Friday, September 4, 2009

Effective Networking Starts With Me

We've all heard that networking is important. But what the heck does that mean? Here's exactly what it means...

I've wanted to become a more integrated part of San Francisco's startup culture for a long time. I go to mixers, stay in touch with people, yada yada, but it never felt like I was developing many strong relationships. Then I started to figure out that I was going to events put on by other people, but I wasn't doing anything to get people to come to me.

Around July 1st of this year I decided I was going to learn to program. Partially for fun, and mostly because I wanted to know more about what my clients and applicants do. I joined a local technology group on Meetup (SFRuby), a local hacker space (Noisebridge), and started attending informal programming sessions moderated and hosted by Alex Chaffee.

For the first couple of weeks of hanging out in and around these social groups, people looked at me like I was a recruiter (I am), and many politely reminded me that they weren't looking for work. It's common for recruiters to solicit talented people at public events, but I was there to program and learn. Then, after I learned a little about what the heck programming actually is, I started to sound more like a beginning programmer and less like a recruiter awkwardly hanging around.

Then I started giving a little to the community. I organized a resume workshop at Noisebridge, a software installation class for SFRuby, and starting being a teaching assistant for a Ruby on Rails class taught by Sarah Allen. Pretty soon I started to get people saying things like, "Hey, aren't you the guy who did...", and I'd say back, "Why yes I am!" In just a few weeks I've gone from an uncomfortable taker to confident contributor.

It gets better.

There's a software tool called Git that a lot of programmers use to manage software development. It's very complex and not easy for a newbie like me to use. Noticing that many other programmers - beginners and folks more experienced - wanted to know more about Git, I decided to organize a tutoring session. I reached out to the community, found out people liked the idea, and started working on it. I asked a couple of people for help, asking for help in the right way is good, and help I got.

Within one week of starting my quest to launch a Git For Newbies class, Dylan at sfCube has made available a space capable of hosting 200 people, an uber Git master training expert - Jason Chacon from GitHub - has volunteered to teach, and I've had over a dozen people RSVP within the first two hours of advertising the event. I haven't needed to spend even $1.

I'm thrilled. I get to learn something new, people who would've barely returned my phone calls a couple months ago are stepping up and helping out, and it's all quite fun. Sure, it takes some work, but when people want to help, it's just not THAT hard. I'm not even trying to recruit these people, but I do get to spend quality around them (and that rocks).

To wrap this up, feel free to go to other people's events, but it's more powerful when you throw your own party. Just find a crowd that is interested in something you like, figure out a need they have, and address it. You'll have a lot of fun and it'll be the easiest, cheapest, most powerful version of self promotion you could hope for. I wouldn't be able to pay enough money for the connections I'm making and things I'm learning, but I don't have to. I'm giving back, and it seems to be working.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a programmer that has yet to cut his teetch on Git (though I use it indirectly for a Heroku project). I just have to say:

    1. Thanks for organizing this useful and relevant event.

    2. Hats off to you for learning to program to get more perspective on your recruiting!