DCU Redbrick along with computing societies from nine other Irish universities ran Student’s Inter-Society Tech & Enterprise Meetup (SISTEM) 2021, an online tech conference for students, on Saturday, February 20th.
SISTEM is Ireland’s largest annual tech conference for students and is organised solely by students.
245 people registered for SISTEM 2021, which was hosted on the online events platform Hoppin, exceeding organisers expectations.
“We thought that moving everything online, ourselves and speaking to the sponsors, we had expected that there would be maybe a few less than there was last year,” explained Adam Teehan, SISTEM Committee Member from Trinity College.
Just under 200 people attended last year’s SISTEM, which was held in UCD, so organisers were delighted to beat that while also transitioning to online.
Students being unable to network and socialise was a big concern for the SISTEM 2021 organisers but the interactive and multi-faceted nature of Hoppin allowed this networking to take place.
“We wanted to still have people meeting each other, networking, still experiencing the booths and get to speak to the companies but also to speak to each other,” said Teehan.
“I think it was pretty close to what we would have in person before,” he said. “The networking feature was actually our second most popular feature under the main stage.”
Diversity and inclusion was a big focus for the organisers this year. For SISTEM 2020 they achieved a 50/50 gender split in their guests and panelists however feedback highlighted that there was not enough representation from minority groups.
This year a neurodiversity panel and a people of colour in tech panel were both introduced to give better representation.
“By no means is there a great balance in our inclusion of people of colour but we’re trying and we are getting there and I think that is definitely an improvement on last year,” said Chloe Thompson, SISTEM Committee Member from Queens University Belfast.
One aspect of accessibility that they were not able to achieve during SISTEM 2021 was introducing closed captions which would have made the conference accessible for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Thompson was disappointed that closed captions were not available live during the event.
“Nothing is truly accessible until everybody can attend and everybody can benefit from it,” she said. “No one should have a barrier to accessing something like this.”
SISTEM was first started in DCU by the Redbrick Society as a week long event called Tech Week however it has grown hugely since then.
“The big step up was when it was on DCU, it was actually in the U,” explained Cian Kehoe, SISTEM Committee Member and System Administrator for DCU Redbrick.
“That was with several societies at that stage. It started to get a lot more sponsors involved and what not and started to really grow,” said Kehoe.
Now they are sponsored by big companies like Mastercard, Amazon and Microsoft.
According to Kehoe, the goal of SISTEM is to “bring the student tech community together in a casual meetup environment, expanding the network between students from other universities and providing a link with those in the world of tech and enterprise.”
Image Credit: SISTEM