by Tyler Hale
Tech “nerds” will unite this week for the annual Little Rock Tech Fest. Held annually since 2013, the Little Rock Tech Fest has become a focal event for the Arkansas tech scene, gathering individuals and companies from across disciplines and industries into one location.
According to festival organizer Paul Gower, the fest is designed to empower and build the tech industry in Arkansas. Gower has been involved in the Little Rock Tech Fest since 2014, a year after its founding. In its early days, the event was fairly small but has steadily grown, attracting hundreds of participants each year.
“We started with a one-day free event and have progressively improved and gotten to where we’re at today,” he says.
In addition to growing in size, the fest is continuing to innovate in its format. This year, the Tech Fest is bringing in two keynote speakers, Scott Hunter, the director of program management at Microsoft, and Ivana Cojbasic, the senior vice president of information security for Regions Bank.
The keynotes are designed to provide attendees with a “broader spectrum of knowledge around tech in Arkansas,” he says. Gower says. Hunter brings a strong background in the programming side. In his Microsoft role, Hunter oversees the server frameworks for the company. Meanwhile, Cojbasic provides a look at the security side of the technology industry.
Gower notes that this is the first year that the fest has had keynote speakers. In previous years, the festival has consisted largely of breakout sessions with varying topics. In an effort to continue to improve the fest, the Tech Fest organizers have attended other regional conferences to see how other fests operate and noted that these conferences had varying approaches to keynotes.
“We decided that this felt like a good year as an opportunity to kind of test that out and see if everyone enjoyed the keynotes,” Gower says. “It wasn’t like a master plan. The team said, ‘Let’s give this a shot and try this experiment.’”
The fest still has breakout sessions, ranging from building Alexa voice experiences, data science, small business cybersecurity, video game development and more.
While the 2019 fest is not yet over, Gower is already looking forward to the 2020 event. “We’ve been doing this for…seven years, and we’re looking forward to having our eighth year next year,” he says.
The 2019 Little Rock Tech Fest will be held Oct. 10-11 at the Arkansas Statehouse Convention Center.