Camp IO: Centric’s Technology Conference Inspires Innovation

Centric’s Technology Conference Opens the Door for New Ideas, Innovation, and the Development of Advanced Client Solutions

When I began at Centric almost four years ago, I heard of this “exclusive” annual event. They said it was for technical folks. As a fresh college graduate firmly planted on the functional or business side of our management and technology consulting firm, I immediately thought: “This event isn’t for me.”

Another year passed, and so did the next Camp IO: the company’s yearly, much-anticipated technology event at the Summer Meeting. I began to hear bits and pieces of some of the presentations: A remotely controlled paintball gun. A guitar amp. A fun internal directory application for smartphones.

That all sounded so interesting! Not at all like the mounds of code that I expected them to be reading through at these events. Or whatever it is that developers do when they get together.

That’s when I learned Camp IO was more than just a daylong conference for technology-minded people to get together and show off what they can do without the constraints of client requirements and platforms. It was an opportunity to learn from peers about their latest, exciting projects and ideas in a “TED Talk” format.

Preparing for Centric’s Camp IO Technology Conference

FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) set in, and I decided that I wanted to attend the following year. But I knew I needed to position myself so I had a reason to be there. So, I joined a development team that planned to present.

That was the summer of 2015. Our team met on a weekly basis. Our idea: a resume formatting tool. We decided on the proof of concept. We white-boarded wireframes and a technical schema… And then… Just when I thought my work as a Business Analyst was complete, they made me code.

Technology Conference

Erynn Learns to Code at 2015 Camp IO

As someone who studied maps and weather in college, this was no small task. All I had to do was come up with a hierarchy that would include the characteristics of a resume. But, just coming up with succinct naming conventions was difficult enough, and now I had to put them into nested sets of squiggly brackets in just the right way… Let’s just say there was lots of learning from mistakes.

Well, I did it, and I can’t tell you the last time I beamed with pride as much as the first time I committed code to GitHub. I resolved in that moment that this would not be my last time, and as luck would have it, they needed help during the annual Centric Hackathon on UI/UX type work. That only hooked me even more.

This experience gave me a new lens for my BA work back at the client. It gave me new perspectives and challenges to consider when I was writing requirements or asking product owners how they wanted to solve certain issues. Things I hadn’t even thought of as challenges – or solutions – were now clear to me. All to the benefit of my clients. I have you to thank, Camp IO.

Dive Deeper with Camp IO

Technology ConferencePerhaps the best way to describe Camp IO: It’s like Christmas for Centric’s developers, IT strategists, and tech enthusiasts. But it’s also a treat for Centric’s lifelong learners. Like me. There’s a lot of anticipation leading up to the event.

This year’s Camp IO, which took place in Cincinnati on Thursday, August 18, was no different. And this time, I got to play a role in organizing it.

To give you a glimpse, the 2016 Camp IO included presentations on:

  • Agile Sailing
  • SaveFace App
  • SmartRide App
  • Neural Networks

And much more… If that doesn’t get you thinking, I don’t know what will.

Not only is the education and networking aspect of Camp IO important, but the work leading up to the presentations is part of the Centric way. It’s all built on the concept that we perform best when we’re set free to work on our passions. Without the constraints of legacy systems, project structures, stakeholders, or circumstances that often surround our client work, employees are given a chance to work freely with peers to solve problems in the most innovative ways.

Employees and consultants who want to speak at the event can do so. Here’s the only requirement: “Go learn something and come back to share it.” Really, it’s that simple. The emphasis is always on one thing: Innovation.

How Does Camp IO Work?

Camp IO started as an intensive, deep-dive technology conference attended by approximately 20 employees. This was six years ago. It has grown to more than seven times that size in 2016. While most of the talks are still highly technical, some of the best speakers blend this element of technical depth with real-life applications, non-functional requirements issues (this is just a fancy way of saying the X Factor you might encounter in the environment – such as kids, pets, waiting for the robot you ordered two years ago to arrive, etc.), and of course, humor.

Months prior to our annual summer meeting, a general call goes out to the company for interested presenters to respond with their ideas. Individuals or small groups – sometimes two, three, four, or five – answer the call. Then, they spend the summer working on their project. Stumbling, failing and succeeding. All those experiences are wrapped up into a 15-minute presentation. Our goal is to allow as many people to present in enough depth for the audience to get a meaningful glimpse into their project.

What sounds like a one-day crash course is actually more than that. We say this all the time during Camp IO and Hackathons: These events are so important to the health of our company. We’re so grateful that our leaders see the value in these events, too.

Not only does this experience allow presenters to spend the summer learning and preparing for the event, but it gives audience members a compressed view of the latest in technology. It keeps everyone fresh and energized. It keeps us on the lookout for emerging trends. It also opens the door for new ideas, innovation, and the development of advanced client solutions.

Several years ago, the next biggest thing seemed like it might be the cloud. That prediction came true. This year, the focus turned to AI and machine learning. What will next year bring? Guess you’ll have to check back with us here.