Community: a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.
It may not be fair for me to say that Indianapolis was my first community experience. It might be more reasonable to say that Indy gave me the first sense of a truly tangible community, one whose benefits could be felt on a daily basis. For those that didn’t grow up in small town America, it can sometimes be eye-opening experience to finally be a part of one. I wouldn’t describe my hometown of Fort Wayne as a bustling metropolis, but it was large enough that a sense of community was easy to lose. Quite frankly, I didn’t care what was happening on the other side of Fort Wayne. I thoroughly expected this experience to be replicated in Indianapolis. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that my experience would be quite the opposite.
It was very easy to get plugged into Indianapolis and start feeling a sense of community. I was very fortunate to participate in the Xtern program. Xtern is a talent initiative led by TechPoint, a non-profit tasked to grow the tech ecosystem in Indiana. Xtern is designed to increase the amount of interest students from Indiana schools have for staying (living/working) in Indiana. In short, its goal is to offer the best technology internships and prevent the “brain drain” of computer-related students to cities like San Francisco and Seattle.
This meant that I got to live with fifty tech interns on the IUPUI campus, working at twelve companies around the city. As a proud Boilermaker, I was very happy to meet other Purdue students working in Indy this summer, and like any good Purdue student, I helped honor any rivalry that exists between two select schools in Indiana. That being said, Xtern helped break down some of those rivalries and gave us all an opportunity to make friends from universities around Indiana, Illinois, and even Texas and California.
The activities I participated in while in Indy varied and were all, in general, very positive, I participated in two hack-a-thons, second of which was at the Hinge Bureau. The Bureau is a coworking location in Indy that allows individuals to rent the space as personal offices without the need to lease an office… great for start ups. During the 2nd hack-a-thon, I had the opportunity to meet Grant Glas, founder of App Press. It was really exciting to see him spend most of the weekend with us at The Bureau, helping us work through some of our issues. He offered some unique insights that I think everyone took to heart.
Grant helped make that sense of community tangible. He gave up a good part of his weekend. But it wasn’t just Grant, five other judges joined us from companies around the city including Angie’s List, Apparatus, Interactive Intelligence, Lesson.ly, and TechPoint. The breadth of support that can be felt from individuals around the entire city is almost unbelievable.
I’ve come to learn that the reason the tech community here is so supportive is because they’ve all had to overcome struggles together. Since Indianapolis is still maturing when it comes to being a center for technology, it doesn’t have the same amount of resources as Silicon Valley or Seattle. This means that the resources that are here, are shared generously. We all help solve each others problems.
The Mira Awards are a good showcase of this collaboration. Most of those attending have worked with employees from many of the companies from around Indiana at least one time in their career. The Mira Awards was such an awesome experience because it truly was just a party to celebrate each others’ success. I would be surprised to find out if many other states or cities have similar celebrations.
The community is benefitted by the numerous things to do in Indy. I spent last summer in San Antonio, a truly massive city, and I had more fun here in Indy. While in Indy, I saw The Fray, for $20 I might add, and saw a hilarious stage play. I explored downtown through the use of the Cultural Trail, a walking and biking path webbed through all of downtown, and the Pacers Bikeshare program. I ate wonderful food on Mass Ave, in Broad Ripple and in Fountain Square and all along the way, I met friendly, neighborly people.
There are many people in Indy trying extraordinarily hard to make everyone’s experience great. During the World Cup, Indy hosted a party on Mass Ave with three massive displays and vendors galore. The thing that impressed me the most was learning that this event was only planned a week in advance. I know how much time goes into event planning and the stress of planning something months in advance. The fact that the event committee was able to get all of the shops on Mass Ave ready and willing in a week is crazy! Personally, I did not attend the event but I knew of many coworkers and fellow Xterns who joined the party and loved the atmosphere.
For those who are looking to escape the city, there are many options around Indiana that are within an hour or two. What is a summer internship without a weekend retreat to disconnect from all the technology? The Xtern retreat took place at Bradford Woods, an Indiana University property thirty minutes southwest of Indy. It was a great place to remove ourselves from the world with some swimming, campfires, and hiking. I think many of the Xterns took on a new appreciation for their smartphones.
I am very happy to say that I’ve fallen in love with Indianapolis. I have a few more years before I need to worry about finding a place to live and work. Fortunately, I’ve already found my future home. I look forward to being part of the Indianapolis technology community and watching it blossom into a thriving hub of technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship.