SISTEM 2020 was a great success, and this is only the beginning

What is SISTEM?

SISTEM stands for Student’s Inter-Society Tech & Enterprise Meetup. It is an annual tech event that was started by the DCU Redbrick Society. It was originally organised by James McDermott and Lorcan Boyle in late 2017, proposed by Boyle as an inter-college tech-conference. The first SISTEM event, SISTEM 2018, had 61 attendees. It was hosted in the Trinity Innovation Academy and hosted speakers and workshops from a variety of big-name companies such as Google, Microsoft, and SAP. Overall, the event was a success and implied an increased interest in years to come.

This year’s SISTEM 2020 was held in University College Dublin, just off the N11 in Belfield. It was the product of the combined work by 9 different Computer Science societies across the country.

  • UCD NetSoc
  • TU Dublin Computer Society
  • Redbrick DCU
  • Trinity DUCSS
  • Maynooth Computer Society
  • UCC Netsoc
  • Queen’s Computing Society
  • Trinity NetSoc
  • NUIG Computer Society

Last year’s SISTEM – SISTEM 2019

Before getting into this year’s event, we need to talk about last year’s. The success of SISTEM 2018 gave the organisers an insight as to how to plan the next event, now that they had “the blueprints”. And they succeeded with flying colours – SISTEM 2019 was even more of a success than the first and was held in DCU’s Student Centre. Perhaps a contributing factor to the success of that year was the inclusion of even more colleges, and quite notably, the revival of UCD NetSoc. UCD NetSoc’s chairman Oisin Quinn got in contact with McDermott in mid-2018 and together, they began planning for SISTEM 2019. With this addition, SISTEM 2019 had 7 collaborating colleges, all with the same goal.

SISTEM 2019 doubled the attendance and then some, with over 150 attendees. At this stage, it had become apparent to the organisers what the point of this conference was. It was an event to build a community – specifically a community revolving around a diversity of students in a wide range of tech-related fields. The event was hosted in DCU’s brand new Student Centre, with guests such as Cian Butler from Demonware, Terry Bolt from Google and even David Sutton, Director of Arista Ireland. The event was a roaring success overall, solidifying “lightning talks” as a recurring part of the SISTEM routine. For more information on SISTEM 2019’s backstory, you can read James McDermott’s blog post – Making SISTEM Happen.

This year’s SISTEM – SISTEM 2020

James McDermott at SISTEM 2020
James McDermott at SISTEM 2020

At 9 am on Saturday the 29th of February, 2020, SISTEM 2020 began. It was hosted in the O’Brien Centre for Science at UCD. A queue flooded out the door merely minutes after 9 – a promising sign for what was to come. Catering was provided for the first hour – a feast of pastries, tea, and coffee – and the introduction talk began at 10 am. Given by James McDermott, he touched on both the build-up leading to the event and the successes of years prior. To kick things off at right about 10:15, Sarah Cunningham from Mastercard gave a phenomenal talk on thriving in an ever-changing industry.

Sarah Cunningham at SISTEM 2020
Sarah Cunningham at SISTEM 2020

Diversity, Accessibility, and Pokémon APIs

Cassidy Williams at SISTEM 2020
Cassidy Williams at SISTEM 2020

As Sarah Cunningham’s talk concluded, the schedule split, allowing attendees to attend whatever workshops and talks they wanted to. Cassidy Williams gave an excellent talk on “Intro to React and React Hooks”. Some say they had never seen someone program that quickly – and probably never will again. Many also learned of the existence of the Pokémon API known as PokéAPI.

One of the primary focuses of SISTEM 2020 was diversity. 44% of the speakers were female, and 56% male. As an effort to further the inclusion, lanyards were given out to those who bought tickets, on which there was a special section for writing one’s pronouns. This was a remarkable touch that a lot of people very much appreciated.

Another key focus of the committee in the design of SISTEM 2020 was accessibility. UCD Netsoc’s Oisin Quinn introduced a tech panel consisting of Matt McCann, Damian Gordon, Barry Walsh, and Gearoid Kearney. Nicole McCabe then hosted the panel. This panel discussed the importance of disability accessibility and provided helpful insights on how to make your products and work more accessible, as a future developer.

Other popular panels included; Women in Tech Panel, with Sheeka Patak, Barbara McCarthy, Claire Houston, and Olivia Leonard, hosted by Lauren Taylor, as well as the Gaming, AR, & VR Panel, with Jake Young, Adam Grimley, and Paul O’Carroll, hosted by Adrian Wennberg.

Getting inside the mind of James McDermott

We had the pleasure of passing on a few questions to James McDermott following SISTEM 2020. We asked him about the goals, aspirations, and what he himself would do to encourage people to get involved in SISTEM in the coming years. You can read the full interview here, however, here are some points of note to be excited about.

The goal of SISTEM 2020 was to bring the student tech community together in a casual meetup environment, expanding their network with students from other universities and providing a link with those in the world of tech and enterprise.


The SISTEM organising committee was dedicated to ensuring the event was diverse in it’s the speaking line-up and accessible to all present on the day.


I think meetups like SISTEM do a great deal to strengthen the student tech community. Bringing students together from all corners of the island allows for the sharing of knowledge and ideas. I think the student tech community is more tight-knit than now than it was before the inaugural event, and with each passing year, the bonds forged have only grown stronger.


In my eyes, the more colleges that come on board, the better for all […] In future years, I think we could see the event reach further out again, I think that down the line somewhere the organisers will reach out to invite students from other European universties.


I’d like to see an attempt at a zero-waste policy.


SISTEM 2020 was, without a doubt, the greatest SISTEM success yet. Having sold nearly 250 tickets, nearly entirely selling out, it has continued the conference’s pattern of increased attendance annually. This year saw the greatest growth in attendance from a previous year. When asked if SISTEM 2020 achieved its goal, James McDermott said:

The goal of SISTEM 2020 was to bring the student tech community together in a casual meetup environment, expanding their network with students from other universities and providing a link with those in the world of tech and enterprise. We definitely achieved this goal.

He went on to encourage everyone who might be interested to get involved next year, as it is a great opportunity to not just expand your networking, but also your friend circles.

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