Table XI Blog


April 29, 2014No Comments

Using Technology for Social Good: April Table Talks

TableTalks-Tech for Social Good posterLast week we hosted one of our best Table Talks series yet, focusing on the topic of "Technology for Social Good." Given our long history working with nonprofits, we were excited to hear other designers, developers, and technologists talk about how they've used their powers for good.

Overall, a running theme seemed to be that technology for technology's sake cannot make the world a better place—but in the hands of smart, thoughtful, mindful people, it can be the agent for meaningful invention. Think: a quickly deployed web app that allowed Boston marathon runners to call their families after last year's bombing, when cell towers were overloaded; or a text helpline designed to aid and track down kidnapping victims.

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April 17, 2014No Comments

Technology for Social Good: April Table Talks

Poster for "Technology for Social Good" by Table XI

Technology has afforded us innumerable perks, improvements, and efficiencies that have changed our professional and personal lives for the better (and, sometimes, for the worse). But how can we move past our own self-serving application of technology and use it to enact positive social change?

Table Talks, our quarterly speaking series, returns next week with the topic "Technology for Social Good." Our incredible lineup this month features Obama for America's Michael Slaby, the University of Chicago's Matt Gee, user experience designer Carolyn Chandler, and Twilio's (and former TXI-er) Greg Baugues. They'll be discussing the ways in which they use technology to make positive impacts.

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February 21, 2014No Comments

My Biggest Mistake

Event poster for "Biggest Mistake Night” by Table XIFollowing up on last fall’s successful Chicago Ideas Week session, “My Worst Idea Ever,” we’ve partnered with developer-training organization Dev Bootcamp to host a quarterly “Biggest Mistake Night”—aka, “Mrs. O’Leary Night,” in honor of the woman whose cow mythically started the Great Chicago Fire—in which smart people talk about the bad ideas they’ve had and what they’ve learned from them.

There is importance in failure—not only does it give you nuts-and-bolts experience that you can draw from later, but it also teaches you how to deal with making mistakes and, best yet, how to rebound from them. It’s empowering—especially for those just starting their careers—to hear experienced professionals openly and honestly discuss their mistakes. It reminds us that nobody’s perfect, that even the best minds need to ask for help sometimes, and that failing isn’t shameful.

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June 26, 2013No Comments

Practice Begins with Play: A Table Talk

It takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a given subject. How does a novice get started, and how does an intermediate keep going? WindyCityRails and ChicagoRuby organizer Ray Hightower encourages us to remember that practice begins with play.

For our June Table Talks on Developer Education, Ray took us through an engaging PechaKucha presentation on the importance of play in learning—an idea that applies to more than just developers. Play helps us expand our thinking, experiment, and get creative with how to solve problems. Plus, building a supercomputer with Raspberry Pi computers and Legos, like Simon Cox and son James did (above), is just plain cool.

Ray also announced that WindyCityRails will be starting a youth program this year, with the goal of getting kids interested in programming and launching the next generation of developers. You can bet play will be a part of it.

To view other PechaKucha presentations from our Table Talks series, visit the Table XI PechaKucha channel. If you’re interested in attending a future Table Talks, request an invite through our website. You can also follow along at #tabletalks.

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June 17, 2013No Comments

Data Visualization in Excel: A Table Talk

Turning data into something that people can understand, appreciate, and act on is a critical skill, but it's a challenging one for many who don't consider themselves traditional designers. When it comes to data visualization, it's common practice to use the tools we already have at hand (and are relatively familiar with) to get the job done—hence the ubiquitous use of Microsoft Excel in this area.

Unfortunately, Excel is far from the best or easiest data visualization tool out there, but people's comfort level with it—and its acceptance as industry standard—keeps it chugging along. Last month, for our Table Talks series Data by Design, Excel Whisperer Mark Rickmeier gave his tips for making the most out of Excel's data features.

Take note—Mark doesn't necessarily recommend Excel for data visualization, but if you're going to use it, he says, follow these rules.

"Make it so," says Picard.

To view other PechaKucha presentations from our Table Talks series, visit the Table XI PechaKucha channel. If you’re interested in attending a future Table Talks, request an invite through our website. You can also follow along at #tabletalks.

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June 11, 2013No Comments

Telling Technical Stories: A Table Talk

Photos of Harry Potter, a technical book cover and Luke SkywalkerThink technical writing is boring? "Not so!" says our senior developer and Agile coach, Noel Rappin. Rather, young devs learning Ruby experience as much of a hero's journey as Luke Skywalker taking on Darth Vader or Bilbo heading off to fight dragons. As such, writing technical books requires telling a story and taking your readers through interactive exercises that make them feel like the heroes of your tale. With enough learning and experience under their belts, they too can go from code novices to programming Jedis.

Below, watch Noel's Table Talk on "Telling Technical Stories," and see how drawing on timeless narrative techniques can help you craft meaningful and engaging technical pieces.

Our next Table Talks will be Thursday, June 13, and focus on Developer Education. If you're interested in attending, request an invite through our website. For past PechaKucha presentations from our Table Talks series, visit the Table XI PechaKucha channel. You can also follow along at #tabletalks.

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June 6, 2013No Comments

Developer Education: June Table Talks

Software development is one of the fastest growing industries in the country, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting a 30% increase in jobs by 2020, more than double the average growth rate for all occupations. We’ve certainly seen a rebirth in Chicago’s tech scene over the past several years, as companies like Groupon, Career Builder, and Braintree have settled here.

Hand in hand with this explosion in the tech sector goes the issue of education. Who is going to train this next wave of developers, and what are the best teaching tools? How can we use mentorship to promote continued learning and improvement internally, and ensure current devs stay on top of the latest technologies and innovations? How will we reach groups typically under-represented in the dev world, like lower income individuals, certain ethnic minorities, and women?

At Table XI we’ve been thinking a lot about the role of education and mentorship in this community, and several of our team members are involved with organizations like Dev Bootcamp, Girl Develop It, I.C. Stars, and The Starter League, all of which are dedicated to teaching tech’s next crop of talent. For our June Table Talks: Developer Education, we’ll be hearing PechaKucha-style presentations from some of Chicago’s best: Ray Hightower, organizer of ChicagoRuby and WindyCityRails; Paul Pagel, CEO and Co-founder of 8th Light; Vince Cabansag, Director of Operations at The Starter League; Michael D. Hall, Founder of UGtastic; Mike Busch, Instructor at Dev Bootcamp; and Isaac Sanders, our very own summer development intern and mentor at Dev Bootcamp.

What: June Table Talks | Developer Education
When: Thurs, June 13 | 12 – 1:30 pm
Where: Table XI | 328 S Jefferson St | Suite 670

Interested in joining Table Talks as a guest? Request an invitation through our website, or keep up at #tabletalks. For past presentations, including May’s Data by Design, please visit the Table XI PechaKucha channel.

Poster for Table XI's June Table Talks: Developer Education

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May 20, 2013No Comments

Sprinkling Pixie Dust, by Greg Baugues: A Table Talk on Customer Service

Our Director of Client Services, Greg Baugues, was in Scotland last week to present at Scottish Ruby Conf, but last month he presented closer to home. During our April Table Talks on "Things My Customers Taught Me," Greg treated us to a PechaKucha on customer service called "Sprinkling Pixie Dust."

Disney is world-renowned for its deeply customer-centric approach. While doing a stint in college as a "custodial engineer" at the Magic Kingdom, Greg learned the Disney way firsthand: He was encouraged to treat customers as guests and find small ways to make their visits magical.

Watch Greg's PechaKucha presentation to find out what else cleaning up candy wrappers and protein spills at Walt Disney World can teach you about improving customer service and experience, and creating relationships that last a lifetime.

This Thursday, May 23, we'll be hosting our lunchtime May Table Talks: Data by Design. Follow along on Twitter at #tabletalks, or, if you're interested in joining us as a guest, you can request an invitation through our website. For past Table Talks about customer service and other topics, visit the Table XI PechaKucha channel.

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May 16, 2013No Comments

Data by Design: May Table Talks

For years the term "Big Data" has buzzed on the lips of CEOs and executives and bounced off board room walls. Companies understand the opportunity their data represents to customize products and services to their customers, streamline operational efficiency, and unearth market insights that provide a competitive advantage. But knowing how best to apply data is one thing—telling a story through data in a way that illuminates is an art unto itself.

CNN Money recently published an insightful piece on this subject. Author Olof Schybergson says, "It's about turning information into meaningful insights people can use, giving data a human shape and a connection with the messy real world that we live in... Designers have it ingrained to focus on simplicity and bring a singular focus to delighting the end user—regardless of whether they are a business user or consumer. Designers know how to take complex or disparate information and make it tangible, understandable, and importantly, more human."

We'll be tackling this with the experts for our May Table Talks: Data by Design. Joining us for lunch on Thursday, May 23 will be Datascope Analytics partner Aaron Wolf, designer Sharlene King, DataMade founder Derek Eder, Chicago Data Visualization Meetup organizer Josh Doyle, and Table XI COO Mark Rickmeier, each of whom will treat us to a PechaKucha-style presentation on the topic.

Follow along at #tabletalks, and make sure to check out past Table Talks at Table XI's PechaKucha channel.

If you're interested in joining Table Talks as a guest just request an invitation through our website here.

May Table Talks: Data by Design

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April 18, 20131 Comment

Iterating to Excellence: A Look Back on 11 Years

Toy gun accompanied by the phrase "Perks are not culture."Table XI recently celebrated its 11th anniversary, which has been the source of both celebration and reflection. We certainly couldn't have made it here without the help of some of our first clients, like The Spice House, Dickson Data, and Chicago Dryer. But we also couldn't have accomplished what we set out to achieve without the team, many of whom have been with us since our early days.

Last month's Table Talks centered around the theme of "Innovation." I used the opportunity to deliver a presentation on business hacks using company perks. Sure, some things like company retreats to Costa Rica and freshly prepared lunches make Table XI a great place to work, but what many people don’t understand is that they also help solve real business problems.

But it’s taken a lot of tinkering to get where we are today. We’ve tried a lot of things that didn’t work—ask anyone here about the noisy ping pong table we once introduced—but we expect some things to fail and some to stick. When we build software, we never presume we'll deliver the final product on the first go. Rather, we deliver in increments, get feedback, and continue to iterate. Why should building a business be any different? We’ve just applied these same agile methodologies to management.

If you’re curious to know what did stick, take a look at my presentation below (and check out the rest of the Table Talks on Innovation on our PechaKucha channel).

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Table XI

328 S. Jefferson St.
Suite 670
Chicago, IL 60661


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