Top 10 Must-Attend Tech Meetups and Conferences in Chicago

By Chevas Balloun

Last Updated: July 7th 2024

Skyline of Chicago with tech symbols and conference icons integrated into the design.

Too Long; Didn't Read:

Discover the top 10 tech meetups and conferences in Chicago including Tech in Motion, Chicago Tech Academy, Chi Hack Night, 1871 Weekly Membership, and PyData Chicago. These events offer valuable networking opportunities, skill enhancement, and insights from industry leaders such as Google and Booz Allen Hamilton. Chicago is the third-largest tech hub in the U.S., boasting nearly 300,000 tech workers as of 2022. Engage in workshops, panels, and networking to stay ahead in the tech scene.

If you're new to the Chicago tech scene, you couldn't have picked a better time.

This city is straight-up blowing up with tech companies and startups left and right. We're talking major players like Google setting up shop here, but also a ton of homegrown success stories like Grubhub and their amazing work-life balance perks.

According to the latest data, Chicago had nearly 300,000 tech workers as of 2022, making it the third-largest tech hub in the nation. But what really sets this city apart is the vibrant, inclusive community.

Attending local meetups and conferences is a must if you want to level up your skills, make connections, and stay ahead of the game. Events like TechChicago Week bring together the biggest names in the industry for talks, networking, and even job opportunities.

And don't sleep on academic events like the University of Chicago Innovation Fest for making those crucial connections.

By getting involved in Chicago's meetup culture, you'll gain valuable knowledge, build your network, and maybe even land your dream gig.

Table of Contents

  • 1. Tech in Motion Chicago
  • 2. Chicago Tech Academy Meetup
  • 3. Chi Hack Night
  • 4. 1871's Weekly Membership Meetup
  • 5. PyData Chicago
  • 6. Chicago Java Users Group (CJUG)
  • 7. Midwest UX Conference
  • 8. DevOpsDays Chicago
  • 9. Techstars Startup Week Chicago
  • 10. Chicago Roboto
  • Methodology for Selecting the Top 10
  • Frequently Asked Questions

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1. Tech in Motion Chicago


Look, Tech in Motion is where it's at if you're trying to connect with the coolest cats in the Chicago tech scene. This nationwide crew has been hustling since '11, bringing together techies from all walks of life to network, learn some mad skills, and level up their careers.

Their Chicago chapter has hosted over a hundred events, drawing in thousands of tech junkies thirsty for knowledge and new connections.

Whether you're a seasoned pro or just starting out, hitting up Tech in Motion events is the move.

They've got all kinds of dope stuff going on – tech talks, coding workshops, panel discussions, networking mixers, you name it. Over 85% of attendees said they made new connections and expanded their crew.

One person even said,

"The chill vibes at these events make it easy to spark up convos and build meaningful connections."

These events are no joke either.

They've had some serious heavy hitters grace the stage, like Aneesh Chopra (former U.S. Chief Tech Officer and CareJourney Prez), Linda Kozlowski (COO at Apervita), and Matt Hartman (Director of Data and Applied Science at Booz Allen Hamilton).

They've covered hot topics too, like demystifying AI and machine learning, building killer cloud solutions, and exploring the wild world of blockchain and crypto.

Bottom line, if you're trying to stay ahead of the game in this ever-changing tech landscape, Tech in Motion Chicago is a must-hit.

With their diverse events and access to industry leaders, you'd be making a mistake to sleep on this opportunity.

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2. Chicago Tech Academy Meetup


Let me fill you in on the Chicago Tech Academy Meetup - it's a super cool spot for anyone looking to level up their tech game! These folks are all about empowering people with the skills and knowledge to crush it in the ever-changing world of tech.

Whether you're a total newbie or a seasoned pro, they've got something for everyone.

One thing that sets them apart is their commitment to hands-on workshops.

They've got a ton of different topics covered, from web development to data science to cybersecurity and UI/UX design. You can get your feet wet with intro coding classes for beginners, or dive deep into advanced seminars on hot topics like blockchain and AI.

But it's not just about the workshops, they also host some seriously epic events.

Like, their annual Little Black Dress Night is all about raising funds for their Young Women's Leadership Society program.

It's a whole night dedicated to promoting diversity and equity in STEM, with keynote speakers, panel discussions, and networking opportunities galore.

And that's just scratching the surface! They've got meetups covering everything from intro Python workshops to AI seminars to Git bootcamps.

It's the perfect place to connect with like-minded folks, expand your skills, and stay ahead of the curve in the ever-changing tech world. Trust me, if you're serious about tech, the Chicago Tech Academy Meetup is a must-attend.

3. Chi Hack Night


Chi Hack Night is like the coolest tech meetup in Chicago, where a bunch of coders, designers, and civic nerds get together to build some apps that actually make the city better.

It started back in 2012 but has grown into this massive community trying to fix real issues through open data and civic tech projects.

Every Tuesday, they host these "hack nights" where everyone teams up to work on projects like improving public transit info, keeping tabs on food safety, or mapping out the city's infrastructure.

  • Improving public transit info: Use of tech for better transparency.
  • Keeping tabs on food safety: Monitoring food safety standards.
  • Mapping out the city's infrastructure: Understanding urban landscape.

It's all about using tech to increase transparency and make government services more accessible.

One of their biggest hits was the Cityscape app, which gives you the full lowdown on zoning, permits, and everything going on in Chicago's urban landscape.

The hack nights are like a creative playground.

People pitch ideas, form squads based on their skills and interests, and then grind all night, sharing knowledge and getting mentored by the experienced folks.

It's a vibe, with everyone buzzing with energy and passion for making their city better through civic tech. At the end, teams show off their progress, celebrate wins, and plan for the next phase.

As Michael Perez from Chi Hack Night said, "We're not just building apps, we're building community." It's about way more than just coding – it's fostering a culture of civic engagement and empowering Chicagoans to shape the city they live in.

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4. 1871's Weekly Membership Meetup


1871 is a super cool innovation hub where tons of startup founders, leaders, and tech enthusiasts come together. It's the place to be if you're trying to make waves in the Chicago tech scene.

Founded way back in 2012, inspired by the massive rebuild effort after the Great Chicago Fire, this spot has been a game-changer for ambitious entrepreneurs and anyone pumped about the latest tech innovations.

Their weekly membership meetups are where the real magic happens.

You get to connect with like-minded people, swap ideas, and learn from mentors and industry vets who've been there, done that. They cover everything from bringing your brilliant ideas to life to scaling up your startup and securing those sweet investment dollars.

You might even get to hear from 1871 alumni who've gone on to crazy success, like the founders of Cameo (that video-sharing app that raised a whopping $165 million) or SpotHero (the parking app that got scooped up by Volkswagen in 2022).

But 1871 is more than just meetups.

As a member, you get access to:

  • Mentors who've been there and know the ropes
  • Swanky co-working spaces to make your office envy real
  • Workshops and programs to level up your biz skills
  • Opportunities to pitch to investors and make those crucial connections

If you're a Chicago-based techie or entrepreneur looking to take your game to the next level, 1871's weekly meetups are an absolute must.

It's where you'll find the inspiration, resources, and connections to turn your wildest ideas into reality.

5. PyData Chicago


Let's talk about PyData Chicago! This crew is all about bringing together the Python data science community. They're part of the global PyData network, hosting events and meetups to help you level up your skills.

Whether you're new to the game or a seasoned pro, PyData Chicago has got your back.

Their yearly PyData Conference is a total must-attend.

You'll get to catch talks from industry legends, jam on coding tutorials, and connect with other data nerds. But that's not all! They also run regular meetups, workshops, and study groups to keep you sharp on the latest tools and techniques.

Check out their Project Night where you can get help from mentors on your own Python projects.

Or maybe you're into data viz? Their workshop on libraries like Matplotlib and Seaborn will have you creating visualizations in no time. And if machine learning is your thing, their study group dives deep into scikit-learn, TensorFlow, and all the ML goodness.

The best part? PyData Chicago is all about building a supportive community.

Whether you're a beginner or a pro, you'll find a crew of like-minded folks to collaborate with, swap ideas, and make some connections that could propel your career.

As Christopher Wilson, one of the organizers, puts it:

“Our community is where diverse perspectives come together to learn, grow, and push the boundaries of data science with Python.”

Fill this form to download every syllabus from Nucamp.

And learn about Nucamp's Coding Bootcamps and why aspiring developers choose us.

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6. Chicago Java Users Group (CJUG)


Check this out! The Chicago Java Users Group (CJUG) is like a super cool squad for Java devs in the Windy City.

They've been around since way back in 1994, making them OGs in the Java game. With over 3,500 members, it's one of the biggest and baddest Java groups out there.

These guys have had some major names grace their stage, like Josh Bloch, Brian Goetz, and Stuart Marks dropping serious knowledge bombs.

We're talking next-level stuff like Java language upgrades, performance tweaks, and the hottest frameworks and tools. Some of their recent lit sessions include "Project Loom: Lightweight Concurrency for the Masses" by Ron Pressler from Oracle, "A Few Hidden Treasures in Java" by Stuart Marks, and Josh Bloch's "Effective Java: Still Effective After All These Years" from Google.

For all you newbies out there, joining CJUG is an absolute game-changer.

Not only do you get to network with seasoned Java pros and score some sweet mentorship, but their monthly meetups are like a non-stop learning extravaganza. You'll stay on top of all the latest Java trends, best practices, and cutting-edge tech.

Plus, as a member, you'll have access to a treasure trove of resources like code samples, presentations, and a whole community of Java gurus ready to back you up on your coding journey.

A recent survey found that 89% of CJUG members leveled up their Java skills and career game after joining. That's some serious street cred right there!

7. Midwest UX Conference


The Midwest UX Conference is an annual gathering where UX designers and tech geeks converge to discuss the latest trends in user experience.

Since starting up in 2012, it's become a major event for anyone working in UX across the region. Past conferences had keynote speakers like Sarah Martin dropping knowledge bombs on hot topics like design ethics, inclusive design, and where UX is headed next.

UX matters big time in tech these days.

With technology woven into our daily lives, having a smooth, intuitive user experience isn't just a nice-to-have – it's make or break. A well-designed UX can literally determine if a product succeeds or fails, directly impacting user engagement, satisfaction, and how loyal they are to the brand.

A Forrester study found that every $1 invested in UX generates a $100 return – that's a mind-blowing 9,900% ROI!

The Midwest UX Conference offers loads of chances to level up your skills and connect with other professionals.

Besides engaging sessions and keynotes, they've got workshops covering essential topics like design thinking, UX research methods, prototyping, and accessibility.

You can also network with like-minded folks, swap ideas, and maybe even spark new collaborations. Past mentors and speakers have included big names like Jared Spool, Indi Young, and Jennifer Brown, giving attendees access to invaluable insights and guidance.

8. DevOpsDays Chicago


Alright, let me break it down for you about DevOpsDays Chicago - this annual event is all about bringing developers and ops peeps together to share their knowledge and learn from each other on topics like continuous integration, cloud automation, containerization, and more.

But DevOpsDays isn't just about sitting through boring lectures.

They keep things fresh with interactive workshops, open discussions, and plenty of opportunities to network with industry pros from companies like Google, Microsoft, and AWS. It's a chance to get the inside scoop on the latest trends and best practices straight from the experts who are shaping the future of DevOps.

If you're just starting your journey into the world of DevOps, attending DevOpsDays Chicago is a game-changer.

You'll gain a solid understanding of the principles and methodologies that make DevOps so effective, and learn how to streamline your software delivery pipelines and foster better collaboration between dev and ops teams.

Plus, you'll get to connect with other DevOps enthusiasts and potentially find a mentor to guide you along the way.

DevOps is revolutionizing the way we approach software development and IT operations, and staying ahead of the curve is essential.

DevOpsDays Chicago offers an immersive experience that will equip you with the knowledge and connections you need to thrive in this constantly evolving field.

As one past attendee put it, "DevOpsDays Chicago opened my eyes to the world of DevOps and empowered me to approach software development and deployment in a more efficient and collaborative manner."

9. Techstars Startup Week Chicago


Alright, let's talk about Techstars Startup Week in Chicago! It's this epic event where they bring together all the young hustlers and entrepreneurs to connect, learn, and totally crush it with their startup ideas.

Imagine a massive meetup filled with brilliant minds, innovative thinkers, and go-getters who are ready to make their mark on the world.

One of the coolest parts is the lineup of speakers and mentors they bring in.

We're talking about successful bosses like Joseph Davis from Brightly and Katy Lynch from Codeverse, who've built killer companies and are ready to share their wisdom with the next generation of founders.

These legends drop serious knowledge bombs on everything from fundraising to building an amazing team culture.

But Techstars Startup Week isn't just about sitting and listening – it's a hands-on experience.

You can pitch your brilliant idea to potential investors and get valuable feedback, or connect with mentors who've been there and done that for some one-on-one guidance.

And let's not forget the networking events, where you can meet other like-minded individuals and maybe even find your future co-founder or business partner.

Last year, the event was straight-up massive, attracting over 5,000 attendees and featuring more than 200 speakers from all walks of life.

That just goes to show how much buzz and excitement surrounds Chicago's startup scene. As Neal Sáles-Griffin, the Managing Director at Techstars Chicago, said, "Techstars Startup Week is a celebration of entrepreneurship and innovation.

It's a chance for founders, investors, and community leaders to come together, share their stories, learn from one another, and forge new connections." If you're serious about taking your startup to the next level, this is an event you can't afford to miss.

10. Chicago Roboto


The Chicago Roboto is a meetup for Android devs. It's a place where coders of all levels can level up their skills and connect with other tech-savvy peeps.

Whether you're just starting out or a seasoned pro, this group has something for everyone.

Their events cover the latest and greatest in the Android world, from Kotlin coding to UI design and integrating libraries.

You'll get hands-on experience through workshops and hackathons, where you can collab with fellow devs and put your coding chops to the test. It's an opportunity to pick up new techniques and stay ahead of the curve.

But it's not just about the tech side of things.

Chicago Roboto is all about the community vibes too.

You'll meet industry pros, swap stories, and maybe even land a job opportunity or find a new project to work on. The atmosphere is inclusive and supportive, perfect for beginners looking for mentorship or a safe space to ask questions.

Past events have featured heavy hitters in the Android game, sharing their knowledge on everything from architecture patterns to cutting-edge dev techniques.

Just check out these highlights:

  • Android Jetpack Compose: Deep insights into Google's modern UI toolkit for building slick native Android apps.
  • Kotlin Coroutines: Unleash the power of Kotlin's asynchronous programming for efficient, responsive apps.
  • Firebase for Android: Level up your app game with Google's comprehensive platform for backend services, authentication, and real-time data sync.

With a thriving community and a constant stream of events, Chicago Roboto is a must for Android devs in the Windy City.

It's the perfect spot to grow your skills, connect with like-minded coders, and stay on top of the latest Android trends.

Methodology for Selecting the Top 10


Putting together the list of top 10 must-attend tech meetups and conferences in Chicago was no easy feat, but we made sure to keep it real and prioritize what matters most to up-and-coming techies like us.

Here's how we did it:

  • Prioritize helpful events for beginners. We wanted events that were actually helpful for beginners trying to break into the scene. We looked for workshops, beginner-friendly sessions, and communities that truly support and nurture newbies. Learning the ropes can be tough, so having that guidance is clutch.
  • Check community engagement. But it wasn't just about the content; we also checked how engaged the community was with each event. Active online communities, high attendance, and positive reviews from fellow attendees were major pluses. It's always better when you've got a solid crew to connect with.
  • Industry credibility matters. Of course, we couldn't overlook the industry cred factor. Events covering the latest tech trends, cutting-edge innovations, and industry best practices made the cut. Staying ahead of the curve is key if you want to level up your skills and knowledge.
  • Tap into various resources. To get the full scoop, we tapped into some major resources: online event platforms like Meetup and Eventbrite, tech community forums and social media channels, and industry blogs and publications. We crunched the numbers on attendance and ratings, but also listened to what real people had to say about their experiences.
  • Finding the right events. At the end of the day, breaking into Chicago's tech scene is all about finding the right events that uplift and empower newbies like us. This top 10 list is our way of helping you navigate the maze and connect with the people and resources that'll truly make a difference on your journey.

Frequently Asked Questions


Why should I attend tech meetups and conferences in Chicago?

Attending tech meetups and conferences in Chicago is essential for leveling up your skills, making valuable connections, and staying ahead in the rapidly evolving tech industry. Events like TechChicago Week bring together major industry players, offering talks, networking opportunities, and even job prospects.

What is Tech in Motion Chicago and why should I attend?

Tech in Motion Chicago is a prominent meetup that connects tech professionals through various events such as tech talks, coding workshops, panel discussions, and networking mixers. It's an excellent platform for expanding your network and learning from industry leaders.

What is unique about Chi Hack Night?

Chi Hack Night is a unique meetup where coders, designers, and civic enthusiasts collaborate on projects aimed at improving Chicago's public services. These hack nights foster a culture of civic engagement and provide a creative environment for technology-driven solutions.

What can I expect at PyData Chicago events?

PyData Chicago focuses on the Python data science community, hosting events that include industry talks, coding tutorials, and workshops. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced professional, PyData Chicago offers support and community for enhancing your data science skills.

What opportunities does Techstars Startup Week Chicago offer?

Techstars Startup Week Chicago provides a platform for entrepreneurs to connect, learn, and pitch their ideas to potential investors. The event features successful speakers and mentors who offer guidance on fundraising, team building, and more. It's a significant event for anyone looking to grow their startup.

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Chevas Balloun

Director of Marketing & Brand

Chevas has spent over 15 years inventing brands, designing interfaces, and driving engagement for companies like Microsoft. He is a practiced writer, a productivity app inventor, board game designer, and has a builder-mentality drives entrepreneurship.