Other than the coffee culture, one of the many reasons why I love working in Melbourne is the size and the diversity of our tech community. Name a technology buzzword, programming language, framework, or paradigm and you will find at least a Meetup group or tech event for it.
Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence? Yep.
Big Data Analytics? Got that too.
Blockchain? You betcha.
But like any community, your local tech community thrives on the input it gets from you and other developers in the area. Melbourne’s tech community is only big because there are many people (including I) who are willing to put in the effort.
So, here’s why you should contribute back and get involved in your local tech community.
Build your skillset!
Getting involved in the tech community allows you to develop, grow and hone skills that you would not otherwise find time to do.
Even doing something as simple as presenting a lightning talk at a Meetup event can be used as skill development. You are learning how to communicate and present to an audience — and when you are comfortable enough presenting lightning talks, maybe try doing a conference talk or a workshop.
You can also use it to improve your technical skills too. Maybe a conference needs a new mobile app, or maybe an event is redoing their website. Use it as an opportunity (or an excuse) to learn a new programming language, or paradigm.
If this sounds a bit like some of the articles you read when you are at university trying to explain why you should get involved in clubs and societies in your campus — then getting involved in the tech community is pretty much similar to that.
Getting your name out there
For developers, the tech community is also a good way to build up your own personal brand. Having a “developer brand” is a very important asset to have, especially when you decide to move jobs (and come to Localz — we are hiring).
Found something cool or interesting? Made something cool or interesting? Present at a Meetup. Lots of Meetup groups are “first-timer” friendly (MelbJS is a really popular one) and sometimes will prioritise first-time presenters just so you can get the experience.
And if you can’t find a Meetup group that fits with that particular topic you want to talk about? Just make your own.
Paying it Forward
For those unfamiliar with the concept of “pay it forward” — it is the idea where the beneficiary of a good deed repays the deed by spreading it to others, instead of repaying the original benefactor.
Put simply: if I mentor someone, that mentee will then go on to mentor someone else.
This is very important in our industry because we want to grow our current junior developers to senior developers, our current senior developers to lead developers, and our current lead developers to CTOs — or possibly create startups with ideas that push the boundaries or disrupt new markets. We also want these people to train the next generation, and for them to train the next generation, etc.
The idea of “paying it forward” was the reason I started UNIHACK, Australia’s premier student hackathon. This is also why I am a passionate supporter of the Junior Developers Melbourne Meetup group. Even though I am no longer a “junior” developer, I still attend to meet friends, share knowledge and give advice (if they ask, of course).
I should stress that starting a hackathon isn’t the only way of “paying it forward” — there are many (and often easier) ways you can do this. You just need to be available. It could be as simple as letting people contact you on Twitter to ask for help.