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If Martin Snyder’s 20 years in the Philly tech meetup community taught him anything, it’s that certain essentials will define an event’s success, namely food and drink. Hence, Synder’s invention of the pizza equation.
It’s simple: You plug the number of expected attendees into this mathematical equation, and the result tells you how many pies to buy.
Of course, there are other factors that are crucial for a successful tech meetup, such as an interesting topic, engaged audience and organizers, said Snyder, the VP of engineering at Pinnacle 21.
Outside of his role at Pinnacle 21, Snyder is involved with the Northeast Scala Symposium, the Philly Area Scala Enthusiasts, Philly Java Users’ Group (JUG), the annual Philly Emerging Technologies for the Enterprise (ETE) conference and the meetup group Philly Lambda. He is among several Pinnacle 21 employees involved as a speaker and organizer in professional development orgs and conferences.
Pinnacle 21, acquired by international biosimulation company Certara in October 2021, is based in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania and supplies its SaaS platform to the FDA, Japan’s PMDA, and pharmaceutical and biotech firms to assist them with clinical trial data. According to Snyder, Pinnacle 21 encourages its employees’ participation in these groups and invites them to host meetup events at its office at no cost.
“About 10 to 15 years ago, it was a very deliberate activity of mine to do a lot in this space,” said Snyder, who was recently named to Technical.ly’s 2022 RealLIST Engineers. “Now, I’m trying to encourage first-time organizers to get involved in the groups that I’m associated with and hand the reins over to them and let them put their personal touch on it.”
At Snyder’s behest about 10 years ago, Greg Taylor, a software engineering manager at Pinnacle 21, joined Philly JUG. He became an organizer in 2019 and will be presenting on the Play Framework that Pinnacle 21 uses and its advantages as an alternative to the Spring framework on Oct. 12.
Taylor jumped into the Philly tech meetup space as a fresh Villanova University grad with a computer engineering degree. He said he was interested in the real-life application of the technology he’d studied at school.
“You learn some stuff in college,” Taylor said. “But you don’t learn how a lot of stuff is being used. … It helps you have a finger on the pulse of what’s going on even outside of your work or professional capacity.”
Gary Sieling, a principal software engineer at Pinnacle 21, has also been involved in the Philly tech meetup space for several years. He’s spoken at local meetups, including a presentation for Philly Lambda on the R programming language in September. He is also an organizer of the annual Philly ETE conference, one of the largest gatherings of developers in the mid-Atlantic.
Sieling said presenting at meetup groups helped him develop non-technical skills like writing and public speaking, which has been “the best thing for his career” among other benefits.
“On a personal level, there’s a sort of a social component to making sure that there are women speakers and some diverse representation in the field,” Sieling said. “I think that’s compelling to be creating environments that are kind of inclusive of everybody.”
That network is also helpful for folks looking for a job as well as for those hiring. He may find candidates for an open position or, if he interviews someone who isn’t a fit for Pinnacle 21, he can pass their information along to one of his contacts from the Philly tech meet-up network.
Erin Erginer, director of product at Pinnacle 21, has a professional development network that extends further than the Philadelphia region. She is a member of national and global organizations that address industry-wide obstacles facing professionals who manage global health data, such as the Society of Clinical Data Management. Erginer presented at the organization’s conference in September about changing trends in clinical trial data collection.
At Pinnacle 21, Erginer works as an intermediary between the people in charge of the clinical work and the company’s engineers tasked with creating solutions to help manage and process clinical trial data.
“Everything is very collaborative. It’s all discussions, and we all work together continually with the engineering program to make sure that the decisions we’re making make sense from everyone’s perspective. That’s been very refreshing compared to some of the places I’ve seen before,” said Erginer, who previously worked on the data side of pharmaceutical companies for 10 years.
Much of the conversations at Pinnacle 21 are driven by the employees’ inherent curiosity, Snyder said — which also drives them to participate in professional development activities.
“Curiosity is one of the key personal attributes of our Pinnacle 21 team,” the VP said. “It translates directly to the meet-up space because you come into contact with a lot of different people and expose yourself to other mindsets, other experiences, other technology experiences, as well as personal experiences. It’s invaluable to the company that we have so many curious and engaged people here.”
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