeed's new distributed content arm (called BFF), Summer Anne Burton.
Like everything else at BuzzFeed, it took a little experimentation and feedback to find the most productive structure for the talks. After a few too many meetings went long, we settled on this simple format: 5 minutes to make any important announcements and introduce new hires, a 10-15 minute presentation from the scheduled speaker, and 10 minutes to answer any follow-up questions. This arrangement forces the speaker to be concise, requires people to pay attention for just long enough, and doesn't eat up too much of anyone's productivity.
Tech Talks and Tech Brews serve three primary functions:
1. They get everyone together in one room
While one of the amazing parts about BuzzFeed is our cool open office, we do a lot of communicating via Slack. So, getting everyone to look each other in the eye regularly does a heap of good. Plus, there is something about the crowd that immediately creates camaraderie. The sound of applause and group laughter brings us together.
2. They give the audience a chance to LEARN and the presenters a chance to TEACH
Learning and teaching are key to professional and personal development. Learning how our coworkers are spending their time makes us well-rounded and inspires us in our own endeavors. Teaching others about how you spend your day is a great way to gain a better understanding of your own work and its impact. Presenters who prepare their talks and deliver them to the entire team see their own efforts in sharp focus.
3. They increase exposure for the Tech Team
It's refreshing to meet people from other disciplines in the company. At the same time, it's nice to remind them how smart and engaged our Tech Team is. There is often a sense of mutual admiration after Tech Brews that result from the open exchange of ideas and questions.
Our Tech Talks don't take up too much time but they give us a few things we all need: a little human contact with the people we spend most our days with, an outlet to learn about what they are doing and teach them a little about ourselves, and a way for the rest of this fast-growing company to see why members of the Tech Team have alway been considered "First Class Citizens" at BuzzFeed.