Hi, I’m Phil and I’m a geek!
I mean that in more ways than one. I’m talking full on RPGs, tabletop wargames, video games, tech, Star Wars and no social skills; that level of geek. Or at least when I was a teenager, I certainly was. As I grew up I overcame most of my social anxiety, but the desire to hide that geeky side of myself has somewhat persisted.
When it comes to being a tech enthusiast, I feel that introversion is a bad thing for many reasons. So I’d like to talk about the benefits of trying to break that mould, be more of an extrovert and using Meetups to do that.
I’m going to use the word ‘Meetups’ a lot in this article, simply because they are good examples of social events where you talk about tech. However, what I am referring to is any such group event or situation. So conventions like PyCon, tech-talks of any sort (Eventbrite as well as Meetup is used to organise some here in Manchester), or even work socials with the right people, are good examples. I have a friend in London who runs a geeky book club. That counts. Every time I meet up with him all we do is talk about coding. That counts too. You get the point!
Meetups as Education
You’re not going to come away from a 2 hour event having mastered a new technology, but you may have just learned that an intriguing one exists. I bring a notebook to every Meetup I go to and scribble down key words as I hear them. This is Googling gold for later, which may or may not lead me down a rabbit hole of self-education that ends in me loving said technology.
Saying that, not all Meetup events are talks. I have been to a few that function much like study groups, namely those organised by Codurance , Manchester Patterns Group and Software Crafters North (I’m told that they host similar events in London). So in these cases, along with that of my friend’s book club, you can in fact come away with a deeper understanding of an aspect of your favourite topic.
Meetups as Networking
Here is where I continue to struggle. In any one of these gatherings there are dozens of people who are working in our industry, and obviously enthusiastic enough to play with technology on the side. These are people whose stories I would find interesting, and talking to them would give me a better understanding of what software/methodologies are being used by nearby businesses. Why then do I hide and eat my free pizza… I guess I still need to work on that one.
John Sonmez, in his book Soft Skills: The Software Developer’s Life Manual mentions seeing yourself as your own business. That means selling yourself to the company you work for, marketing yourself, being aware of the market for people in your position, developing yourself, etc. If you think about it for a second, it is obvious that all of these things are good ideas. So yes, this is me psyching myself up to do better next time!
Meetups as Social Training
Don’t get me wrong, when engaged I can talk, and hold my own conversationally, but given a work-related topic, am I adding value to the conversation? Well I don’t know, I think I am but I don’t know. I do know that, I’m not going to get better by acting like a recluse. Simply having the knowledge isn’t enough, I need to be able to discuss it if I want to push the new, shiny framework and end up working with it. You need to be able to look people in the eyes with confidence if you want to pass the interview for the job of your dreams. Moreover, we’re not going to get there if we don’t practice. So trapping myself in a room with twenty other geeks who are talking shop, makes such practice mandatory, and if I say something stupid there really it’s no big deal. I can bring the topic up later and correct myself, no harm done.
The point I’m trying to make is, regularly engaging in casual tech talk gives you the confidence and experience you will need to do it when you have to.
I hope I’ve convinced you of the benefits of socialising your inner geek, by using myself as an example. Really it’s all about knowledge, confidence and getting out there. I invite anyone and everyone to join me and leverage the modern social tools available to become better at being themselves!
Or failing that you could just fall back on blogging.