Andreas von Studnitz, Founder and (co-)organizer, looks back to 30 editions of the Aachen Magento Meetup.
On October 9th 2017, the 30th Magento Meetup took place in Aachen, a city of about 300,000 inhabitants in western Germany. Many details have changed since 2010, when I organized the first meetup together with Roman Zenner: the organizational team has changed a few times, we adjusted the concept and tried out a lot. Not everything of that was successful, but we have an active group of regulars and new guests enjoy attending the meetup.
The most important milestones have been:
In the early years of Magento, the Magento community in Germany was a small group of people which met at different events – mostly at the Meet Magento, but also at Hackathons and other occasions. This is how I first met Roman Zenner, who was already well known at that time, mainly because he had written a Magento developer book together with Vinai Kopp. We are both from Aachen, but had only seen each other far away from home in other cities. Soon we agreed to meet in Aachen, and we thought: why shouldn’t we invite more people to join us? At that time, the first Magento meetups came into existance in Germany, and thus we decided to host our own meetup.
The initial effort was quite low:
- Agree on a date
- Make a reservation for 10 to 15 people in a restaurant or pub
- Create an event on XING (the German LinkedIn)
- Invite local people who are into Magento via XING, LinkedIn or other channels.
For a long time, our concept was based on the idea of bringing together people who are interested in Magento which leads to an exchange of ideas and experiences. Thus, we chose a restaurant each time where we could have a nice evening with talking, some cold drinks and perhaps snacks. Roman stopped attending the meetups after some time as his interests were moving away from Magento.
Starting with the 6th edition which took place in the beginning of 2012, we regularily had some small talks and presentation. At first, it was mainly the organizers (Nikolai Krambrock joined the organizational team in 2012), later more attendees stepped in. The topics covered case studies and reviews of conference visits (i.e. from Magento Imagine in Las Vegas) as well as more complex technical topics like debugging, security or deployment. Most of the time it wasn’t a problem to find speakers and interesting talks at all – at least we always found some volunteers when we asked them directly. For some time now we also have external speakers from all over Germany every now and then.
The 10th meetup breaks records at the jubilee
With more than 20 participants, the 10th meetup in our old office was a very special edition. Together with the meetups in Karlsruhe and Wiesbaden (DE), which took place at the same time, we celebrated the 100th Magento meetup in the German language area. In addition, it was the 12/12/12 to make the jubilee perfect. We broadcasted the presentations between the three locations.
The Christmas market meetups
Already since December 2013 we have Christmas editions of our Aachen Magento Meetup which take place at the Aachen Christmas market – one of the most beautiful and famous Christmas markets in Europe. We don’t do presentations then, but have a nice evening with some mulled wine in the beautiful surrounding of the Aachen cathedral. As this concept proved very successful (we had about 30 attendees last year), we decided to use the interest to create a framework program around the evening on the christmas market*. It contains talks, discussions and a city tour. You can find details at www.integer-net.com/christmage/.
* Others might have called the evening at the christmas market the “framework program” – for us, it’s the central element.
Professionalization with Sonja
By the end of 2015, Sonja Riesterer joined me with the organizational tasks. As she had also co-organized the Hamburg Magento Meetup previously, it was natural that she did the same in Aachen. Nikolai was no longer involved in the organzation due to an extended stay abroad.
With all her experiences from Hamburg, Sonja also advanced the Aachen meetup. We have added a number of improvements since then. The meetup now takes place more regularily, about every two months, and in most cases in the office of integer_net. Because of that, we have the opportunity to offer a small snack for dinner. We also added the rule to have technical and non-technical meetups alternating in order to meet the needs of both groups in our general audience.
Cooperation with the Magento Meetup Cologne
Since July 2011, there is also a Magento Meetup in nearby Cologne. Founded and organized by Carmen Bremen, it is only about one driving hour away which leads to a regular exchange between the two meetups. Several guests are regular members of both meetups. Also we profit from some shared talks: if a presentation goes well in one location, it’s a strong contender for a slot at the other meetup, too. We try to alternate the meetups monthly in order to not have too much competition.
For me as a person and for us as a company, the Aachen Magento Meetup is an important means for exchanging experiences and for networking. For example, the meetup played an important role in the founding of integer_net and in the recruiting of new employees. Additionally, some contracts were closed only because of the meetup. Thus, the organization of a meetup is not only a nice hobby, but can have a lot of influence on your business, too.
The organization of a meetup is not difficult, the first steps are done quickly. If you want to have a long-running meetup, it is necessary to deal with talks, marketing and more professional preparation.
For me as an organizer and attendee of all 30 editions, every single event is a good experience which enriches me personally and professionally.
Author: Andreas von Studnitz
Andreas von Studnitz is a Magento developer and one of the Managing Directors at integer_net. His main areas of interest are backend development, Magento consulting and giving developer trainings. He is a Magento 2 Certified Professional Developer Plus and holds several other Magento certifications for both Magento 1 and Magento 2. Andreas was selected as a Magento Master in 2019 and 2020.