“There is immense power when a group of people with similar interests gets together to work toward the same goals.”
Most of us find it easy to live in our comfort zone when it comes to our careers. We generally go to work, interact with members of our team, collaborate when needed, then come back home.
There’s nothing wrong with this approach, and we can certainly get the job done - but we should do more when it comes to expanding our career. Expanding outside your daily routine can benefit your career and professional development in many ways.
Over the last two decades, as developers have become more and more essential across industries, lots of places for developers to connect have started to spring up. Both online and in-person forums exist to help you solve problems, find learning opportunities, and engage in networking.
You can find a user group or community for just almost all the main modern programming languages or technological topics.
What is a developer community and how does it work?
The word “Community” does not necessarily just mean your co-workers – it can be your friends, your mentors, your teammates, classmates, the people you follow on social media, the people who follow you, or even your family members.
Community is the place from where we get motivation, inspiration, and ideas from our future projects. And it is the place where we showcase our projects and achievements and, at the end of the day, get appreciation. It plays a major role in our development as developers, and a supportive community can still be your key to success.
In a community, developers generally meet in their off-hours to discuss what’s new in their language of choice, challenges they’ve encountered, and different ways of doing things.
If you’ve never been to one of these groups, it might be easy to brush them off as an unimportant outlet where people talk in way too much detail about a geeky interest. But in reality, most of the attendees are professionals who are looking to build skills and find new ways to solve problems.
Why do we sacrifice our personal time to discuss the things we do all day at work? Simply put, it makes us better programmers today than we were yesterday.
When I attend a meetup or talk, even on topics that only have a small overlap with the code, I always learn something new. Online developer communities like Stack Overflow, social networks, blogs, and open-source resources have become a place for developers to meet, improve, and share code without being in the same office.
Again, in-person offline events including meet-ups, contests, and conferences provide more personal relationship building, learning, career development, and networking opportunities. These various communities allow developers to expand their horizon of knowledge regardless of their level of experience and join conversations that wouldn’t be possible inside their existing role at their workplaces.
How to find and get involved in developer communities and meetups
The best way to get involved is by seeking out opportunities to learn. Every platform within the developer community offers unique openings for education. If you have a problem you need to solve, a project that you are working on, or a new programming language you want to learn, there’s a good chance you’ll find assistance through others in your field.
Most of the developers in these communities are very helpful. Dive into a topic you’re interested in and go from there. Once you get involved, you’ll find that it's easier to expand your network and opportunities.
Online platforms not only help you gain a better understanding of your skills but also allow you to help others solve their problems. You might have a broad idea of how something works, but teaching allows you to break it down and truly understand it from the foundation.
When people try to teach a particular topic to someone, they usually think about how they can explain the topic in an easier way so that the learner can understand it better. Searching for an easier explanation not only helps the learners but also helps the instructor, as the instructor learns the old topic from a new perspective.
Popular Developer Communities to Explore
Here are some communities you can check out and get involved in.
Stack Overflow is a great place to enter the developer community and an excellent online resource.
The platform is committed to helping others in similar roles. Huge amounts of knowledge has been shared through Stack Overflow.
Twitter was created as a microblogging social platform where you can share your ideas and info in 140 characters or less. But recently, it has become one of the most active developer communities on the internet.
On Twitter, you will find amazing developers sharing their ideas, code, projects, tips and also helping others by publishing eBooks, blog posts, long threads, and video contents.
You can even find job opportunities and invitations to lots of amazing events via Twitter. I think each developer on Twitter is a bundle of motivation. They really inspire and motivate beginners to do better in their careers.
Without any hesitation, I can say that freeCodeCamp is the world’s biggest online community for developers and programmers. Here you can find almost all kinds of opportunities related to programming.
freeCodeCamp has a publication that is full of programming tutorials and a YouTube channel that publishes courses on a wide range of programming topics. There is also a full 3000-hour curriculum where you can learn all sorts of web development basics. You can complete the courses, work on projects, and finally get certified.
It also has a forum in which you can communicate with other developers and share your experience and ideas and help each other to grow.
Major League Hacking (MLH)
Major League Hacking, or MLH, is an online platform that operates a league for student hackathons. It was founded in 2013 by former developer evangelists Mike Swift and Jonathan Gottfried.
More than 10,000 hackers are part of this popular community. MLH works independently to run university hackathons and provide them with various benefits such as the MLH Hardware Lab, Code of Conduct, eligibility for Season Rankings, and Event Support.
At the end of every season, it formulates a winner of the League based on participation and prizes. It also organizes an award ceremony at the school where the MLH Hacker Cup is provided.
Bash Woman Community
Compared to other communities, Bash Woman Community is a brand-new online community that provides guidelines for coding newbies and also organizes different kinds of events.
The aim of this community is to help 10k people in 2021. Many students are not aware of tech basics and need some mentorship, and this community helps them get established in their tracks.
Recently, it has organized a blogging contest called “Blogging Ninja” which became very popular among bloggers. Many people got the opportunity to write their first blog and thus started their blogging journey through this contest.
This community will probably grow quickly, as it has a large number of enthusiastic mentors who are working hard to spread their knowledge through their work there.
How to Get Involved in Developer Communities
These online communities organize many different events and support various projects. Contributing your own knowledge and code can really help you grow as a developer. Here are a few ways in which you can participate.
Start a Blog
Blogging is a great way to answer those questions that aren’t coming up through Google search. Remember – if you’re running into a problem, others likely are too. And writing about it allows you to tell the story behind the code, rather than just having a question-answer forum like Stack Overflow.
You may have to spend hours working on the problem, but ultimately you look like an expert when you provide the solution. So, you can write a blog post about that particular problem and its solution and help others who are facing the same problem.
There are so many open blogging platforms where you can publish your articles, like HashNode, Dev.to, and Google Blogger. If you want to start blogging, but don’t know how, these are great options. If you want to learn how to blog, you need to just start writing.
Here are some quick tips to start your blogging journey:
- First learn the principles or basic structure of blogs and how you can write an attractive one.
- Try to write on topics with which you are comfortable.
- Cultivate a habit of reading blogs regularly.
- Before writing a blog on a specific topic, do research on that topic on the internet and read at least 3 blogs on that topic.
- First, write a basic draft and then edit it several times.
- Don't forget to mention the sources.
- Publish your blog and don't forget to promote it.
- Write more blogs.
- Participate in different blogging contests like “Blogging Ninja” to test your blogging skills.
Contribute to Open Source
The open source community encourages you to contribute to existing repositories, potentially meet the people who wrote them, and discuss them at in-person (or online) events.
Contributing to or creating repositories is also a great way to get visibility for your company’s brand or your personal brand as a developer. If you maintain a repository, others will likely point out bugs and bring elements of the code to your attention that you didn’t previously realize were awkward or clunky.
In this process, you will learn how to write effective code and you'll come across some best practices. Open-Source is great because it helps you to get yourself out of your comfort zone and gives you multiple chances to meet more developers where you can find opportunities to learn while building relationships.
For networking in smaller groups, meet-ups can often bring together people who do similar work but for different companies. These events build a real sense of community and can be found for free online.
You can often enjoy great conversation, free swag, and informative talks with people who have similar interests.
After going to a few events, you’ll probably notice that many people who are attending these meetups have also attended other meetups you've been to. Over time you will build relationships with these people and continue to have discussions, like getting a fresh perspective on solving your latest problem or discovering which companies are hiring.
Go to Conferences
Another way to join the developer community is through conferences. They are particularly helpful if you’re new to the industry. During the pandemic, many conferences and webinars have moved online so you can still be a part of them.
You can even work as a volunteer to get involved with the event from the beginning, seeing how it comes together from the ground up.
When you attend, you’ll have the opportunity to meet developers from different cities or countries and be exposed to a vast amount of new knowledge from speakers.
You can chat with vendors, attend networking events, and listen to keynotes on subjects related to your field all while expanding your network. You never know how a relationship can pay off in the future if it’s maintained after the event.
Book Speaking Engagements
After attending conferences for a number of years, you may start to have a good grasp of some of the topics. If you have a depth of knowledge on a subject, you can start speaking about that topic publicly.
If speaking is something you enjoy, start at smaller local meet-ups and work your way up to larger conferences, and eventually you might be paid to attend. This can be a great way to establish yourself as an authority in your field, travel, and attend events specifically for speakers.
Participate in Contests & Hackathons
Contests and Hackathons are a great way to test your skills and work on real-world projects. They help you improve your problem-solving, critical thinking, and team-work skills and also gives you opportunities to meet other developers from around the world.
There are many platforms where you can solve coding problems like CodeForces, CodeChef, Hackerrank, Project Euler, and many others. These platforms also organize coding contests every month.
There are also a few platforms like MLH which organize many hackathon-related events throughout the year. And there are some special competitive programming events which are held once a year. Some of them are Google’s CodeJam, HashCode, KickStart, Facebook's Hacker Cup, and the International Olympiad of Informatics (IOI).
Different online communities, coding clubs, and colleges also organize contests and hackathons throughout the year.
Share Your Passion
Ultimately, the best way to get involved with the developer community is to find something that interests you, work on it, and share it with others.
If you like helping people solve problems, find forums and communities that allow you to do so. Or if you want to share the backstory on a piece of code, write a blog. It’s often as simple as finding something that you think could be better and trying to solve it.
By creating and contributing to the developer community you are sharing your knowledge, and that always pays off. The developer community becomes stronger through collaboration. The more involved you are, the more people you connect with. Those relationships ultimately return that support in the future through problem-solving, knowledge sharing, or job opportunities.