Learning, sharing, teaching — the story of a community member
The IT industry is very interesting and unique in its way. On one end it is demanding and has a high entry barrier. On the other end, it is friendly and welcoming to newcomers. Or at least it should be.
Companies go to extreme lengths to keep their employees happy and connected to their business. But most of the times they do it for their own benefit, not for the benefit of the employee.
People need to stay connected to the industry and to technology. They need a neutral zone that is built only for them and does not work for the direct benefit of a company.
Tech communities are the catalyst between a person and the industry. They offer people a way of meeting others and exchanging ideas outside work. They offer the industry new ways of sharing information. They make sure people are better connected — they have more possibilities of expressing themselves.
Communities can be centered around technologies, projects, disciplines or even branches of business. The single denominator is the passion of the people that form them.
While being part of various offline and online communities I started seeing a pattern.
Initially I would join a meetup to learn new things about a certain domain. Or I would join a forum to ask a question or find guidance.
Then I would get to the point when I was ready to share some of my ideas. At first to get feedback on them, but later simply because it felt right.
Finally I would dedicate some time to helping others. To teach them some of the skills I acquired or simply to answer some of their questions.
This circular pattern of: learning -> sharing -> teaching is the ideal lifecycle of the activities of a community member.
This is a great particularity inside the tech world. Everybody has something to learn, no matter how many years of experience they have.
A community is a group of people who agree to grow together — Simon Sinek
Learning together means growing together. It means exchanging ideas and understanding different perspectives to what we already know. There’s no doubt that everybody has something to learn from meetups and conferences.
It’s an ever changing domain, where knowledge is impossible to contain into a single book or a single brain. You might be an expert in your field, but you will always find people that are less experienced who can give you great ideas or teach you something new.
We are moving past the time when having a great idea meant you should keep it to yourself and “pitch it” to the right people.
If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it — Margaret Fuller
Exchanging ideas is the best way to progress as a society. The tech world is pretty open to this and so are the communities built around it.
Take open source for example. It has such a huge impact on our lives. You can’t even imagine a world without open source and github.
If you have done well, it is your duty to send the elevator back down — Kevin Spacey
This is one of my favorite quotes. It doesn’t refer to the tech world, but I find it more than suitable.
We should always look towards teaching and passing on the knowledge we acquire. It’s a very simple recipe for fast forwarding our evolution.
Because the tech industry is so big and complex, we cannot rely on traditional education to rise the level of know-how.
Teaching others is not an option, but a duty. Plus we are bootstrapping their careers or we are setting them on the right path. One day, we may benefit from that.
But first, let me offer a bit of background about the IT sector in Cluj, Romania.
90% of the companies here are outsourcing companies. You can imagine a lot of recruitment, headhunting and job-hopping happening as we speak.
In 2015, I wrote an article about the problems of the outsourcing driven industry. I got a lot of polarising opinions, which lead me to believe I struck a nerve.
Part of the idea of writing that article was that I would try to find a way to change things. I wanted to offer solutions, not to point to problems.
Luckily I found a great group of people and together we created one of the biggest tech communities in our country.
We wanted to change the way companies see technology. We wanted to create a more collaborative environment for our entire city/region.
We identified the main problem of the existing communities. They were owned by a company and transformed into recruitment platforms.
So the first effort was put into the no-recruitment policy. We wanted to create a safe environment for everyone.
Then we made sure that the events are not company owned as we hosted them at various locations throughout the city.
At first, we focused on learning as we hosted a lot of open-discussion meetups. During these events people with different backgrounds share their thoughts and experiences.
Whether it is React or Angular, Web or Mobile apps, we all share our perspectives and learn from what others are saying.
Then we started exploring the true power of sharing as we created a facebook group which is open to all members. In time, the group created an amazing list of curated materials.
Finally, we understood the value of teaching. We started doing workshops for entry level people on core fundamental skills.
We see with our own eyes how big the impact of a community is. Most of the tickets for our workshops sell in matter of hours after announcing them.
In the end, the biggest selling point for the community is that we are able to grow the level of expertise in our region. This impacts the business and the companies that are doing business here.
Our mission is not done, but we are confident that we are moving in the right way.
Our next big step is coming up in June. We’re putting all our effort into creating one of the biggest community driven conferences in our country: JSHeroes.
But we’re not the first, nor the last to try to make a change. Communities have influenced our industry for decades now, we just haven’t given them too much credit yet.
I like the story of the Homebrew Computer Club that ran in Silicon Valley in the 60s. This is the place where Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak first demoed the Apple I Computer.
Meetups and tech conferences foster collaboration and growth. Rarely can a single person make a change in the tech industry.
Sharing ideas and working together is the better approach for a solid future.
During these events knowledge is distributed. But also, ideas come to life.
Information is not only exchanged, but it is also created. You could say that meetups and conferences are knowledge generators.
The more time and energy we invest in them, the greater the output.
So give communities a try, surround yourself with people that share your passions and interests. I guarantee that it’s an investment worth making.
What is your experience with communities? Drop a message below and let’s chat. We are also interested in creating long-term collaborations between communities, so don’t hesitate.
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