The idea of attending meetups and networking with industry peers was something that terrified me when I was first starting out. What would I do whilst I was there? How should I respond if someone spontaneously asked me a question? What could I talk about with a room full of strangers? I was overwhelmed by all of the possibilities and worst case scenarios but, in all honesty, I needn’t have worried because my anxieties disappeared as soon as I stepped into the room at my very first meet up. I’ve picked up some tips for networking for developers along the way.
I’m going to be sharing some advice based on my personal experience of tech-based networking events before recommending some of my favourites that are based here in Barcelona. I’m hoping that by the end of this post you will feel more equipped with the tools you need to network with confidence.
Why should developers network?
Networking events aren’t just for professionals looking for their next job. Think of networking as an investment more than anything. They can help you advance in your career, sure, but they can also benefit your position at your existing workplace too.
You may find other professionals with skill sets that complement those of your team and you may be able to expand your own knowledge within just a few conversations. Opportunities are everywhere at these events so it’s good to keep your eyes open.
Networking events and meet ups can also be excellent confidence boosters as, more often than not, they take you out of your comfort zone and encourage you to pitch your skills and experience to a new audience.
A veteran’s guide to networking for developers
I’ve been attending meet ups for a few years now and I’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way.
Here’s a selection of the things I’ve taken from past experiences…You can thank me later!
Find an event that suits you
With a wealth of networking events out there, it’s important to find one that works for you. Firstly, you need to ask yourself why you’re wanting to attend an event in the first place.
For example, when I first started attending meet ups, I wanted to learn all about Kotlin – which was, at the time, a new non-official programming language for Android. These meet ups ended up being the perfect place to cure my curiosity, as I was able to get an introduction to it whilst surrounded by people with a shared interest. I’ve been looking for new gatherings to attend ever since, from events focused on Android development to AR and Flutter.
Ask yourself lots of questions about your personal preferences and you’ll soon realise what event best suits you. Would you prefer to attend an industry-specific event or would you like to engage with people from different backgrounds? Do you prefer networking with a purpose, like the hackathon that Christian attended, or do you prefer less structure? Does your schedule best suit evening events or would you prefer a chat over breakfast?
Networking events don’t necessarily have to equal a beige room full of suited business people with fistfuls of business cards. Find one that works for you.
Do your research
Once you’ve found an event, it’s time to do some research – which is now easier than ever thanks to social media!
Follow event organisers, check the official hashtag to see who is attending and think about talking points that you can bring up if the conversation dies down.
Make actionable goals
Think about that you’d like to gain from attending. Maybe you want to build your confidence or maybe you want to speak to X amount of professionals about X?
Ensure that your goals are measurable and you’ll have something to work towards throughout your time there.
If you’re attending an event organised by a company with a vacancy that you’d quite like to fill, make sure you take a moment to introduce yourself to members of the team. Find out about how they work, what technologies they use, how they problem solve, what they do and how happy they are there.
It’s easy to go in with your cards close to your chest, especially if you’re attending an industry-specific event. Leave your inhibitions at the door and provide value.
See where someone may benefit from a particular strategy or programme? Recommend it. See where you could personally help someone with their project? Tell them why.
It’s important to not be pushy or intrusive, of course, but adding value to your conversations is a sure fire way to leave with a host of new opportunities and contacts.
Try not to dominate every conversation, no matter how nervous you may be.
Ask interesting questions, make observations and take an interest in the experiences of the people around you. You could learn a thing or two.
Work the room
You may not have been blessed with the best social skills in the world but don’t be afraid…you aren’t the only one! It can feel incredibly nerve-wracking to talk to new people but don’t panic! You will typically share an interest with everyone else attending so why not bite the bullet and say hello?! It’s amazing what a wide smile and a healthy amount of eye contact can do, so remember to be approachable and use positive body language.
Meet ups are usually broken down into several stages, each providing you with different opportunities to ‘work the room’.
This is the perfect time to introduce yourself to people. Tell them your name, your current position and what you’re most interested in. It’s also the perfect time to ask similar questions of other attendees. Ask why they were particularly interested in this event and get to know a bit more about who they are and who they work for.
You can’t network in a traditional sense whilst the speaker is in session, granted, but these talks usually come with a 5-10 minute Q & A session at the end so make sure you ask any questions you may have. The speakers are usually very kind and happy to help!
There’s usually time to network after the group talk. You can either spend it talking to the very same group of people that you met to begin with or, alternatively, you could work the room and engage with even more of the attendees. If you’re lucky, you may even get to eat some pizza whilst doing so!
Be passionate and curious
Display your passion for what you do, without wandering into humblebrag territory, and you’ll reap the rewards. People gravitate towards passion and it’s easy to tell when someone is clearly invested in what they do.
It’s also good to be curious. Got a question about the content of the meetup? Ask. Would you like to learn about something specific? Ask the event organisers to consider holding a talk on that very subject. In a similar fashion, if you’ve got a particular skill or piece of knowledge that you’d like to share, ask the organisers if you could act as a speaker at a future event.
Put yourself out there once you feel a little bit more confident!
Set aside time the following day to connect with fellow attendees, and the event organisers, on LinkedIn and social media platforms.
If you promised to message particular individuals, now’s the time to do so. It’s very easy to make empty promises of future communication. It’s much more beneficial to follow up with them.
Don’t worry about coming away from your very first meetup with a ton of new contacts. You’ll get to know more people as you attend them more frequently. You’ll soon start to see some familiar faces and conversations will start to flow more easily. It’s okay if it takes you some time to make real connections and friendships.
Now that I’ve shared my top tips for attending networking events, it’s time to recommend you some of my favourites!
These are all Barcelona-based, as that’s where I live, but you’re only a Google Search away from finding tech events in your local area.
GDG (Google Developer Group) Barcelona
GDG Barcelona is a non-profit and independent group made up of developers who want to share their knowledge and experience of Google technologies. They hold talks with really engaging speakers so their events come recommended.
As we expressed in our interview with Haiyan, it’s incredibly important to elevate the voices of women in this male-dominated industry. The tech&ladies philosophy is all about encouraging women in tech and giving them that much-needed visibility to thrive, with aims of training women and seeking solutions to the challenges that they may face within the workplace.
Barcelona Android Developer Group
As the name suggests, this group focuses on Android development. Industry pros share their knowledge through scheduled talks and video conferences, on everything from Kotlin to testing. I highly recommend this group!
Women Who Code Barcelona
Offering everything from study groups to panel discussions, keynotes (featuring influential tech industry experts, innovators and investors) to lightning talks, Women Who Code Barcelona aims to help its attendees build their skills and, in turn, achieve even greater success.
This group hold a monthly meetup focused on learning more about, you guessed it, Flutter. Attendees are given a Flutter-related challenge each month to be solved in the following meeting. No worries if you don’t have a wealth of experience as you can ask lots of questions and learn as you go.
If you’re also based in Barcelona, check the Barcelona Startup News website for even more recommendations as they post a helpful monthly round-up of tech events in the city.
That’s my one-stop guide to networking events, from the importance of attending them to my personal recommendations and tips.
I hope you can now go forth and attend them with your head held high! Why not book a place at one of the aforementioned meetups? You’ve got nothing to lose! If you see me at a meetup or a networking event, be sure to say hello! I’d be happy to talk to you.
Have you caught up with all of our existing blog posts? We recently shared an interview with Haiyan Ma all about her iOS beginnings, her career highlights and her opinion on how we can encourage more women to join the industry. Check it out!