On a typically mild Thursday evening in May 2015, data enthusiasts gathered in Glasgow for the first Scotland Data Science & Technology Meetup. Forty members decided to take a chance and meet like-minded individuals in 29 Studios on Miller St., the first of many, many venues that would play host to a wide range of talks, presentations, panels, debates, and networking right across Scotland all revolving around a common interest in data.
The meetup has a number of purposes; to hear great speakers share their knowledge and experience, to meet like-minded individuals, to get some experience presenting, but its core function is to create a community among data professionals and enthusiasts alike. When I first started attending the meetups myself, the first thing that struck me was everyone’s willingness to say hello and start up a conversation immediately. There was no awkward standing around, everyone was warm and welcoming. No matter who you were, we all shared at least one similar interest; a passion for data. The complimentary pizza and beer helped of course…
Fast forward a mere three and a half years and things have changed somewhat. The Meetup group has exceeded 4,000 members with regular meetups in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness. From humble beginnings, it has spawned a movement of people passionate about what they do, and the best thing is their willingness to share their experiences with everyone else. This meetup is only as strong as its members. Without them there would be no point to organising the events. We now have regular events that not only sell out, but also operate off a waiting list. We vary the topic every month and cover as many bases as possible given the depth to data science nowadays. Previous speaking topic have ranged from ethics, machine learning, AI, medtech, fintech, data viz, data architecture, data transformation and IoT.
To showcase the magnitude of this achievement, if we look to meetups in New York, London, Berlin, and other tech hubs we see a startling trend – they all have much less members than us! Of course, yes, this meetup is for an entire country, and yes this is a somewhat fair argument despite Scotland having a smaller population than some of these cities, however, isn’t it a most remarkable achievement for a niche community like this to be so successful over such a short period? This is testament to the data science community in Scotland. Across the world there are very few so well interconnected with so many opportunities to meet others from the same industry with events throughout the year.
We have been quite excited about reaching 4,000 members and feel incredibly motivated to push this to 5,000 by the end of the year. Is this possible? Who knows, but we have had 100 new members join in January alone. With data and AI now household names we anticipate plenty of new members coming every month to hear from the current members about what’s happening in the space. We are seeing people move to Scotland from all over to world to work in data here. The main difference between working in data in Scotland and in bigger cities is the tight knit community here, which is funny given how spread out the community is! Data is on the tip of everyone’s lips at the minute, and there is no sign of it dissipating. It’s an exciting time to be involved in this sector. Let’s continue our efforts to make Scotland the data capital of the world.
I want to say join us at our next meetup, but unfortunately it is full up, with an additional 20 people on the waitlist… So instead check out what’s coming for the rest of the year, join if you haven’t already, set up a notification alert for your preferred city or cities and be sure to RSVP early to ensure you have a seat!
And finally, none of this would be possible of the relentless passion, energy and support from Michael, Rob, and the MBN Solutions team, Ian from CodeTheCity, and the helping hand of The Data Lab wherever we can! Thanks to everyone who’s been a part so far. Here’s to the next 4,000 members!