Technology: Helping to Connect. Connecting to Help.

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He’s our resident Technology Evangelist, Editor in Chief of Stylight’s Tech Blog, prime organizer of the out-of-hours (that’s a hell of a lot of) meetups hosted here at Stylight but, amidst the workload, somehow he still finds quality time to spend with his beloved 3 year old daughter.

Johann Romefort Engineering Evangelist Stylight

Before joining our team, Johann spent 7 years living and working in San Francisco where he co-founded and was CTO at Seesmic, acquired by Hootsuite in 2012. Later Johann became a trusted advisor for a few startups, helping them get off the ground, whilst working on a number of other ventures such as Rainbow – an app store for the cloud.

Sound interesting? Well, today Johann is responsible for spreading the word about our tech team at Stylight, so, to find out more about his daily routine, what Hack’n’Help really is and just how technology is helping refugees during this challenging time, read our interview…

 

Helping to connect: what’s a ‘Technology  Evangelist’?

Johann, the role of ‘Technology  Evangelist’ is quite an avant-garde position and we’d like to get better acquainted with it. If you had to describe your work in just 3 words, what would they be? Can you also briefly describe what you do here at Stylight?

I would choose network, care and share. This is actually a funny question because a lot of people ask me that. I say: “I’m a Technology Evangelist” and people say: “What is that?”. Basically what I do is to spread the word about what we do in terms of technology at Stylight. My goal is trying to make sure that the company is part of the local tech ecosystem and really contributes to it. At Stylight we believe that tech companies can only benefit from significantly contributing to the local technology scene. We recognise that the importance of building and nurturing our network is key to our success. As such we ‘pay it forward’ to the whole community, by providing a hub of knowledge, education and personal growth.

What exactly are the meetups that you organise and what is it you want to achieve with them?

A meetup simply means gathering people to discuss a given subject. It doesn’t have to necessarily be technology-related. In general you have a few talks, meet cool people and learn new things. Here at Stylight we host on average 2 meetups per week. Amongst the meetups we organise ourselves are an Engineering Diversity Meetup, Lego Serious play with our Agile Coach, and more recently even a meetup about the technology behind Bitcoin.

Connecting to help: hacking the refugees’ crisis

One of the latest events you organized was a Hack’n’Help Hackathon, where attendees worked together to find solutions to help refugee associations in Munich. How did you get involved with the refugees’ topic?

For the refugee Hackathon, the idea came up when we worked with a few students from TUM on another project. They mentioned that they were thinking about doing something with refugees and asked: “Are you interested?” and, naturally, we said “Yes”. Then we organized a first informal meeting with a few organizations to figure out what the next step should be. By talking to them, we discovered that they have a lot of challenges in common and we have all the conditions to respond to the crisis doing what we do best: devising tech solutions with resources that the charities can actually use. After this, we held the first meetup on 19th November, where the associations pitched their problems in terms of technology and what they lack. The Hackathon that was hosted by Stylight, in partnership with Munich ACM, on 28th November had the goal to build solutions for these problems.

 

Hack'n'help Stylight meeting

Hack’n’Help meetup at the Stylight office in Munich

What are the biggest challenges these associations are currently facing and how do you address them in the hackathon?

First of all, I just want to mention how big the event was and how it exceeded expectations. We had 10 organizations from Refugees Online e.V, Refugees on Rails and Caritas München pitching their problems and more than 100 participants willing to solve them. The representatives of these associations explained that their basic need was for more people to build technology, because they don’t have the resources to fund a full team of engineers to work for them. Also, there’s a lack of communication between the citizens that want to help but don’t know how to, as well as the associations that need helpers, but don’t know where to find them. That’s why we created Hack’n’Help. We had to fill this lack of communication and create the best connection between these two realities.

Can you give just one example of a cool project that was presented during the final demo?

One cool example I can give is the ‘car sharing app’ that was presented. The WLCM Ride wants to help refugees that need to go from one place to another in Munich but don’t have any idea how to get there. As a large group of the refugees own a smartphone, they’re able to communicate, install applications and benefit from the technology once they arrive in a new country. For the moment, the engineers are working on the prototype for the WLCM Ride and it looks really promising! WLCM Ride has been open-sourced by its author right after the hackathon so everyone can now contribute to the project.  

What’s the next step for Hack’n’Help?

A challenge that I’ve seen at a lot of hackathons, as a participant, mentor and sometimes judge, is that projects rarely get a chance of survival after the event. Most of the time there’s no follow up on the hackathon and the code just ends up on Github, most of the time, unfinished, unused and unmaintained. In the case of the Hack’n’Help, we had a lot of motivated people that were willing to give their time and energy to build solutions that refugees need.  That’s why our idea is to have the Hack’n’Help as regular event, and people can really finish what they began. More updates in the following weeks.

 

Stylight: a top organizer of
meetups in Munich

Why is so important for Stylight to be one of the biggest meeting points for tech events in Munich?

Because networking and sharing knowledge is super important for us. We want Stylight to become a meeting point where people can share ideas and learn new things. And not just Stylight employees, but also our external guests. You might be wondering how Stylight benefits from that? That’s the best way to build our network, learn from brilliant people and share what we’ve learned as well.

Johann Romefort Engineering Evangelist Stylight

 

You recently relaunched the Stylight Tech Blog. What are your plans for this platform and why should the local engineering scene subscribe to it?

On the Stylight Tech Blog people really get to know what we do, which events we are organizing and our point of view about the latest tech trends. I’d call it an online meeting point. For example, over the next 2 weeks we have 8 meetups. It’s safe to say that we’re one of the biggest organizers in Munich.

To finish, besides busily spreading the word about the tech team here at Stylight, and organizing so many great events, just what is it that you do in your free time?

I really love to play with Lego with my daughter, and I also brew Kumbucha–a fermented tea for those of you who didn’t know! It’s very good for the immune system and general health, oh and I bake bread. Of course!

If you’d like to know more about Johann’s work, check out his video from the Stylight Suits You series!

 

|By Thalita Milan|

 

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