The Importance of Community

Back in 2007 I was a lone PHP developer sitting in my office, heads down and plugging away. I went to an unmentioned PHP conference that year by myself and attempted to meet some people in their community. While I met a few nice people, the people that really impressed me were really not nice. They were actually kind of mean when talking about the language. I mentioned something about how PHP’s array functions always had different signatures (for example one would have “haystack, needle”, while another would have “needle, haystack”). I was immediately told I should just look up the method signature and be quiet. This came from a rather high up person who at the time was working at Yahoo.

So, these interactions inspired me to look into Ruby/Rails and I never wrote another line of PHP.

I started attending the Columbus Ruby Brigade and felt very awkward as I knew no one. I went to a couple meetings and I never drew the nerve to go to the bar afterwards with everyone. I just kind of ran away.

One month I forced myself out of my comfort zone and I made a pact to introduce myself to at least three people. What I found was really, really nice people. They didn’t care that I was a newbie in the language nor the group. They were happy to meet me. So I went to the bar afterward that time, and I met even more people. I started to feel comfortable.

Fast forward to 2011 — I was asked to lead the CRB.

Through the CRB I have found many great friends and I look forward each month to seeing all them. Conversations are filled with jokes, experiences, job openings, and a whole lot of laughter. We’ve shared the pictures of our kids and celebrated career moves and the births of companies.

As the benevolent leader of the group my main task is to find and inspire speakers. Sometimes it’s difficult to fill the speaking slots and I’m aware of the same people speaking every other month. I understand the fear of public speaking (which is really the fear of non-acceptance) and many folks say “I can’t do that”, and “I don’t know what to speak about” or even “I have nothing to contribute”. To that I give a hearty and resounding Bullshit.

You are the sum of who and what you have encountered in life and every one of us is a walking book filled with stories, insights, perspectives and opinions. All of which are worth sharing as they are what makes you you.

If you’re sitting there reading this and you aren’t active in your community, you are missing out — but maybe even more importantly, the community is missing out on you. Please learn from my experience and get out there. Share yourself and be yourself. You are never alone, and if you share yourself, you will grow in wonderfully unexpected ways.

Originally published at

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