We’ve all heard the famous quote “to be or not to be?” but if you’re a developer, often times the question is “to RSVP Yes or No?” Before marking “No,” I’d like to share about my personal experiences and the benefits that developers can gain from attending events.
A year ago I felt I was ready for new adventurous in my career, but I didn’t want to leave my fulltime job. I started going to different meetups around Boston but couldn't find the right one: some of them were boring, some had too many attendees, and some were more concentrated on hardware, when I preferred software. I was almost ready to give up, especially because it was so time consuming to find a meetup that was right for me.
One evening I decided to check out a meetup at Microsoft's office in Burlington, MA. The topic of the talk was so popular that I could barely find a place to sit. During the break I started talking to one of the men I was sitting next to and learned that he worked for Microsoft and was also a speaker at those meetups. He offered me a spot to present at one of the upcoming events and immediately, my response was, "Public speaking is one of my biggest fears and I don't know if I have anything to share with my peers." Despite that, he asked me to think of a topic and even helped me with my first presentation and finding a place to present.
A year later, I still present at local meetups, get invites to speak around New England and even ventured out to Las Vegas to present at VS Live (I'll be happy to see you at VS Live in Boston in June). My life definitely changed in a good way and I'm glad I'm having an opportunity to learn, share my knowledge, meet different people from all over the world, get interesting ideas for projects and potentially get new clients and new employees for the company I'm working for.
This is a photo of me presenting at a conference.
Here are some tips to get you ready for your own networking adventures:
Narrow Down Your Focus
At the beginning of my experience, I was attending so many events and meetups, that I started to feel burnt out. Some of them weren’t the size I wanted or didn’t even have the right subject matter. Be sure to do your research about an event before you RSVP. Ask yourself: what do I want to get out of this event? Will they have helpful content? Will I meet interesting people? Is this a community I want to be a part of?
Don’t Make Assumptions
Each event is different and the value you get from a meetup derives from a lot of different variables. At some tech meetups I attended, I didn’t see many other women developers. If I had let that influence me, I wouldn’t have kept up my search (the tech industry is still very male-heavy). Don’t let one experience color the way you are seeing an event of the organization that’s hosting. Instead, try to keep an open mind about the experience.
Follow Up with People You Meet
I have met so many interesting people at events. One of my friends became a mentor and has played a large role in me finding my voice as a public speaker and presenter. Be sure that if you have an interesting conversation with someone, to get their contact information, whether that’s a business card or LinkedIn profile.
Remember that Not All Work Happens in the Office
Many consider that the work they do only happens in the office, but events and conferences are a great investment in your career. I have learned a great amount from my time spent at conferences and often walk away inspired to develop new skills.
I hope that sharing my story has helped you realize the benefits of networking. Not only can you learn new skills and network with others in your field, but there are also the added bonuses of extended work past your office space, and hearing from well-known thought leaders and tech influencers in the space. The tech world is constantly changing and full of endless possibilities. By becoming a member of a community, you open up a world of opportunity for yourself. Good luck and happy networking!