Engineering Perspectives

How the Agora Became the Engineering Gathering Place

As a Software Engineer who joined in November 2015, it’s been an incredible experience to witness our organization’s rapid growth. Three years ago, we were a group of 78 and did not have an org-wide meeting. As our organization continued to grow, it became evident we needed a new way to communicate ideas across teams. As a result, we introduced our Engineering Agora, a weekly event to share our knowledge and experiences with engineers across the company. While our Engineering department is often deep in the weeds working on challenging technical problems, the Agora is a fun way to highlight and share what we’re working on.

The Agora began in early 2016 as a town-hall-style gathering within our Ad Serving division, with representatives from Data, Support and Operations. We gathered for an hour every Friday to discuss policy proposals, demonstrate interesting self-initiated “Skunkworks” projects and share workgroup updates. As time went on, awareness of the Agora as a venue for internal discussion grew, and in response, the breadth of topics covered expanded. In late 2016, we expanded the Agora to include all Engineering divisions.

A few fun facts about the Agora:

Two posters advertising the Engineering Agora meetings.IX Definition: The glue that holds the Engineering team together in the midst of ongoing responsibilities, new projects, continued growth and everything else in between. While most people think of “Agoraphobia” when they hear “Agora” — describing a fear of public places — the word “Agora” itself originated in ancient Greece as meaning “gathering place”. In their civilization, the Ancient Agora of Athens was used exactly for this purpose.

Topics Discussed: The Engineering Agora has been used to share many topics for our technical and professional development. A few examples include:

  • Adoption of Docker
  • Distributed Computing
  • Detecting and Preventing Race Conditions
  • Handling the Dyn DNS Cyberattack of 2016
  • Pair Programming
  • DevOps Scaling

Recurring Segments: One fun aspect of our Agora is regular recurring segments and themes. Recurring segments allow for hype, anticipation and sometimes a periodic activity to break from routine. A few of my favorites include:

  • Testing, 1, 2, 3! Concepts and good practices in testing
  • #SquadGoals Learn about other teams at IX
  • What’s the Deal With…? Topics we have heard of but are not too familiar with
  • Let’s Get Quizzical Recurring quiz segment
  • What the Bug!? Sharing and reflecting on issues the teams discover

Two posters advertising the Engineering Agora meetings.


Engineering Involvement: The Agora also allows Engineers to get involved in something outside of their everyday responsibilities. For me, I’ve always enjoyed learning new things at the Agora and wanted to contribute, so I joined the organizing workgroup in May 2017. The workgroup is responsible for organizing topic presenters and coordinating with them to ensure a successful presentation. We hype upcoming Agoras through the use of posters, 30-second commercial clips, Slack and silly Agora logos.

The weekly Agoras that began nearly three years ago are now a true tradition for Engineering. These weekly meetings usually start 10 minutes after beer o’clock begins, and we host trivia and coding challenges for even more enjoyment.

It’s definitely a “meeting” you don’t want to miss!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.