Consonance Club
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Consonance Club

Tech meetups; waste of time or not?

I was in 200 level when a lady friend of mine told me the story of her two sisters. One was always studying, never having time to do or participate in any other thing, the good thing being that she had her grades to defend her reasons. The younger of the two was quite different, she was more engaging and participating, she had more friends and she was also an active member of various organizations on campus. It was unsurprising that the first graduated with a first class while the second graduated with a second class lower, two years after the first graduated. The surprising turnout was that the second got a job immediately after graduation at KPMG while the first was still teaching at the same position where she did her service (NYSC). Thankfully, at the time I was being told this story, the first had gotten a job at a firm after 3 years.

Why do you think this happened? Luck? Destiny? Bad effects of cramming?

Just hold on…

In the past 1 year, there have been over 100 tech meetups organized at locations all over Nigeria. Some people have the belief that one does not necessarily learn anything from these meetups and that they are a waste of productive time. If you’re of this belief, you’re not wrong from your own perspective. It all depends on what is most important to you. I will only try to show you a big picture so you can redefine your perspective on this issue.

Most meetups are not tailored for learning but I can say that most are specifically tailored for exposure, deliberately or not.

Explain further?

I have been privileged to assist in the organization of a number of tech meetups and here are a few things that I think you will be exposed to in most meetups:

1. You will be exposed to best practices. These insights can only be gotten from experts with ample years of experience, so you might want to come around them to hear them talk about the frameworks and processes they use in solving certain problems. Sometimes, it may not be obvious at first glance, but we have to do our own work in taking deeper considerations to the talks, slides and chats. I have learnt a lot about getting partners and sponsorship for an event through my experiences helping out and this is one big addition to my career as a business developer. I added this in case you are thinking that this point is only for developers. There is no need making the mistakes people before you have made, the same way it is unnecessary for the new generation to try doing today’s research without the internet. In these meetups, you will get to learn what best to do and what not to do in various occasions, what best to use for certain issues, where to get the right answers and so on.

2. You will be exposed to learning paths. Listening to the speakers aptly, one can get to see their learning paths i.e. routes taken to get to where they are. Most times this happens in panel sessions, when specific questions concerning their experiences are asked. As easy as it is to start out your developer journey, we all know that the most difficult thing to do for a beginner is to select what to learn and be focused on it. The reason we have mediocre developers today is that many haven’t necessary chosen a learning path yet, so they move where they hear the buzz, which is totally wrong. Attending meetups exposes you to various learning paths that have been taken up by the speakers and since you can see where the speakers are now, you can always determine if that is the path you want to take (Ultimately, it depends on what you really want to use the skill to accomplish and what you really love to do). The learning path can further be broken down to books to read, courses to take, projects to work on, teams to join and so on. If the speaker/expert does not mention this during his/her talk or slides, you can always ask at the end of the event because one thing I have seen from my experience is that most tech folks are accessible to an extent, no matter how far they have gone.

3. You will be exposed to opportunities. Read this slowly: “Opportunityisnowhere”. Did you read, “Opportunity is no where” or “Opportunity is now here”?

No matter what you read the statement as, you were correct. Many of us do not see the opportunities around us because of our predisposition to things. The only ones that see opportunities are those that are really open minded. If you are one of the folks that come in late for a meetup and run out before the end of the meetup, just know that you are getting the purpose of meetups all wrong. It is not to fill those white sheets at the desk upon entrance or give out your mail, neither is it about getting the swags (no matter how cool it is), but rather for your growth and development. I have witnessed people getting jobs and gigs from attending events, because of the next two points.

4. You will be exposed to information. At meetups, you get to hear of the latest happenings around the tech space, you might have to come earlier and leave later for this though (the gist has timing). You also get to know those to follow on social media in order to stay informed. Information on startups fly around and many people have not known this, but startups are the easiest companies to enter, although more tasking when you are in. As Oo Nwoye told me, you do not need startups to post a job placement before you get a job, it is possible to create your own job and this has never been so true as in my case. You can reach out to a lot of startups, after understanding properly what they do and seeing where you fit in, telling them how you can add value to their company and help them achieve their goals (which is ultimately what every startup wants). You also get to show yourself as proactive and one that takes up responsibilities. This should only happen when you have value to impact on the organization. Information of new version releases, new frameworks, open projects, next meetups etc. are also available at meetups.

5. You will be exposed to people. Let me dwell a bit here. You remember the story about the two sisters? (If you don’t, scroll up and re-read). The second sister had a friend in the faculty of Law and both of them were volunteers at the same organization. They both visited themselves during the break as they both lived in Lagos. Upon graduation, the father of her friend, who happened to work at KPMG asked her what she wanted to do after school, impressed by the response she gave (the passion and drive cannot be made up), he asked her to contact him after school and voila, she got a job immediately after, even before her service year.

At meetups, you get to meet awesome people before, during and after the events (assuming you’re not among those ones that run away immediately after meetups). The more striking thing to me is that I see folks at meetups trying to meet the tech superstars only. As much as it’s good to meet the bosses, understand that a whole lot of people are trying to meet them also and you only have one shot at leaving your mark. I will suggest that if you are not doing something interesting that you might need assistance, advice or support for and if you do not need a ‘specific thing’ from them, just say hi, get their social media accounts, follow and walk away. What I am strongly in support of is for you to meet that person beside you, that person that entered the hall with you, that person that kept your space when you went out to get something and that person that gave up their swag for you when you didn’t get. The person sitting beside you may turn out to be your learning partner, may add you to a community that will benefit you, may give links to resources and courses that he is using and may even be working for the company you will get a job in next.

On the day I was being interviewed in one of the companies I work for now, I overheard that they had an issue and they were trying to reach a company handling that service. Being that I meet a lot of people, network and make acquaintances out of the people around me at meetups, I put a call through to someone I met at #OyaMakeWeGroove (tech event), and she linked us to the person in charge of what the company needed. I was asked to resume immediately (I can’t tell you that it was the reason I was given the job but I can tell you that it accelerated things).

Meetups are much more than learning platforms

To come back to the belief that I am trying to debunk, meetups are only a waste of time if you do not know why you are there. With the things written above, I hope I have been able to show you the true importance of attending tech meetups. Being a business developer and a data science enthusiast (python, baby!), I have attended meetups that didn’t have anything at all to do with my career and I still call the day a success because to me, meetups are not primarily for learning (except specific training), they are for exposure.

If you are going to meetups to learn everything you need to be of world class standard, then OYO lo wa…lol.

What are meetups to you? If it is not listed above, you can add to the comments below.

Thank you for reading. Do share to people you think the words here might help redefine their perspective to attending tech meetups.

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