On the second Tuesday of every month, a group of Austin techies gathers to connect and converse. But even though food and drinks are served, this is not your typical networking event.
Rather, it’s the monthly meeting of Austin’s Society for Information Management — an exclusive networking opportunity for CTOs, CIOs, CISOs and other technology leaders in town.
“We are not a happy hour group,” said Robert King, a SIM Austin member. “We’re about content — and making it worthwhile.”
Part of preserving the quality of the content is ensuring that not just any techie off the streets can join.
While the meetings are open to guests, local and national memberships are reserved specifically for senior-level IT professionals, full-time university or college faculty members in the information services field, consultants at the partner or principal level, and non-IT executives who impact strategic IT direction.
Meetings are set up like forums, encouraging attendees to hold collaborative discussions on hot topics in today’s techosphere like bitcoin security, how to scale a company and more.
“We design the programs and events in a way that it’s not a lecture series,” said Vijay George, president of SIM Austin. “Prior to SIM, we held a CIO/CTO roundtable that has evolved to becoming part of the SIM national group. Our sessions are meant to be an open dialogue.”
King said these roundtables often get heated, with C-levels and Ph.D.s challenging viewpoints and white papers on everything from cryptocurrencies to quantum computing.
“These conversations always evolve though; they’re never antagonistic,” King added.
More importantly, the conversations often shift to the daily struggles shared among those in the field.
For instance, George said he once pitched the group on how to mature an organization — a pain point he and many others in the group had personally been dealing with.
“I wanted to learn from my peers' experiences, from the good to the bad, so that I could avoid repeating their ‘bads’ while leveraging their ‘goods’,” said George.
Austin’s chapter, now in its sixth year, has grown to about 80 active members. About 5,500 individuals participate in SIM's events across the country. In addition to meetings, the group sponsors several large events throughout the year, including a golf tournament, CIO of the Year awards, and community engagement functions promoting STEM education and tech careers.
“We try to make sure we are giving back and developing the next set of leaders and workforce that’s coming and influencing the technology side,” said George.