by Peter-John Welcome
Why conferences and meet-ups are important for developers
In 2018, I was fortunate enough to attend and speak at many meet-ups and conferences in South Africa and abroad. As a local meet-up organiser of GDG Johannesburg, I end up being at a meet-up at least once a month, but I do try and go to other local meet-ups in my city. I was also lucky enough to attend four local conferences and community events, and I helped organise Devfest South Africa. Finally, I got to go to four awesome conferences abroad in different countries which truly changed the way I saw developer conferences.
This got me thinking — why do developers attend or speak at meet-ups and conferences and how beneficial are they to developers and their careers? This brought up 4 main topics that could answer these questions: Learning, Sharing, Networking and Collaborating.
Many developers go to meet-ups and conferences to learn something new, about either a specific topic or just something new that they might not have heard about. With many resources out there such as blogs and Youtube, we have many platforms to learn from, so what do meet-ups and conferences give us that’s different?
Well first, we get to learn from the best. Most of the time, speakers and attendees are people that have been working with a specific technology for a while and have experienced the good and bad. Learning in this environment is very different because everyone is there to learn or share their knowledge with each other, whereas at work you are mostly there to get the job done 80% of the time.
You also find people sharing different ways of using a specific technology that maybe the speaker didn’t mention and many new amazing ideas and techniques are developed in these kind of environments. In person communication is something awesome and helps any developer grow.
With learning being a big part of meet-ups and conferences, there will need to be people sharing content. This is normally the speakers that are up on stage sharing their experiences with a specific technology or something they think is awesome and you would try it out. The content shared by speakers is what attracts many attendees to these events, but sharing doesn’t just stop there — it goes beyond that.
People share a lot of useful information about a specific topic in the questions they ask after the session. The conversations that happen after the session can be vital to the problem you are trying to solve in your workplace and the ideas shared afterwards can be more helpful than the content provided in the session. The transfer of knowledge during these events can help with the growth of a developer and even their organisation.
When it comes to learning, sharing is very important, as sharing can lead to solving complex problems and creating great friendships between people. A lot of the points I’ve made about sharing have a lot to do with networking with other developers during these events. This shows that networking at meet-ups and conferences is important when attending these events.
Networking is not something that every developer is fond of, but this communication between people is what brings so many benefits to developers at these events. Networking is where we talk about what we do, problems we might be having with some technology, or even just making new friends that do similar work as you do. This is where we share ideas, learn from each other and help each other grow. I found that this how I learnt the most from awesome people.
This is also how we collaborate with other people, by speaking about open source projects you might be working on or talking about the amazing culture you have at your company. This opens up so many opportunities for developers to explore. Organisers also network at these events to identify potential speakers for their own meet ups and conferences. It gives developers the opportunity to express their interests and passion about a product or technology.
One of the most important things I’ve taken away from most of the conferences and meet ups is making new friends with like minded people. These friendships could turn into working together in future on an open source project or just knowing someone at the next event you go to. It could also be someone you spoke to about an SDK or tool they work on and you could provide them with feedback. This then creates that community of collaboration between developers.
Collaboration doesn’t always start at conferences or meet-ups but this could be a starting point where a few people meet and they end up making something great.
When it comes to collaboration, I’m not only talking about creating software together but also helping each other create new developer communities or just helping towards a cause that many believe in. These are all things that could happen at these events.
For me personally, I think that having these type of communities in the software engineering space is amazing. They help many people become part of this learning, sharing, networking and collaborating environment that so many other industries don’t have.
These events are also fun especially when you get to visit new countries and explore amazing cultures and speak to people about how software engineering is similar on the other side of the world.
I would say, if you do get an opportunity to join a development community or help steer one in a new direction, grab it with both hands. You will get to meet some awesome people along the away =)
If you have any thoughts, let me know in the comments below.
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