in Culture, Programming

a quick reflection upon DemoCampToronto7

This evening I went to DemoCampToronto #7, a project of BarCamp Toronto. As BarCamp’s website says,

BarCamp is an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos, and interaction from attendees.

DemoCamp consists of a set of presentations totally no more than 15 minutes apiece (including questions) on up-and-coming software projects. It’s basically the same as a WiP session at any USENIX conference.

I don’t have enough time to summarize all of the presentations, but I’m sure others will (and I’ll try to link to some of the better summaries here). I just wanted to step back a moment and reflect on the fact that a room full of 150 passionate, articulate coders — in Toronto, no less — makes me think that we’re having a renaissance in the software development and IT industry. These are not coders who are just buzzword and Web 2.0-compliant; I sense that these folks are making real productive use of technologies like Ruby on Rails, AJAX, DHTML, Flash, and all the other gadgets that are revolutionizing the Internet by providing a true challenge to the classic thick application.

This renaissance is borne out by the increasing proliferation of jobs. Tucows just held a job fair, after which they hired a number of individuals fresh out of Computer Science at U of T (I know because two of them were sitting at my table). Exciting companies like Nurun and Critical Mass are hiring and expanding. I’ve personally been courted by one or two companies, unsolicited. Contrast this with the state of affairs five years ago, which is when I graduated from U of T. Jobs were scarce and I was lucky to land a position programming PHP for a firm that hadn’t blown its money in the dot-com crash.

It seems to be a great time to be in IT. The buzz is in the air again, and I have but one word of warning for many of the IT firms that have just barely stayed afloat for the last few years: You’d better do something to make sure you hang onto your technical staff — i.e. give them interesting, challenging work, and respect their talents — or you will lose them to other companies that are willing to make those tools available.