Sunday, 16 December 2018

2018 Sangam - A Meeting of Minds

Sangam means, a meeting of Minds. It is the very definition of a community. 

Sai Penumuru is the president and a fellow ACE director. His passion is legendary, and he inspires that passion in his large army of volunteers that makes the All India Oracle User Group work.

AIOUG is made up of chapters around the country. The Yathra event in Feb / Mar visits these chapters on ‘the journey’. Sangam, or the meeting of minds is a two-day event that brings them altogether. 

Traffic in India is a big problem but that’s for another blog! Bangalore especially has terrible issues as the city has grown 500% in 10 years as IT has taken over, so the 2 days start very early and finish very late so people can avoid some of that traffic.

When a day is 11-12 hours long you can’t just have presentations, it is not sustainable. You need community activities, energy creating sessions and lots of variety.

I talk about the energy session in another post about Connor McDonald and Chris Saxon but Sai also encouraged the almost 1,000 delegate audience to take part in networking activities.

He asked everyone to ensure they ‘sat next to a stranger’ – get to know someone they didn’t previously know, and my favourite advice, ‘go to at least one session with a topic outside their normal area’. 

They had a selfie competition. Not just take a selfie, add a hashtag and post to twitter, that would be too simple. Indians love social media, something made clear even in the hotel, where the laundry list in the rooms said, ‘look as good as you do in social media’.  Each delegate had two names on the back of their pass telling them which two random speakers they had to get a selfie with, and post in order to get their conference T shirt. Judging by the sea of maroon in the group photos, most succeeded. There were prizes so the most tweets and we are talking some people having multiple hundreds over the 2 days.

This was also the 10thAnniversary of Sangam, and the hotel staff created a beautiful cake for the last session.

As well as my sessions, I took part in both a WIT and ACE session and an expert panel.

WIT Session leaders
I think the % of women at Sangam was higher than in UKOUG but the figures they showed were still disappointing for their industry, but there is improvement. 

There are opportunities, but they feel they have to fight harder to be given them. One girl spoke about how she took certifications in Linux, the database and several other specialisations, and yet still took time to achieve a role using them. There was also a big problem around shift work. I have often heard that women are asked questions they feel their male colleagues wouldn’t be asked, like ‘is travel a problem?’, ‘are you ok to work weekends?’ etc but here it was a level higher.

Many companies outsource their IT to India and that means there is a very big need for shift workers. One DBA, Aishwarya Kala, who works for Pythian, told us of one interview (not her current job), where she was asked if she was happy with night shifts. She said she was and then was told ‘I don’t want to hear any complaints that it is dangerous, that you need a taxi to come to work’. India currently has a problem with violence against women and yet the prospective employer saw this as another reason why to avoid female workers rather than help them.

But there are signs of hope. They shared a video of M.O.M, a super science initiative 4 years ago where India sent a probe to Mars and many of the team were women. This gave women respect, and a voice and this picture of them became a national source of pride.

At the ACE session, Sai asked each of us to share what the program meant to us personally. I shared my thoughts on how we must encourage the local experts in the events we participate in, to be part of the program. There was a roomful of people who raised their hands when asked if they had ambitions to be part of the program. Each ACE member agreed that they should share their knowledge for the benefit of themselves as much as their audience. To educate themselves, to improve their skills and their employment opportunities. If that results in others learning, then ACE membership will come naturally. Sai, himself an ACE Director, has ambitions for India to have the highest number of ACE program members, in line with Indian’s influence in IT.

just some of the team

I loved this conference, I want to go again, and I wish Sai and his team, every success with their plans.

And my leaving thoughts to the conference are in this video recorded at the time.

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