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Developer's Guide To Effective Networking

Create Something

As a developer, this may be one of my favorite networking categories. The possibilities are endless and I will only be able to touch on a few, but the big take away is this:

Interested people connect with interesting people.

AKA, build things your are interested in and SHARE it. People who share those interests will find you. It may happen immediately or not, but it will definitely be faster than if you never share anything you make.

I have lot’s of personal examples on this one, but let me share two:

A Chance Meeting

During my college years, I was deeply immersed in the world of Industrial Design, where my focus lay in crafting physical products. However, during my senior year, I stumbled upon a new interest - digital design.

There were no formal courses that covered digital design in my curriculum, but a chance encounter with a job posting in our academic building changed everything:

Seeking a Fellow Student for Collaborative Mobile App Design.

Though I had zero prior experience with mobile app design, I decided to embrace the challenge. The app project ended up going no where, but I finished the design, and was able to find where I posted it on Behance:

Coursity: Buying Textbooks Re-imagined

This venture was an invaluable learning experience that propelled me forward. What I gained from it extended beyond professional skills to something more personal.

Proud of my work on the project, I included it in my professional portfolio, which I eagerly presented at the engineering career fair. I shared my project with a variety of companies, even though none of the companies were involved in app development.

As I moved from one conference room to another, I had zero luck getting any interest in the project. Just as I was considering calling it a day, I decided to give one last booth a chance. Little did I know that this decision would lead to a pivotal encounter.

Manning this booth was Martha. Martha and I instantly connected as we discussed my projects. Remarkably, her company had no ties to Industrial Design or digital design. Yet, when we reached the final project in my portfolio Martha paused, pulled out a business card, and said, "Email me tonight. This opportunity isn't related to the company I represent here. I'm an entrepreneur searching for a collaborator with your exact skill set."

Martha turned out to be not only my first website project partner but also a collaborator on multiple projects over the next decade. It all started with the willingness to embark on and share a new creative venture.

P.S. Keep reading, for Martha will reappear later in the story.

Implementing Elm

Let me share another story, one that's somewhat similar to the first. About three years into my career, I became deeply engrossed in functional programming, and as a frontend focused developer, I naturally gravitated towards the Elm language.

My fascination with Elm led me to embark on a new project – a podcast dedicated to interviewing members of the Elm community named Implementing Elm. It ran for a single season of 11 episodes. While it didn't extend beyond that initial run, the effort I poured into it proved to be a networking goldmine.

Benefit One: Building a Network

This one's straightforward. While we're not best buddies or attending each other's weddings, all the folks I interviewed are now part of my professional network. They remember our engaging conversations, making it easier to reach out for future collaborations.

Benefit Two: Acquiring New Skills and Opportunities

The entire process of researching, planning, producing, and editing each episode honed a unique skill set. This skill set, in turn, expanded my professional horizons. It eventually led me to approach a founder I had long admired to collaborate on another podcast – and to my surprise, he agreed. We've become valuable resources for each other, capitalizing on our distinct skill sets since.

Benefit Three: Unexpected Job Opportunity

During the holidays, after wrapping up the first season of the podcast, I casually shared my work with my brother, an orthopedic doctor. He mentioned in passing that one of his old roommates, who now attends his church, is the co-founder and CTO of a company named Vecteezy. Intriguingly, he suggested that they might be interested in what I was doing.

I didn't think much of it at the time, but a few months later, I received a message from that very roommate. He had listened the podcast thanks to my brother's recommendation and was impressed. Although his company had no ties to Elm in their codebases, he saw the passion and expertise I had showcased through the podcast, and he extended an job offer.

I didn't accept the offer at that time, but two years down the line he offered it again and it was the right timing and I accepted. All because of a single-season podcast project.

So, consider this:

How many times have you had a cool project idea but never acted on it? After reading this, you might realize there are countless opportunities out there waiting for you to seize. It's time to roll up your sleeves, start creating, and turn those ideas into reality instead of being a passive observer.

Pros & Cons

  • Doesn't require travel.
  • Gives you the chance to explore and experiment freely without needing justification or oversight.
  • Doesn't require social interaction small talk.
  • Can be used to enforce resume and increase skill foundation.
  • “If you build it they will come” does not guarantee good network connections.
  • Can be quick, but more often requires longer time investment.

Tips & Tricks

  • 👉Use platforms with built in distribution. Places like CodePen and Replit not only give you a playground to build in, but also community and distribution for cool projects that are built on their tool. Take a look at the reach I was able to get with these two Codepens. This one they found and decided to include in their newsletter: Multi-line custom colored underline. This one people just discovered through search: CSS ONLY Pixel Art
  • 👉Underline & Link example
  • 👉You may remember this from before, but use your unfair advantages to find the Venmo diagram of your programming skill set with other interests and hobbies.
  • 👉Build something that lets you experiment with a new technique or technology. It's a win-win.
  • 👉Use Chat GPT to get ideas. You aren't looking for the next unicorn startup idea. If you have interests use the following prompt to generate ideas to get started:I am a [level and language] developer. What are unique ideas I can build if I am looking to create fun shareable projects that are in the [something you are passionate about] space that aren't already being over done?",

I hope you enjoyed

There is a lot more coming...

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