Last month at the ngVikings Angular Conference in Copenhagen, I was asked to say a few words to the audience. Afterwards, @rsschouwenaar reached out to ask me to turn those tips into an article that he could share with his Mr. Frontend Community. So Ray, here’s your article! I hope many others find it useful as well.
Today I’m an Angular GDE, Architect, meetup Founder, and Angular Air panelist. However, that is not where I started out! Here is the brief story of how I went from noob to expert and how you can too. 😎
The first few years of my AngularJS career, I was the only Angular developer I knew. I was constantly googling error messages and scouring the internet for code examples. As anyone who was around back then will tell you, the original AngularJS docs were not as awesome as the Angular docs we have today. Learning AngularJS back then was pretty confusing, and we were all overjoyed when guys like Dan Wahlin and Todd Motto began putting out tutorials that were easier for beginners to understand.
After several years writing AngularJS alone, I founded an Angular meetup called ngHouston. I definitely wasn’t an expert back then, in fact to be honest I started the meetup because I was hoping to find an expert who could help me when I got stuck. I didn’t even feel qualified to run a meetup, I thought maybe I’d find myself an expert mentor and then convince him to take over from there. I never did find my expert mentor, instead quite by accident something even better happened — I became an expert mentor.
You will never feel like an expert while you’re looking at the people who came before you. Instead, you have to turn around and look at all the beginners who started after you and are still struggling to figure things out. To them, you’re already an expert and you have much to offer!
Don’t wait until you feel confident — that comes later. For now just start looking for something you can teach to others. It could be something you struggled with when you first started, or something that made your life easier, or maybe something you just think is really cool. It can be anything you find valuable that you think some people might not already know. Even better — pick something that you don’t already know that you wish you did, and then make a presentation! You’ll be forced to learn it along the way and — believe it or not — this is a great way to learn.
If you’re terrified over the idea of public speaking, that’s totally normal. Many conference speakers have anxiety before going on stage but it definitely gets easier with practice. Developers care more about code than delivery, so in the end what you teach us means more than your stage presence. Start with meetups because they’re free and they’re more informal so this is a perfect place to practice! Also, meetup organizers are always looking for people to give talks and they will usually welcome your contribution. If there is no Angular meetup near you, you can click here to join us on ngHouston because we’re a remote meetup, beginners welcome and no travel required!
Maybe you think speaking at conferences is a crazy idea, and maybe you’re right. I first submitted conference talks only because they paid for travel and hotel and back then it was the only way I could afford to go. However, looking back I realized that the only way to become an expert is to stop looking at my own “experts” and turn around to start teaching the beginners behind me. In the beginning I helped them even though they had nothing to offer me but in the end, they helped me just as much as I helped them, if not more.
So if you’d like to become an expert someday, first you need to become a teacher. What are you waiting for?