Networking — The Key to Finding Out You Know Something, but Not Enough

one of my many summer runs on break from coding

Back before I dove into the tangled web of web development, I hated the term networking. To me, networking was going to a bar with or without coworkers and meeting other people in the industry and figuring out instances where both of our teams could mutually benefit from a business relationship. Yes, I understood the necessity, but phony smiles and fake niceness always rubbed me the wrong way. I’m sure a lot of people feel this way. While I gladly identify as an ENTJ, my outgoing personality is best on display for friends or family — not for working potential clients.

With the challenge of breaking into a new industry, I knew that this would have to change. I had to begin networking, especially since coding is a communal sport. Open source is the future, so I laced up my sneakers and put away my laptop. On Meetup, I found an event called “Career Study Night: Preparing for the Tech Interview”.

With just a couple months of studying code, I knew that this event would probably go over my head. As positive as I am that I will eventually be a fully-capable talented coder, confidence only gets one so far. After that, experience and some knowledge of the subject is required.

I showed up to the event — a small room on the second floor of a building in the Flatiron district of New York. There were about 12–15 other people there broken into smaller groups. The groups were huddled around pages of questions on topics such as HTML, CSS, Ruby, JavaScript, and so on. I joined a group of four, introduced myself and my story and began working on some of the questions listed.

I can’t stress this enough. Coding is a communal sport. Everyone is coming at this massive animal from different angles. There are some doing the FCC route, while others have been doing Computer Science since high school. The important thing is that it doesn’t matter. All that matters is once you are tackling a problem, advice is always welcomed.

This is something that I never experienced in networking events. The objective has always been “what can I get from you?” while here, this objective has been slightly tweaked to “what can I learn from you?”

The bigger lesson that I learned from this particular Meetup is that I was just plain wrong about this event going over my head. While there were plenty of people more advanced than I am at this current moment, I did bring plenty to the table. Stuff that I considered easy to grasp was a hard concept for others. And the best way to really know that you understand a topic is to try and see if you can teach it to others.

This particular idea reminded me of an article I had read on Medium months ago by Alicia Liu (and the followup article as well!). Get over that feeling that you know nothing. You possess knowledge that you take for granted. What makes coding seem so hard is that 95% of the time is spent in failure. The success happens in short bursts that are usually short-lived because a new problem is right around the corner. Keep your head about water and don’t tell yourself that you should be doing any better than you already are.

Conversely, meeting up with like-minded coders was a humbling experience that reminded me that I have a long way to go. Topics that I had given much thought to a few weeks ago were forgotten and re-taught by these new acquaintances. I’ll most likely forget plenty during this journey, but it’s important to know that we never lose until we give up.

P.S. If anyone in the New York area is heading to BrooklynJS next week, let’s connect.

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