Bringing developers together

How to supercharge innovation with a Dev Day

Maarten Wensveen
© Shutterstock / Sapunkele

The company Cimpress recently began implementing Dev Days, a day for developers, by developers, focused on education and skill-building. Dev Days encourages innovation and allows for developers to keep up with new technology, learn new skills, and be more proactive about their learning. Setting up your own Dev Days event is easy!

From microservices and APIs to serverless and edge computing, it can be difficult for developers to keep up with and leverage the latest game-changing tech while handling their day-to-day responsibilities. However, this continued education is critical for any business to stay ahead of the pack. Many companies today are finding creative ways to bring education and new skills to their development teams. Hackathons, for example, are a great way to bring developers together to tackle a common goal under challenging time constraints.

However, there are other kinds of events that encourage innovation and have a meaningful impact on an organization. At Cimpress, we recognized that holding a day for learning and sharing or “Dev Day” had the potential to bring together developers across the business to share, grow and learn, and decided to host our own.

From thoughtful planning to diligent execution, here are some of the approaches we leveraged for a successful event, as well as some advice for companies looking to host something similar.

What is Dev Day?

Dev Day is an event that celebrates developers and a company’s commitment to technology innovation. The primary goal is to bring developers together to share, learn and exchange ideas with one another to build both individual growth and confidence, and empower employees to contribute to their teams in new ways.

For example, our Dev Day consisted of 23 presentations ranging from talks on coding to labs on UX. Some of the most popular events were, “What makes a good rest API?” “Intro to Machine Learning Part I” and “Design Thinking for Developers.” The Design Thinking session, in particular, was a participant favorite because it included both a lesson and lab component that allowed teams to practice what they just learned.

Who is involved in the event?

Our recommendation (and what we did) is to have your technology leadership team put out an open call to technologists across your company for presentation, activity, and info session proposals. Then, a committee of peers in tech can narrow down the submissions to ones your development teams will find most interesting and helpful for their day-to-day activities. This way, the event becomes a day for developers, by developers, on topics that matter most to them.

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Why are Dev Days helpful for development teams?

Like many forward-thinking companies, we prioritize and celebrate innovative thinking among our developers and in our greater technology organization. Bringing new, creative ideas into a business not only inspires development teams, but it is essential for further advancement and success.

A Dev Day is an easy way for companies to encourage innovation among their teams. These kinds of events typically require very low budgets, since they are put on by employees for employees, but they are rich in learning and opportunities. At the end, developers can walk away with new skill sets, expanded knowledge and stronger relationships with their peers.

How can you get started with an event of your own?

If you are considering hosting a Dev Day or a similar event, you should find ways to bring participants into the planning process to help drive and shape the event. These individuals know best their own interests, what they would like to get out of the day, and which topics will help them be more successful at their job.

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Finally, once you’ve held an event of your own, you should always collect feedback from participants to determine what will create an even more successful event in the future. For example, the findings might show that while a machine learning session was the most engaging, participants learned more practical applications from the session that took a close look at design thinking for developers. Businesses often turn to their development teams to produce inspiring, game-changing ideas, but setting aside a day of learning and brainstorming will only further spark the creativity necessary to reach new heights.


Maarten Wensveen

Maarten leads the Cimpress Technology team, which focuses on the development and operation of their shared mass customization platform and other technology-related strategic capabilities into which they centrally invest. He has been instrumental in establishing a strategy and a technology architecture which ensure that their shared technology development and operating routines function in line with the priorities of their decentralized businesses. Maarten started his first company, in the Netherlands, when he was 25 years old. Six years later he sold it to focus on Albumprinter, another rapidly growing start-up where he was responsible for developing both the software and technology infrastructure and teams. Maarten joined Cimpress in 2011 upon their acquisition of Albumprinter, by which point Albumprinter had grown to be a top European provider of personalized photobooks.


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