You’re interested in getting into tech, but it’s a whole new world and you’re not really sure where to start. You might have a lot of experience in your current industry that you want to bring across, or you might just be starting out. You might be interested in the more ‘techie’ side of becoming a software developer, or maybe you’re interested in bringing high user value as a product manager. Maybe growth management is your thing.
Or maybe you really don’t know yet — something just caught your attention, and you want to know more.
This is where tech meetups come in. They’re an open community just looking for new faces. If you’re looking for a first step into a new world and career, then meetups are the perfect place to start. No prior knowledge is required, just an interest in knowing more. And isn’t it always easier to chat with people before you need a job, when you are purely there for the experience? Take some pressure off your future self. There is no time like the present to get involved.
Three big reasons to go to your first tech meetup
1. A window into specific companies
Big meetups (but often also smaller ones) will often be hosted by a local company, or will even rotate between several company’s offices.
This gives a great opportunity to see inside buildings you would normally need a keycard to access, and get a sense of what it might be like to work there. Or even if you aren’t interested in them specifically, you’ll be able to compare what you see and feel against the places you are interested in.
Does it feel welcoming? How many people are there at 7pm, and what is their attitude? Is it very business orientated, or more casual?
I’ve definitely been positively surprised by some offices in the past, and also quickly got a sense of what is ‘standard’ for the offices in my area. Following on from that, it would be interesting to check out meetups in other areas and see if anything is different at all.
2. Connections with real people
This is definitely easier the earlier you start attending. Early on, ‘networking’ is less likely to be your first thought, and the lack of pressure definitely makes it easier for most people to have genuine conversations.
Veterans and newbies alike can be found at meetups, from all different backgrounds. Finding your space within that community can help you to understand more about what you are looking for. Being able to talk to people who are doing the job you are interested in to find out what it is like is far better than reading articles online (no matter how good the writer ?). Not sure what you want to do? The same applies — just talk to people.
And remember, ‘meetup’ is in the title — everyone who is there is open to talking to you. A bit scared to talk to new people? That will be the same for most people. If you are the one to take the plunge to say hi, you’ll likely be making someone’s day who’s less confident than you.
3. Learning unexpected things
There are meetups for so many things. Just keep in mind that sometimes the best ones wouldn’t have stood out if you were limiting yourself to the discipline you were directly interested in.
I recently heard Maria Gutierrez speak about remote working at an event I only attended to keep a friend company. To my surprise, I came away inspired and impressed by both her passion and methods. There were even new takeaways for me, and I’m someone who works with remote colleagues. So there certainly would have been a lot of info for those who have only ever been co-located.
And if you’re not yet in the industry, meetups also provide a risk free way to learn some of the ‘basics’ that are not actually that basic. Heard of ‘Agile’, but not really sure what it is? See if there is a meetup about improving Agile practices. No experience with UX? Get a sense of that world by spending a couple of hours with people whose passion lies there. Don’t worry about being the newcomer — people love to teach others about their own favourite thing.
4. Wait, what…?
Yes, I said 3, but… this one is an added bonus, and a little tongue in cheek so I don’t count it. As you may have guessed by the hero image up top: pizza! ? The larger meetups tend to offer food, and you can usually get gluten free as well as veggie options if you ask ahead. This helps you plan your day if you’re able to grab dinner at the same time as attending the meetup.
So how do you go about it?
The most universal place to start would be meetup.com. One advantage of using this platform is that, since people have clicked that they are attending, you can look up their name on the list when you inevitably forget afterwards! There are a whole bunch of meetups on there, and it is a great place to start.
Most places will also have more local sites as well, whether independent, or connected to a university or other organisation. The best way to find out what people use is to go to any other meetup you find and ask the people there. For example, in Scotland specifically, opentechcalendar.co.uk is a great example.
And that’s really all there is to it — so what are you waiting for? Find a meetup and find out what the tech world is all about!
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