The Geek Gathering: A 48-hour extravaganza of learning, networking, and good time

We promised and delivered - here’s the recap of Slavonia’s favorite tech gathering of the year: check out what we’ve learned while having fun mingling together.

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The "anti-conference" concept has become a synonym for good fun and socializing, all the while learning and exchanging knowledge with professionals willing to share their experiences.

As we already mentioned, last year was an experimental one for organizing The Geek Gathering (TGG), so we had to work harder and plan better for this year without any excuses. With this goal in mind, we fired up a strong work commitment for this year's TGG organization - and we've made this event better and bigger than the preceding one.

Day 0 and Day 1

This year, for the first time, we cooperated with the CroAI Association which organized a panel on the event’s Day 0. The panel's topic was the future of the city of Osijek with AI technology, where we had the honor of being joined by local government representatives and the city’s IT entrepreneurs. The panel’s discussion was about exploring the implications of AI not only in education but beyond and about all the possibilities in the future with AI tools. 

This kind of discussion in the casual vibe of Trica Caffe Bar was a great success because all visitors could listen to the lecture and at the same time, participate - all in a relaxed ambiance.

Thursday was a “pre-gathering” day, a certain foreword because we held inspirational sessions in Trica, and we had the honor of listening to some great speakers - Harvard and Yale lecturers and famous Croatian scientists Vladimir Bermanec and Zvonimir Vrselja. We also had the opportunity to listen to Hrvoje Ćosić (Aircash), Srđan Kovačević (Orqa), and Ivan Hendija (IDE3) and their success stories and professional journeys.

We were enthralled by the large attendance in Trica - we can't wait to see you all again!

Day 2 - The Gathering!

Traditionally, we reserved the first Friday in October for lectures, learning, and entertainment in the center of the city. 

At the three mentioned locations, we had great talks, sessions, workshops, and a chill zone. Our main location was the Cinema Urania and right across the street, a chill zone at Sakuntala Park - the best place for networking. We ensured that everyone had a diverse selection of complimentary beverages and delicious lunch options, eliminating any concerns about hunger or thirst throughout the event.

Lectures at Cinema Urania

We created a great schedule for those who came to learn, so in Cinema Urania, we hosted some of the great speakers from famous companies like Google, Sofascore, Undabot, Codeasy, etc. 

Josip Stuhli from Sofascore opened the geek season with his talk about Inspecting IPTV for fun and no profit. He explained how you can inspect the inner workings of modern telco IPTV and how you can build your own network tap using nothing more than a simple Raspberry Pi, and use it to inspect and modify network traffic on the fly. His energy, humor, and knowledge made this lecture a blast. 

After Josip, Ante Miličević from Comsysto Reply took over the stage with his talk “Big decisions in small projects: Greenfield IOT project in a new branch of development in the company.” He presented the problems he found most interesting and challenging while designing infrastructure and developing the project details.

Then, Ivan Herak from Netgen talked about Atlassian’s well-known Jira. He discussed how this tool can make life easier for project managers and developers when they collaborate. 

After the lecture, we took a lunch break and used the time for networking - the best part of every gathering. The sun, music, drinks, and great company to remember - that's how some of the best ideas for projects are born.

Now let’s talk about Merlin Rebrović and his story about his ten years of working at Google. His lecture was a perfect blend of personal and business development, as he was talking about why investing in yourself matters, and advising on how to professionally grow over the years regardless of your position. Throughout his talk, Merlin shared details about his own career path, sharing his goal to have an even stronger working relationship with employees from all of the departments within the company, which he seasoned with a healthy dose of humor. We’ve learned a lot from him on the topic of the importance of being self-conscious and investing in ourselves - nobody is just an “ordinary employee”.

Speaking of Google - Dorija Humski seized the spotlight. Since she has a lot of experience working in software engineering, she walked us through the steps required to make highly distributed systems reliable. We had the opportunity to learn about some of Google's SRE principles and how they are applied today.

Merlin taught us a lot about importance of investing in ourselves and our careers.

After her lesson, we moved to the topic of AI. Ivan Biliškov from Codeasy held a lecture about the developer's guide to AI and the impact of AI in today’s world. “The challenge of our time is not only to create smarter machines but also to use them wisely and ethically”, he said. Advocating for AI means promoting its positive potential while remaining vigilant of its pitfalls. How can developers leverage the existing AI revolution with AI tools? They serve as the basic building blocks that allow us to develop AI systems that are not only intelligent but also transparent, fair, and accountable. These tools, which are part of our growing arsenal, ensure that we are not just developing AI for today, but creating a legacy for tomorrow. We must admit that these points left an impact on us as we listened to him speak.

Finally, the last speaker at Cinema Urania was Ana Šeler from Undabot. She talked about how designers and developers sometimes have a love-hate relationship and what can be done to fix it. She also offered pieces of advice on how developers can help in the designing process and how designers can enable a quality implementation of their ideas. The answer, of course, lies in mutual collaboration, understanding, and healthy relationships between teams.

We know where the fun starts; Osijek's city center is our favorite spot!

Workshops, masterclasses, and lectures in the Library’s American Corner

The city’s library discussions were sorted into two rooms, including various workshops, masterclasses, and lectures.

Attendees could have chosen from 5 different talks on a variety of topics - design, product management, leadership, and product development. Emanuel Miličević held a workshop called "UX playbook: Setting up the foundation, focus, and direction", Ana Mandić held a masterclass called "Wake up your learning brain", followed by Vlatka Šipoš’s "Exploring powerful research methods for digital product development", and Dunja Vidak’s "The case study that will make or break your leadership skills" masterclasses. 

We ended the masterclass frenzy with Petar Belavić’s lecture named "Lead the change and change the leader".

We also had speakers giving lessons related to PO/PM and design topics. In the first lecture, Boris Bajs from Hrvatski Telekom and Nenad Keller from Glooko held a discussion on "The Future of Leadership". They talked about the dynamic landscape of management and unveiled the critical factors for future success.

The next lecturer was Kaja Pavlinić from Speck - our first speaker who attended the gathering remotely. She held an excellent presentation on the following topic: “How to know what your customers want before they realize it themselves?”

Then, Matej Dragun (Devōt) dropped the mic with “Smart ones write it down, the fools try to remember, we are asking AI” and took us through the journey of developing an AI chatbot tailored for internal documentation and processes with the assistance of ChatGPT.  

Emanuel's masterclass was visited by many designers who decided to brush up their UX skills.

After the lunch break, Matija Fumić from SpectreXR intrigued us with this lesson: “Spatial computing, what's the buzz?”. We could wear VR glasses and try out something a bit out-of-this-world, so it was a great experience! 

Margita Šoštarić from Mindsmiths presented "Building production-ready solutions with LLMS for navigating the high-paced AI landscape". She shared some insights about working with cutting-edge technologies and the necessary adaptations they had to make to their products and development process to empower clients and build trust with them. She also shared some good practices for building relevant, reliable, and robust AI solutions in a rapidly evolving market.

The following speaker comes from Mindsmiths too: Domagoj Blažanin offered some valuable insights into fast prototyping from a developer's perspective during his talk "Fast (and furious) prototyping: staying ahead of the competition".  

The last speaker at the library was our “lega” from Osijek, Davor Banović from COBE. Generally, Product owner (PO) handbooks include drawing a hard line between receiving POs, who are merely scribes, and initiating POs, who are, ultimately, entrepreneurs. With his experience as a product owner in both product and agency companies, he tackled questions such as “Is that line crossable?”

In his presentation, he addressed the "horizons of the product owner and the importance of the middle ground." To solve difficult problems in organizations, for example, poor motivation, he explored various approaches to finding a middle ground in product ownership which he offered as a solution.

Lunch break, here we come!

Trica Caffe Bar as the icing on the cake

In the past few years, lectures have been held in Trica due to the combination of ambiance and relaxation. This year, Trica hosted speakers who spoke about a variety of topics related to product owner roles and development.

The first speaker was Dominik Vidaković from Happening. He explained why the user journey needs to be tracked and why features should be developed with a data-driven approach rather than a wish-driven approach. He mostly focused on the QA process linked to user acquisition and the importance of using it in marketing teams. 

Blaž Vincetić from Atos treated us with his theme - “Runners of IT Unite.” Considering that running has become an increasingly popular recreational activity in the world, as well as in the IT community and that it all boils down to a large number of gadgets that we are dependent on, Blaž gave us an insight into what is smart to use, what equipment is needed, and which not to track our progress.

We had Antonio Vidaković from Hunter & Companion GmbH brought to our attention that in the software development world today, companies or agencies, along with their clients, often rush the whole MVP process, often ignoring the core question: What exactly is our product, and what problem are we solving? He talked about why this “I need it for yesterday” approach isn’t good, gave us a few examples of where the user wasn't in the equation, and how to avoid it with actionable steps you can try at your agency or company.

Marin Maškarin from gave us an insight into the opportunities offered by Azure features. Marin dived into the intricate details of these features and highlighted their remarkable application in real-time data collection.

After Marin, we had one more speaker from Sofascore - Petar Obradović, with the following topic: “Descending into bare metal Kubernetes.” At Sofascore, they love to work on high-traffic and performant backend systems but dislike spending their money to solve infrastructure hurdles that come with it. He showed us how they operate a bare metal Kubernetes cluster that serves millions of requests each minute without missing out on typical cloud features such as simple service exposure or distributed data storage.

Last but not least was Dean Mišić (Neos) with his lecture: “Why FinOps certification is the next step for IT professionals?” As IT organizations continue to adopt cloud-based services, the demand for professionals with FinOps expertise is rising. In his talk, Dean examined the role of FinOps in IT and how becoming a certified practitioner can help us stand out in the global job market.

Following the captivating lecture by the Dean, everyone lingered at Trica, fostering meaningful connections in a very cozy ambiance.

We were very pleasantly surprised by the great number of attendees, and with your big interest in The Geek Gathering, we promise that next year, we will provide even more available spots in our lectures and secure ample seating for all attendees.

Chill zone at Sakuntala park, followed by great music.

Geeks attending an outdoors workshop in the library's garden.

See you next year?

We must admit that this year's The Geek Gathering exceeded all of our expectations! Even though we knew what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it, we ended up going above and beyond. Our main goal was to connect the broader IT community, bring world tech experts to Osijek, and create a relaxing atmosphere with the main goal of everybody having a great time while learning something -  and I think we succeeded.

As organizers, we are aware of all of the things we did good and some that we can do even better, so we will implement that knowledge and create even more efficient gatherings in the upcoming years.

And finally, what everyone is most interested in, we announce the next The Geek Gathering for the 4th and 5th October of 2024 - see you in Osijek then!

Get ready to join us next year too!

Hey, you! What do you think?

They say knowledge has power only if you pass it on - we hope our blog post gave you valuable insight.

If you'd like to express your viewpoint or find out more about our role in organizing The Geek Gathering, feel free to contact us

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