How to attend meetups for developers

How to attend meetups for software developers

User-groups are awesome!

You can join a group that goes on a hike every Sunday, or a group that likes to play chess on a Tuesday.

Or maybe you are into photography, well there are meetups that explore the wilderness of your city.

But what if you’re a software developer? How would you go about learning the latest trends and exploring and meeting people in your field?

Well there are meetups for that too.

Welcome to this blog post, where you and I’ll discuss software developer meetups.

Take it away Adrian…

Why should software developers attend meetups

Software developers are often thought to be nerdy, less-fitter and a bit awkward.

For the most part, this stereotype is true.

But what if you could find more software developers in your area, people to connect and make friends with; people who you can talk software developer stuff to and can hold a conversation.

Welcome to the world of user-groups and meetups for software developers.

This is the more reason to join local meetups and attend the talks.

Especially if you’re a junior software developer and are trying to make your way in the software development community.

Well if you’re a bit older, maybe that you are trying to meet new innovative and exciting people, this is the place for you.

Meetups give you the opportunity to meet new people, explore new ideas and get more involved in your community.

Join meetup.com

Welcome to the future my friend, -uhm, the present…

The new era of social networking and harnessing the power of the internet to socialize and interact.

No, this isn’t something new and is rather an old concept. User-groups have been around for decades already… But what if I told you there was an easier way to discover groups for whatever interest you had?

Well today, I’m going to share with you an awesome platform that you should already have known about:
Face– -uhm… Meetup.com!

Now you can friend people in your area, who aren’t single… Well, kind of.

Okay, onto a serious note, meetup.com is a powerful platform to get out there and introduce yourself to the world of software development.

It gives you the opportunity to network with other software developers and potentially get yourself a job.

You can join groups that you’re interested in, attend meetups for those groups and meet new people, cool right?!

I have a few selective groups that I favorite on my meetup.com profile, but there is the more reason to discover other ones too.

I am a Java guy, so I try to attend all the Java meetups in my city. I’m also interested in Angular and React.js so there are meetups for those frameworks too.

You could create your own meetup too, but there is a monthly fee for that.

Finding groups a try them all out

Really, I think you should join as many groups as possible on meetup.com and go to each of them at least once. Even if you’re not interested in the presentation, it will give you the opportunity to meet other people and socialize a bit more.

Later on, once you have visited almost all of the meetups can you then go to the ones that are appealing to you and leave out the ones that aren’t.

But have an optimistic and open mind about every meetup that you go to. There are so many added benefits to all of them which we’ll discuss in a moment.

Free food and beer

Pizza with beer

At almost all meetups I have gone to offer free pizza and cool drink or beer. You can certainly enjoy the food here, as it’s free. So there is that added benefit.

Connections and new friends

Okay, so you have finally decided to join a couple of meetups in your local area, about
your favourite programming language or technology…

This is it, you’re going to meet new people, you’re going to be the social butterfly that
you have always wanted to be.

So you go in and uhhm… who do I talk too?

Just choose the nearest guy or gal you see and introduce yourself.

He or she maybe the CEO or even the tech lead or CTO of this company and you maybe in for a whorl of a surprise.

So start talking and asking questions.

Don’t be arrogant

If you don’t know something or don’t understand, just say “I’m not familiar with that, could you tell me more about it?” or “I’m not experienced with that.”

By being honest and genuine, will reflect that you are a down to earth kind of guy or gal.

This will often show that you aren’t arrogant for what you know.

How to introduce yourself

Introducing people with handshake

 

You have to be very careful on how to sell yourself as a software developer.

You shouldn’t come off as being arrogant, “Oh I know this…”, “I did this…” or “I…”

Chances are, if the person is older than you and they have the same interest in technology as you (specifically Java) they probably know more than you, like a lot more.

If this person you’re talking to is an employee at the company, ask questions about what the company does and take interest in what his or her role is.

This is when I met two new guys who happened to be Java fanatics and we got a long well. We talked about the Spring framework, writing code for the backend and Java.

That was really fun.

Okay, after your social time, it’s time to attend the presentation, let’s go…

New ideas, what the meetup is about

So meetups are often about some sort of presentation right? That is why we meetup in the first place, to talk about some new technology or framework or whatever…

You’d usually head to the conference room or the presentation area for this, where the presenter can present.

The presenter is usually the team lead or the CTO or who ever that will talk about something they have found useful, discuss what it’s about and show some examples.

This is often enjoyable as you’ll learn more or be introduced to something that is new that you didn’t know existed or perhaps you have questions on a technology that you have been using can now be clarified.

Even if you’re new, you can be introduced to nice tools and frameworks. This is how I learned about Docker and Kubernetes.

My previous meetup was about Apache Camel, a software framework that makes implementing Enterprise Integration Patterns a lot easier.

Oh right, there are usually two presentations per meetup, well at least in my area. I suppose it’s a trend. The other presentation was about Spring Cloud Dataflow and Spring Cloud Streams, which was interesting because I want to learn more about that and eventually start implementing it. Oh BTW, you can check out Spring Cloud here.

I enjoy the presentation parts as it helps me become familiar with existing technology and how it fits into the business so I can judge if it is worth while learning for myself.

Hey, if you feel the need to ask a question at the end, don’t be shy. But if you really are, you can always go meet the presenter afterwards and ask your questions directly.

Get to know the company

A meetup I attended recently is called Cape Town Java Community which was hosted at a local company called Travelstart. But usually the same meetup-group will be hosted at different locations.

After the presentation is the perfect time to get to know the company and market yourself.

This is usually when people start to leave. But that doesn’t matter, you can do this step usually before but preferably after the presentation.

With the context of the presentation and if the presenter shared information on how this helped them with X problem, ask about the company.

You should already be familiar with the company from the conversations you had before the presentation started, so ask more in-depth questions about the company.

Learn how the company functions, ask about the employees, talk to the presenter and so forth.

Ask a lot of questions, where will it take you?

Asking questions

As I mentioned before, I made two new friends. They are pretty awesome guys and we talked a lot the Java programming language. The one guy told me that he didn’t use any framework, he just used straight Java. I don’t know how he copes, but I suppose he is very good at Java…

I usually ask questions about the software developers themselves, like which parts of the software do they work on? Do they test their code? What kind of tools and frameworks do they use? Where do they work? Is the environment peaceful and quite? How productive are they when you work? What kind of machine do they use?

These are the types of questions I like to ask, but you can ask really anything that involves them and the company.

Ask questions that are based around employment. So on what do you do on a day-to-day basis?

Hey, would you mind showing me around? If you’re interested in having a tour of the company. Most of the time people will be happy to show you, but other times it can be because of privacy or distrust.

You should measure for yourself the line between irritation and pure enthusiasm to learn; but really ask questions about the company and how it works. Don’t only sell yourself, show interest in others, they could very well help you.

I asked questions about the company and how the two guys worked and so one… To my surprise they offered me a tour of the building.

This was awesome! I was being showed around and I didn’t even ask for it.

I must say, Travelstart’s working environment is something special.

We went up stairs. They have fleets of desks and the office space was quite roomy.

We walked past an amphitheatre. This is where employees have movie nights. In front of the wooden theatre which is covered in pillows was a giant projector screen, which seems interesting.

We headed to the main conference room. At the main maintenance there is an iPad mini mounted on the wall displaying a web view. This was a custom app that they had built that synced with Microsoft Outlook to schedule and manage meeting times. This is very impressive and innovative.

After that we went back around to the South side of the building, this is where the programmers “lived”. Almost all the desks are scattered with popular programming books that want to read. I only remember one, Code Complete, which to my surprise isn’t that large of a book.

In the centre of the office space is another meeting room, there is a meditation room as well, which is quite impressive too.

For me, this was starting to resemble the working environments that are popular at Google.

Afterwards we walked back down the presentation floor, there were few people left and it was getting late. (Nearing 8pm to be exact).

I thanked the guys and left.

Take aways

(No, not food.)

This is usually how meetups go. This is the nature of a meetup. You can join in the social interaction and learn from other software developers too, watch the presentation and enjoy yourself.

So I hope you have fun and enjoy yourself as much as I did writing this article, so early in the morning…

Adrian van den Houten

I'm Adrian van Houten, founder of ScholarCoder and a passionate software developer for full-stack web development. Read more about me here.