For the most part, being described as a ‘Yes Person’ is not a compliment. If you see yourself as a self-motivated, grab-life-by-the-horns type of individual, it’s the last thing you’d want to be labeled as. But, as is the case with many things, there are exceptions to the rule. For almost a year I have been conducting an informal experiment in one particular area of my life and saying yes to any and all opportunities that cross my path in the realm of web development.
I decided to start down the path of becoming a web developer roughly a year ago, and as part of my roughly outlined plain, I decided that I would pursue and make time for any opportunity to meet with someone on an individual level. I was specific about the ‘individual level’ part of it because I’m not exactly a social butterfly, and I know that dropping into bigger events where I know absolutely no one is not a good fit for me, and not a productive use of my time. For the last year I have taken advantage of every opportunity to talk to fellow a developer, pair program, have code reviews, or anything else of that nature that comes my way.
The meeting of people was a little slow at first, one caveat that I’ve mentioned before about learning with an online program is that it severely lacks a person-to-person community. You can only do so much with Slack. To supplement this, I started attending meetups. Initially I went to any and all meetups that piqued my interest. This was good to see what all the meetups had to offer, but attending multiple meetups a week was absolutely exhausting. I narrowed it down to two meetups a month, which may not sound like a lot, but with everything else I have going on, even one every other week is a lot.
Meetups are a great way to meet people. You know that you already have two things in common, the tech stack that the meetup is about, and the fact that everyone attending likes that stack enough to talk about it outside of work/school. Almost everyone I regularly keep in touch with has come directly or indirectly from the Boulder Ruby meetup. Another great thing about meetups is that if there’s not one that fits your particular interest you can just start one! I know I’ve written about this before, but starting a meetup that better fit my interests (beginner level developing) has been incredibly beneficial to my networking and web dev skills. It takes a lot less effort than one might assume, and once it gets rolling there will almost definitely be someone attending that can be coerced into helping plan future events.
Meetups lead to meeting a lot of different people, and those people know other people, and on and on it goes. If I have a great conversation with someone at a meetup I make it a point to try to meet them again on a one-on-one basis. It could be for any reason, I almost never have a prerogative when meeting with someone. I’m not meeting with them to ask about work opportunities, or how they could directly benefit me, but instead to learn more about them and their journey with web development. It always leads to interesting conversations, and sometimes to potential opportunities, but it does that naturally, not because that was the goal of the meeting.
If you can’t carve the time out of your schedule to make it to meetups you can utilize other resources like Twitter and Slack. It can take time to aggregate the right industry people to follow and the best Slack channels to be a part of, but both are super useful services when utilized correctly. I’ve had remote chats with seasoned professionals on the other side of the country because I stumbled across the right tweet. And I’ve had more than a few in-depth discussions with people on local Slack channels that I’ve then followed up with in person.
Following up is a huge part of the process. It might seem super obvious, but after being in the position to hire freelancers in a different career I was shocked at how many people didn’t follow through after a conversation where I basically told them the work was theirs. Just follow through, it’s super simple, and I can almost guarantee that if you do it you’ll be in the minority.
Over the past three months I have met with an average of one new person every week. That means I’ve spoken to at least 12 different people and have heard 12 unique stories of how they got to where they are, the speed bumps they encountered had along the way, and the lessons learned in the process. That’s incredibly valuable to someone like me who is trying to break into the job market with a ton of other junior developers. Ive basically learned from the mistakes and success of 12 different people. That makes for a huge chunk of experience that I don’t have to learn the hard way, on my own. It’s almost like pushing a fast forward button my career.
This whole thing is an experiment, and its not ‘complete’ yet, and it may never be. I’m still in school, have only recently started to actively pursue a job, so I can’t say that this networking experiment was the magic key that landed me a kick-ass developing gig. But I can say that I like my current trajectory and I’m confident something good is right around the corner.
PS – For the sake of consistency with the blog formatting, this post is for weeks 36 & 37 of school with a date range of 161007 – 1611210