I leave work just before 6pm, walking about a mile to an office in River North. I stand outside the front door of the building with a small group of other attendees, waiting for someone upstairs to unlock the door remotely.
Once inside, we find that we are the only attendees yet to arrive. There are large tubs of beer, cooling on ice, and Gatorade dispensers full of vodka-lemonade placed on a ping-pong table in the center of the room. There are about 20 warm pizzas, piled in a corner. On each wall of the room hangs a 60” television monitor cycling through various graphs displaying current users of the company website and phone application. As the evening advances, the lines tick upward.
I pour two drinks and start talking to a man older than myself. When I say I start talking to him, I mean that I stand and listen to him deliver his life story to me, inching closer to my face over time. He is (was?) an infrastructure engineer for various tel-com companies from years past, and pushes up his large glasses with a finger each time he mentions one by name. He is at least 20 years older than me.
Eventually, a young woman comes over to tell us that there is pizza and drinks available, and the man begins to tell her about his experience with ageism in recent years. She explains that she is a talent recruiter for the agency organizing the event. She would be happy to refer him to one of her colleagues. I tell the recruiter my position at my company and that I am here looking for hires, which makes her face light up. The man furrows his brow at me and looks disdainfully at my t-shirt and shorts.
The CEO of the office stands up on a chair and yells for attention. A large crowd has gathered by now, sticker name-tags with written names on nearly all of them. The CEO gives a speech about how his company is hiring, how great their vision for aggregated articles will be for the future, and encourages anyone to apply for a job. He emphasizes both the ping-pong table and their multiple platform-native applications as selling points for future success.
Eventually, I talk more with the recruiter and schedule a meeting with her and a colleague at our own office the following day. I also meet a web developer starting his own cryptocurrency. It is better than the 595 other cryptocurrencies vying for attention and usage online, and he has traveled to this meetup in Chicago from Michigan to convince other developers.
I meet multiple graduate students building their own versions of popular applications, but as case studies. One woman is interviewing attendees as part of her thesis, which includes building debugging software for which she has received grant money. I talk with her and another iOS developer until the event organizers herd us to the elevators. We exchange email addresses, written on paper or typed into phone applications, and I send them messages the following day.