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The red thread that runs through Oklahoma City’s tech community is Techlahoma.

The organization promotes a growing list of computer code user groups primarily in Oklahoma City, but also a growing number around Oklahoma. Their flagship event is the annual Thunder Plains conference that pulls together developers from across the state and beyond.

Through providing an organizational, communication and financial network small clusters of code developers can meet over lunch for an hour, share ideas, teach each other new skills and then return to their jobs.

The small nonprofit foundation has a reach that one would not expect with a yearly budget of less than $100 thousand.

That’s because the people who started it – all code engineers – still provide the hands-on effort that makes the idea work, and without taking any salary for it. All proceeds go into support for the sponsored groups

Starting line

Husband and wife Jesse and Amanda Harlin, along with Rob Sullivan and Vance Lucas started the JavaScript user group called OKC.js in 2014. Ryan Hoegg soon joined the group in their efforts. He is the current Vice-President of Techlahoma.

“It started out as just a few of us wanting to start a JavaScript user group,” Techlahoma President Jesse Harlin told Free Press. “We wanted to meet to learn from each other.”

“Pretty soon after that we decided we wanted to have a conference to pull in some other developers, and that was the beginning of Thunder Plains Developer Conference,” said Harlin.

But once they got started on that idea, the small group realized they needed an organization that would span different user groups to capitalize on the diversity of developers that showed up for the first Thunder Plains.

Jesse Harlin said they knew early on that they needed a trustable way for individuals and companies to donate to their efforts. And so, they started to work on setting up a foundation.

From the beginning the design of Techlahoma was to provide a vibrant sharing of ideas, knowledge and skills with each other, and especially those who were just starting to learn one of the many code languages.

And so, the small group went to work filling out papers to incorporate in the State of Oklahoma and to apply on the federal level for nonprofit status. They achieved both.

Techlahoma now has 501(c)(3) IRS nonprofit status.

Also, Techlahoma has achieved a Guidestar Platinum rating, the highest of all the watchdog group’s rating categories. It’s awarded when a charity shows the highest standards of transparency and organizational integrity.

Into 2017

Two events and a big physical space development in 2016 helped to propel Techlahoma into 2017 with a strong footing.

In July, they held their first Town Hall to give a report about what Techlahoma was doing and engage in a dialogue with whoever wanted to show up and be a part of the process.

It was in response to the eventual unwieldy nature of their everyone-come approach to monthly board meetings that “started turning into four-hour meetings,” Jesse said.

Thunder Plains 2016
Sold-out crowd at Thunder Plains 2016

Their third Thunder Plains Developer Conference in November was held at the Devon Boathouse on the banks of the Oklahoma River in Oklahoma City. It sold out.

Throughout the fall, Techlahoma collaborated with the owners of the new co-working space StarSpace46 to develop a comfortable and workable meeting space that their sponsored groups could use.

Now the various user groups in Oklahoma City can come to a new space that is well-equipped for the presentations and the larger crowds.

Town Hall

On Saturday, Jan. 28, Techlahoma held their second Town Hall meeting where anyone interested could come to hear what had been accomplished in 2016 and learn about 2017 plans.

Here are the basics of 2016 for Techlahoma that Jesse and Amanda Harlin and others presented:

  • 245 hours of free STEM training
  • 100 percent volunteer staffed
  • 4 officers, 5 directors and 3 key volunteers
  • Organized 2 national tech conferences: Thunder Plains in OKC and 200 OK in Tulsa
  • Sponsored 2 conferences and 1 workshop
  • Created, organized and funded 16 user groups
  • NO cost to those who attend the user groups
  • 544 members in community Slack
  • 1,810 members of groups organized in Meetup.com
  • 101 donors

“You don’t have to be a code developer to come,” Jesse and Amanda say often enough to be somewhat of a litany.

And, they mean that.

“This is where several people have gained the confidence to start learning code when they didn’t know any,” Jesse told the last Town Hall.

To learn more and engage Techlahoma on social media, go to their website.


From the January Town Hall


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