By Carl Gustaf-Harroch
This month saw the re-launch of Londroid – the Android community we started 14 years ago in the early days of Novoda – and it felt great to be back.
As we gathered in the Deliveroo offices on a Thursday evening and welcomed a mix of new faces and old friends, I reflected on why we started Londroid over a decade ago and why professional communities like this are vital for tech leaders.
Community naturally forms around technology
Back in 2008, new to business ownership and immersed in dev work every day, my main driving force was wanting to become a better engineer.
By nature, we engineers are exceptionally curious. We want to test limits, discover possibilities and solve problems. When any new technology launches, a community forms around it almost immediately.
When Android 1.0 launched that same year, my co-founder and I went looking for the London community… and we couldn’t find it. So, we reached out to our fellow developers and Londroid was born.
In the early days, we met in pubs, full of the enthusiasm, ideas and energy of early adopters. We started attracting new people who brought even more excitement and knowledge into our fledgling community.
As the technology grew, so did our meet-ups. Before long, we had the biggest Android meet-up in the world. We even helped kick-start communities from Bengaluru to Paris, sharing our knowledge, ideas, challenges and failures across a global network of Android developers and engineering leaders.
Over the years, Londroid grew to 5000+ members and was attracting some of the most talented individuals I’ve ever met – many participating in the changes within Android and its community within major tech companies – Google included. There were no recruiters, no ‘networking’ or sales conversations – it was all about the tech and the community.
Give and take: balancing business and community
Since Novoda began, we’ve wanted to be a business that gives back to our community – that’s why we started Londroid. It wasn’t a conscious business move, but it raised Novoda’s profile, and we soon started getting work from the connections we made.
As the Londroid community grew, it needed more of my time and attention and I couldn’t manage it on my own alongside growing Novoda. We wanted to keep the community going, we could see how important it was to our members – so we decided to hire a brilliant Marketing & Events Manager, Tally Harman, to give it the love and support it deserved.
With more resources behind it, Londroid became slick and professional. We were incredibly proud of how far we’d come, from a small, informal meet-up in a pub to a globally-recognised community with real influence – but Londroid’s continued growth also brought challenges to Novoda.
People started to think we were an events company rather than mobile product engineers, or they associated us exclusively with Android development when that was just a part of what we did. When you’re growing a business, it’s less than ideal when people are confused about what you offer.
Secondly, due to increasing work commitments, I stopped attending Londroid events and – following suit – so did the rest of the Novoda team. Eventually, we had no presence there, and it didn’t feel like the ‘by developers, for developers’ meet-up it used to be.
And then, 2020 happened and, along with every other community event around the world, we had to hit the pause button.
Community needs purpose, energy and excitement
Like many of our fellow digital businesses, we’ve undergone a complete transformation over the last two years. As we prepared to rebrand and relaunch Novoda, we started to think about Londroid’s revival, and how we could use our renewed sense of purpose, energy and excitement to give back to the engineering community.
We started to reach out and reconnect with our members and ask them whether Londroid was still wanted and needed – and the response was an overwhelming “Yes please!” In these conversations with our community, I realised how vital it is that we hold spaces like this to meet and collaborate, and how much I’ve missed being part of something bigger.
Now that so many of us are remote-working, it’s all too easy to become insular and disconnected, sometimes without realising it. As I started reaching out to Londroid members and partners, it was like travelling back in time to those early days. Not only was I feeling purposeful, energised and driven by Novoda’s rebrand, I felt all the passion and ambition for Londroid coming back too.
I couldn’t wait to get into that room with my industry colleagues, reveal our new branding, share how much I believe in Novoda’s new direction, and tell everyone how proud I am of what our business stands for. I was ready and eager to learn new things, share challenges, explore solutions and look towards the future. And that’s what community is all about.
Knowledge is meant to be shared, not locked away
No matter what industry we’re in, as engineers and business leaders, we share the same challenges. The more insight we gather, the more brains we get thinking about solutions and the more stories we share, the more progress can make. And everybody wins.
In the mobile engineering community, we have a mind-blowing amount of collective knowledge, thousands of unique perspectives and even more innovative ideas.
Communities like Londroid give us the chance to share – and gain – vital knowledge and insight that could transform our businesses and those of our clients. They provide safe, objective spaces for people to ask questions and explore solutions.
When we’re part of a community that allows for cross-industry collaboration, we broaden our perspectives In doing so, we achieve the very thing that drove me to start this journey: we become better engineers.