Meet the Meetups draws tech enthusiasts, industry leaders

Emilia Sherifova, vice president of architecture and engineering at Northwestern Mutual.

Meet the Meetups, a first-time event aimed at building connections within the region’s technology community, drew nearly 500 tech enthusiasts and industry leaders to Walker’s Point Monday.

Members from 29 of the region’s tech-related Meetup groups convened for the “all tech meetup” at Radio Milwaukee and an overflow facility at Workshop Architects.

Meetup groups serve as informal professional development groups in the tech community that focus on various topics, including software development programming languages to emerging technologies like data science, machine learning and cloud hosting. The event, spearheaded by Skills Pipeline and Startup Milwaukee president Matt Cordio, was the first time these groups, which represent thousands of developers and programmers in southeast Wisconsin, all convened in the same room.

Speakers represented large legacy companies, including Northwestern Mutual, Johnson Controls, and younger tech-focused companies like West Bend-based Delta Defense. They discussed the landscape of Milwaukee’s tech ecosystem, their businesses’ efforts to leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning, and their thoughts on Foxconn Technology Group’s entrance into the region.

Emilia Sherifova, the vice president of architecture and engineering at Northwestern Mutual who has led the development of a five-year technology plan for the company, said the giant Taiwanese technology manufacturer will heighten the competition for retaining tech talent.

“Foxconn is a successful technology company so adding them to the ecosystem will be beneficial,” she said. “In terms of building out the talent in the system, they better not dare steal my talent. I will go after them and I will go after their talent, that’s for sure.”

Ray Cole, chief technology officer of Delta Defense, said Foxconn will bring “momentum” to the tech ecosystem, but that he’s not concerned about losing talent to the company.

“I’m not worried about any of these guys leaving because we have an amazing culture,” he said. “I challenge the newbies coming into town, they better have a darn good culture or we’ll be taking their folks.”

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