In March 2013, Vitaliy Zasadnyy and Ostap Andrusiv were taking an early morning train from Kyiv. They were full of emotions and positive energy after a hackathon they had just attended. Then and there, they decided to deliver even better experiences to their local dev community by creating GDG Lviv.
Why did you want to start your own community?
Vitaliy: I was a member of a student government and had experience with organizing events. I knew how impactful it was for people to meet and interact together. Ostap and I wanted to take it to another level and organize really cool events. My brother Oleh joined us shortly after as a designer. He drew our first logo.
Ostap: Yes, that’s right. The first year was all about experimenting what works and what doesn't. We did 12 events per year: hackathons, presentations, and meetups. We relied on feedback from participants mostly on social media, and built on that. We also have this “Do Not Do This Again” document that, to this day, we update with every event we do. It was, and still is, a big help for us. For big events like DevFest, we collect more structured feedback, of course.
After four years, what drives you to keep going?
Vitaliy: I still want to organize the best possible events, and put Ukraine on the global IT map.
Oleh: I love to see people come to an event and work on projects together. I'm a big advocate of open source and I get excited when open source projects come to life.
Vasylyna: Yes, the networking and sharing of knowledge is the most important for me. I remember sitting with a group of friends in a café and being impressed by the quality of DevFest Ukraine. Less than a year after, I'm already part of the organizers team. It’s so exciting!
Diana: It amazes me how creative the Ukrainian GDGs are. When you are putting a major event together, it’s important to invite other people to participate and help you with organization and program. We don't even have to ask them to do something. They come, offer their help, and deliver. Anyone can participate and be a part of the process.
What achievements are you most proud of?
Vitaliy: Definitely our organizers team. I want to have my own company one day and I'm ready to build my business with them!
Oleh: For me personally, it’s the positive feedback that I hear on my designs. Dan Franc was wearing a T-shirt that I designed once and the manager of the Google swag store at Googleplex approached him and was interested in selling the T-shirt in the store! :)
Vasylyna: I'm most proud of our speakers. Some of them really took off and became Google Developers Experts, like Dmytro Danylyk.
It seems that you have found the right ingredients to make a successful community. What is the recipe?
Oleh: It is absolutely crucial to have the right mix of people you can rely on on the team. Good communication, followed by events on topics that are relevant to your community, and inviting speakers that are experts on what they do. Mix it with a friendly and inclusive atmosphere and you have the secret sauce.
Ostap: Besides what Oleh already mentioned, you have to also be able to grow your core team and delegate as you grow. Otherwise, the workload is just too much and it can hardly be sustained. We’re lucky, and it has been quite a smooth process for us. We already built a brand, and when we post on social media that we’re looking for new team members, people approach us themselves.
Vasylyna: Yeah, and also learn from others and take the inspiration from elsewhere into your own events.
Vitaliy: You have to be able to motivate yourself, stay engaged. Always come back to the answer to “Why am I doing this?”
Actually, I just wanted to ask about this. What challenges, if any, do you face?
Vitaliy: I'm happy to say, that organizing local events is becoming easier and easier – mainly thanks to our partners that support us. However, organizing a DevFest is a completely different story. We basically start to plan the upcoming DevFest right after the previous one is finished, as it takes a year to get everything ready. We deal with the typical challenges around how to feed 700 people in an hour break, or how to make sure there is enough coffee, and the wi-fi doesn’t crash. Some challenges are region specific. It’s sometimes complicated to convince speakers to travel as the media coverage of Ukraine has not always been positive. But these are all things that we learned and are learning to deal with.
Ostap: Also, during major events as an organizer, you get no sleep before, during, or after the event. :) And your job suffers, or you actually have to take time off to make it happen. But it is all worth it!
What are the next steps for GDG Lviv?
Vitaliy: We’re already looking forward to the DevFest 2017 on October 13th and 14th in Lviv, aiming to host almost 1,000 developers, speakers, and guests. We’re staying alert for opportunities for future growth, especially in the content quality.
Vasylyna: We also want to publish a book on best practices when organizing events for developer communities. Everything is based on our experience and what we've learned.