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JC Smiley
JC Smiley

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Success in tech is not a solo sport. How to build your personal community.

What could this community look like?

Picture a community that has a culture of learning, sharing, and gratitude. A space surrounded by helpful individuals who hold one another accountable.

Imagine building a web application on your own with a limited frontend development skill set. It could be good, possibly great. How would you know? Did you missing anything in the code? How do you know if your site actually helps the intended users? Now imagine having a QA (Quality assurance) to test unforeseen edge cases and make sure the interactive elements work together correctly. Now add a backend developer to make sure the data returned and collected is in the right format and easy to get. Let’s throw in a world class visual designer, content creator, and a business analyst. Your original product now has a community around it with multiple abilities to make the application more useful and return a bigger value.

You are the totality of your social circle and your work is the totality of the skills by everyone who touches it. I read the motto, “It takes a community to raise a child” and this is the same for a tech professional.

How to grow your inner circle or build your personal community

Find your tribe:

Finding your tribe is about:

  • Seeking those doing the things you want to do.
  • Seeking those doing similar things that you do, but better.
  • Seeking those with different skill sets but on a similar mission or end goal as you.

My opinion is that you find these people in a shared moment of glory (winning a hackathon), sweating (co teacher assistants for a tech boot camp), and uncertainty (open source team with a mission).

If you want to go fast then go alone, but if you want to go far then go together!

An important aspect of a personal community is the feedback loop. When you invite others to review your work or to pair-program with you; you are adding to your tribe someone who is making you better.

I found my tribe via tech meetups and Slack channels/Discord servers. I can’t stress enough that finding your tribe means getting out into the public, sharing what you know, and asking for help. Ultimately, people help people they know.

Seek mentors for guidance:

Mentors provide insight that you may not have, encouragement you may not know you needed, or corrections you may have missed. They are essentially a different perspective on your goals.

My tips for seeking mentors is:

  • Join tech communities to make friends with tech people where they will mentor you out of genuine friendship.
  • Follow people on social media and learn by consuming their content.
  • Impress senior tech professionals while working on a project like at a hackathon, open source project, volunteer work, or at work.
  • Join a mentorship service to be assigned a mentor.
  • Finally, while you are learning to code, start engaging with fellow learners. Everyone has a natural talent and you could be taught something you didn’t know.

Follow trail blazers who went before you:

My idea of trail blazers are content creators who:

  • Design learning courses
  • Write blogs
  • Stream videos
  • Give conference talks
  • Create tutorials
  • Teach at boot camps

Trail blazers are experienced developers who attend tech meetups and social media channels where they spit out gold nuggets of wisdom to any who talk to them.

Important guidelines to help you be a better community member

  • Be productive and someone others can count on. Being part of a good community means being responsible.
  • Focus on good communication. Writing or talking, you find your tribe through interacting with them in a way that makes them want you to succeed.
  • Build a good reputation. This is best done by consistently excelling at something, making that excellence publicly visible, and putting yourself in a position to help others excel.
  • Create safe spaces for others by listening more than you speak

Example of when you have a community

Similar to an athlete, your day to day activities need to focus on finding opportunities to practice being techy. A big part of community is:

  • Having someone to have those technical conversations with.
  • Sharing of technical resources: blogs, videos, or books to read.
  • Being part of a technical group that builds things together.

While learning to code I’ve built dozens of projects from start to finish. But my best project was with a friend for the global DigtialOcean Hackathon. We won that hackathon. It was teamwork, sharing of ideas, keeping each other motivated and accountable, and his interpretation of my project idea that made it a winner. I speak about this success in interviews and it is ALWAYS a conversation starter.

A few years ago I encountered a special group of tech professionals. I noticed that they constantly talked about how they were creating the career of their dreams. They freely shared information and resources to help one another. They were honest about the issues they faced day to day, failures, and life struggles. Each of those professionals have been successful in tech and have influenced other groups because they became achievers. The point is when you walk with achievers you will do the same.

Top comments (2)

cesscode profile image

Great article. Thanks for sharing

jcsmileyjr profile image
JC Smiley

You're welcome!!!