Find your way to give and get involved

On March 15 and 16 Dice, a leading career site for technology and engineering professionals, hosted a hackthon in Des Moines Iowa. If you aren't familiar, a hackathon is an event typically lasting several days, in which a large number of people meet to engage in collaborative computer programming. This event had thirty people in 13 teams with prizes over $10,000!

I am mentioning this for a few reasons. First, Des Moines is a great city to live in especially if you are a technologist. User groups are plentiful and just to name a few: Central Iowa Java User Group, Des Moines JavaScript User Group and Atlassian user group. The community is comprised of enterprise technologists and startup entrepreneurs such as the folks over at Rocket Referrals. Second, the hackathon winners Chuck Rolek and Eric Ponto are extremely passionate developers involved in their communities. Personally, I would rather work with people that have this passion than someone that scored 1550 on their SAT. Last, I have fielded questions from various audiences asking "What makes a good developer or How can I be a better developer". One component of the puzzle highlighted by hackathons is just being involved in a community.

We all have heard the bull sh*t saying of "What if I get hit by a bus", well what if your employer decides to close their doors, where are you going to turn? Are you going to rely on the once a week resume building class they have schedule for you? While you drowning yourself in sorrows asking how could they let you go after all these years of loyalty, hard work and vision you brought to the company, I bet your best friend that sat next to you is sending out feelers to folks they have met in their communities. Whether you like to network or not, if you are good at it or not, networking allows you to create relationships. We have all been in the uncomfortable position eating pizza at a user group introducing yourself trying to spark up small talk. Find your way of networking; set up a lunch with another developer within or outside your company, attend a user group, go to a hackathon or a starupcity event.

Remember Milton the office space basement guy? If you are that person that has breathed in to much radon and likes to keep to yourself, there are other ways for you to get involved. While teaching at a local community college, the first assignment I gave in java 101 was to sign up on twitter and connect with peers. The students thought it was dumb and asked, what does it have to do with java? I explained it was a way start to build their network, connect with their communities and create a reference point to folks they went to school with. Other social sites such as Google plus has the concept of communities which is their form of a group or a forum. I have found communities have been friendly, quite valuable and a great place to learn and contribute. My only beef is folks spamming to drive traffic to their site, cross community posters or crappy moderators. With social it is up to you on how much you want to consume or participant but don't be afraid to comment and provide your thoughts as you can help shape communities.

Find your way to give and get involved. You never know, it might bring opportunities!