Visug The Visual Studio User Group

Partner in the spotlight: Axxes

Partner in the spotlight: Axxes

To kick off this series, we had the pleasure to interview Hannes Lowette, Head of Learning & Development at Axxes.

Hi Hannes, can you introduce yourself? What role do you have at Axxes?

Hi, I’m Hannes. Up until recently, I had two roles at Axxes: Principal Consultant and Competence Coach, both in our .NET group. As a Competence Coach, I am responsible for the growth of our consultants. Recently, my focus has been shifting more towards this aspect of my job, so the consultancy part has been dropped when I became Axxes’ first Head of Learning & Development. In this new role, amongst other things, I am responsible for training, personal coaching, and knowledge sharing, both internal and external. We also have several people who love sharing their knowledge and have the ambition to grow as a speaker. I will also be working on that, so we can put the knowledge we have in the spotlight.

Can you tell us a bit more about Axxes? What kind of company is it?

Axxes is a consultancy firm. We do not specialize in a single technology, but our biggest activities are software development (.NET, Java, JavaScript, Python) and system engineering. But we also have consultants who specialize in testing, project management, data science, and so on.

At Axxes, we currently have around 200 consultants, and this number still grows every year. We are always on the lookout for competent and motivated people. People with ambition are the core of our business. We believe that we can always find suitable projects for people like that. That is why we put our people first in everything we do.

Axxes has been one of our partners for many years. Why is it important for your company to support the community?

There are a few reasons why we partner with Visug. We find it important to support the community because it is one of the places where our people can learn and connect with their peers outside our organisation. So, we find it important for us to give something back.

We know the community needs funds to operate, so we support them with our yearly contribution. But we do not want to be just a sponsor, we want to be a partner! That is why we also support them in other ways. We try to deliver speakers from time to time and we also host some of the evenings by providing the venue and catering.

I also believe that we get back a lot from this partnership. Visug offers a platform for our motivated people to step out of their comfort zone and get on a stage in front of their peers in the Belgian community. And of course, we get visibility as a company in all Visug communications.

For us, the community is one of the many ways we try to share our content. And that is why we are also involved in other user groups on other technologies.

What is a successful Visug evening for you?

For me, a successful Visug event has nothing to do with the number of attendees. User groups are all about bringing likeminded people together. I prefer seeing a speaker from our Belgian community because we have some great people doing awesome projects right here in our backyard. It is fantastic when attendees and speakers can really connect and have a chat on an evening like that.

As a speaker, I also find it easier to interact with the audience on a user group evening. It feels less formal than a conference, and the format is less rigid. It allows for a more natural conversation. And to me, that conversation is the key component to a successful evening.

In these Corona-times, we can’t do in-person events. What possibilities do you see to interact with the community?

That is a difficult one. It is something we also struggle with. Before Corona, we had a lot of knowledge sharing at Axxes. We have noticed that this has diminished because of the lockdown measures. Fewer people are giving a talk because standing in front of a webcam, without a live audience, is not the same. We also notice digital fatigue, so the attendee numbers are also declining.

I strongly believe in hybrid events, where we allow a small, socially-distanced audience in a room with the speaker and stream the session digitally. That way, the speaker can give his or her session in front of a real audience, even if it is only 10 people. We also need to pay extra attention to the interaction with the digital audience. I find it important that the people at home feel that they are part of the conversation. I think a dedicated moderator can help with bringing the questions from the remote people into the room.

If we can bring the offline and online worlds together, I think we can still host successful evenings. This is something we are experimenting with at Axxes. We are equipping our event room with all the tools required for this. We even got a camera that automatically follows the speaker.

Is there something else you want to share?

There is something I find important. Just because we cannot be together in the flesh, does not mean we should put our learning on hold. Limiting conferences, training and participation in user groups is a very bad idea in these times. So, I certainly want to encourage people to continue to make time to invest in your knowledge. I know it is hard to do in times where your family and your work life become one big blur. Knowledge is what we will need to keep growing, both during and after the current crisis.

Thank you for your time, Hannes!

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