Put yourself out there to find opportunities

This just happened to me while at the last AzureAustin user group I run.  I had just finished my slide deck.  I wasn’t quite happy with it (are we ever happy with our work?).  And to be quite honest I just didn’t feel like going to the user group.  I really want to come home and talk with you all!

imageBut I decided that I needed to go.  It was a commitment that I had made to the community.  Sure, that means a commitment that I made to people that I may or may not know.  But a commitment just the same!

I ported my presentation over to my laptop from my desktop.  Opened it up on the laptop to verify that I had everything running as expected.  All was good.  I packed up my stuff.  Let’s go!

I arrived at the user group on time.  Walked in.  Chatted with a Microsoft friend as I got set up.  He is a video guy that runs usergroup.tv.  I am seeking a video guy for a few projects I have running.  We chatted about his services.  He is very available to shoot any community event that we might be running.  Perfect!

Then we waited for folks to trickle in.  Ugh!  5 people showed up.  No worries though.  They were here.  I am here.  Let’s do this.

I began to chat about proxies and gateways.  Specifically how they could help you deploy and manage API applications in a more fluid manner.  How having proxies and gateways would allow you to write less code but be feature rich.  It went great.  A little short.  But the presentation wasn’t the best part of that night.

Side story: It has been my experience so far that the event itself is rarely the thing you go for.  It is all the networking opportunities that present themselves along the way.  The content in the middle of the content.  I went to an NServiceBus conference last year.  And the content was pretty good.  But having dinner with Jeffrey Palermo, Jimmy Bogard, and Oren Eini was the best part.  Chatting with Ted Neward for 30 minutes on the state of our young industry and how to fix the education problems we currently have was great.  Then I went to the MVP conference after that.  The content was great.  But being invited to a party at Ted’s house was even better.  I got to meet so many of my internet friends in person for the first time.

Back to the user group meeting:  My content ran short.  I generally like to present for an hour or so to give the attendees something worth traveling for.  We had 20 minutes remaining.  This took us into a conversation about Azure updates from the MS guys.  And eventually we ended up on the topic of “hour of code” and code.org.  Which then turned into someone sharing a personal lunch they had just had earlier that day.

My friend had met with an MS peer who was bringing a new program to Texas.  Basically Microsoft was intending to fund a program where people like you and I would go into high schools and bring a computer curriculum to the students.  High schools, schools in generally really, just don’t have computer science like you think they would.  MS would provide the computers and what not.  We would provide the teaching and direction.  I am so very interested in this.  I very much want to help kids see what they can do with computers as it pertains to their career.  Perfect!

The guy my friend had lunch with was a high school math teacher before getting into programming.  He decided one day to stop teaching and go to work in the industry.  He moved to Seattle and worked on the MS product teams.  Eventually the local high schools caught wind that he was a former high school teacher.  The school asked this former teach to put together and deliver a programming curriculum to their kids.  The guy said sure and started stopping at the school on the way to work to guide the students through their journey.  Another school heard of this and asked if they could be a part of that.  Then another school.  Then another school.  Eventually the guy had to reach out to colleagues at work to get them to help out.  This went on and on until the guy had 40 schools he and his friends were working with.  The guy decided he was going to have to quit his job and start a non-profit to handle this problem.  A very senior VP at MS told the former teacher he saw it two ways 1) you can quit, start a non-profit, and spend 80% of your time fund raising or 2) MS can fund this program for you, you continue to work at MS and drive this new program.  MS started the program locally and has now moved into Texas with four high schools trying it out.

Once our conversation was over, and the meeting was over, I packed up and started to head out.  Two fella’s from my former Round Rock employer walked up to me.  They worked in another group but had heard of me and where I was now.  They came to my user group specifically to talk to me after the meeting.  They were interested in working at my current company.  They had all sorts of questions for me and were very interested in applying.  As I am looking for 6-8 engineers almost every week this was great.  The biggest requirement, I told them, was that “You have to be a couple of cool dudes!  We hold culture very high!”.  They loved this very much!  They appeared to be a good fit for us.  Perfect!

Then I started to head out.  In the waiting area of the conference rooms at the MS campus I had a chance to talk to one of the Azure Insiders and MS MVP.  He had walked into my talk half way through.  And was an active member of the last conversation around MS and education.  As it turns out he ran the community out reach program for a local college.  He had eluded to having some space where community programs such as user groups and the like could use for their meetups.  I need a big space for some community workshops I am starting to put together at work.  Score – I found a new venue for our workshops once they grow to something big.  Perfect!

imageLet’s recap.  I didn’t want to go to this user group.  I felt unprepared to give my presentation (the MS product group for the product I was speaking about picked up my talk by the way).  I made a contact for video services.  I found early information on a new program that I am very interested in.  I located a couple of candidates for my company.  I found a location to expand my workshops into.  Very productive user group meeting!

Put yourself out there.  You never know what will come from it.  I am not saying that it will always be this great.  But I can certainly tell you that if you don’t put yourself out there a story like this won’t happen for you so easily.

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Andrew Siemer

Chief Architect at Clear Measure. Farmer at Friendly Pastures. Software consultant at Siemer for Hire. Random dude at AndrewSiemer.com. Author of 3 books published by Packt Publishing. Self publishing author of two books in progress at LeanPub. All around programmer dude.