Juha-Matti Santala
Community Builder. Dreamer. Adventurer.

Helsinki Dev Lunch

My first touchpoint to developer lunches was when I was working in San Francisco. At Chartio, we'd host Lunch & Learn sessions within our developer team and every session we'd eat lunch together and someone would introduce others into different topics.

When I moved back to Finland, and especially after returning to my hometown of Turku, I wanted to do something similar. I didn't have a team of developers so I figured I'd invite others for a once-a-month developer lunch. Before even the first lunch happened, the idea had evolved into Turku <3 Frontend developer community and the lunch idea was set aside.

Last summer, it resurfaced as I was thinking about new ways to find a more casual way to get people together. On our first Helsinki Dev Lunch, we had four people - all friends of mine from other communities - and throughout the fall, we'd grow into a regular monthly lunch group with 8-10 people each time.

So what is Helsinki Dev Lunch? It's a monthly casual gathering of people interested in software development. We welcome students, hobbyists, professionals and who ever is interested to join. There are no corporate sponsorships, no talks, no agenda. Just a bunch of great people who work in different places coming together like a team lunch.

While the first people in the community were my close friends, we quickly grew outside just my networks. People started to join from different places: meetups, social media, hearing from friends. It was much more than I hoped for. An opportunity for all participants to meet new people and to discuss - well, anything really.

We've talked about some developer stuff like Rust and PHP or differences between working in consultancy and product houses but also non-developer stuff like scifi, traveling, family life and pets. The stuff that you don't so often end up talking about when meeting new people in meetups.

From the very get-go, Helsinki Dev Lunch is built with lowest possible thresholds of participation. We welcome everyone, we don't have registration (just show up and say hi, also no bad feelings if you have to cancel) and you don't need to know anything in particular to be able to enjoy discussions.

How to do [your city] Dev Lunch?

Some people have wished that their city would also have a Dev Lunch concept. I'm gonna share you how it's done so you can start your own.

Choose a restaurant and date

My recommendation is selecting a lunch place that offers buffet for two reasons: 1) less waiting for getting food, especially if the group grows and 2) most often there's something for everyone.

Invite people

If you already work with developers, you can start with your own team and ask everyone to bring one friend. If you already have connections to people in different companies, invite them. If you don't know people but want to get started, look for local communities: are there any meetups in your area? Talk with the organizers and ask if you could share the invitation with people in that community. Or if there are Slack communities or Facebook groups for developers, invite people from those.

I started by posting about this to Twitter and LinkedIn. And for the first 6 months, that was all I did. Sometimes someone would come to talk to me in a meetup and ask if I'm "the Lunch Guy". This week I built a website.

Enjoy your food

Last step is to enjoy food, be welcoming to people joining, help them meet the people you already know and have fun.

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