By DJ Mcaney
In Tuesday’s ‘Today In…’ we previewed the Stamford Innovation Center’s Hacker Night, with little else known about the event other than it was occurring. Stamford Patch stopped in to chat with Alex Virvo, the volunteer behind the gathering who organizes the group with his son, Ryan.
For starters, laypersons can attach negative connotations to the word “hacker,” but what goes on Tuesdays at the Innovation Center are far from seedy characters looking to compromise your personal information.
“It’s a little bit of a misnomer,” Virvo laughed. “No one is coming here to figure out how to do anything illegally. It’s a place where technologists come to co-mingle with marketers and find ways to help each other achieve their own personal goals.”
Virvo ran an advertising firm for two decades, operating out of the space above Colony Grill for about a decade, before getting out of the business and becoming an inventor. Virvo and his son then got into business together and realized they needed more experience in a technological arena. That’s when Virvo stumble upon the Stamford Innovation Center looking for a volunteer to kickstart a gathering of the business-savvy and technologically-minded.
Since January, every Tuesday evening at around 5 p.m., a community just shy of 50 people gathers to grow stronger through a mutual appreciation for technology. Virvo said many of the same faces return to the group week after week and he’s witnessed friendships and partnerships blossom through the strength of the growing little community.
It’s more of a business environment than expected, and people bring personal projects and problems with them. It’s a networking event, and in the group, members find ways to help one another and offer the exchange of skills to overcome obstacles they face.
“The overarching theme is helping someone else,” Virvo said. “If I go to hacker night, I might see a way I can help someone out with a problem. While I’m doing that, there’s someone looking at ways they can help me. We come because we are curious and like to see what others are working on.”
Things like helping a technologist advertise his skill set, or a marketer finding a coder who can help find a work-around for an app, or a freelancer with experience in PHP freelancing for a business in need dominate the exchange. Seasoned business professionals intermingle with younger professionals anxious to find a project to sink their teeth into, all the while surrounded by others who may have no experience in either group, Virvo said. Sometimes, attendees are as young as 14 years old.
“It’s a mixed bag and you end up with a melting pot full of ideas,” he said. “There’s an energy in the room that’s really kind of cool. Everybody’s feeling good and helping someone else work towards some solution of insight. It’s a real positive experience.”
Virvo said the skillsets present are the most unique part of the group, as he could rarely find a place where technologists and those with business-minded interests were meeting to discuss the growth of business through technology or vice-versa. And he said there’s no better place to learn and grow—at any age.
“Technologists would go to technology meetings and marketers would attend marketing meetings,” he said. “Give a young kid a good support network and the sky’s the limit. It’s free to all, you’s got to start somewhere so come on in. We’re very welcoming. Come with curiosity and questions and you’re ultimately going to create a result.”