Build an Online Presence… Today!
Today I had the opportunity to hear a presentation by Brian Dougie, who promulgated the idea that building a personal brand can be just as consequential as creating your résumé. Using social media accounts to follow groups and conversations — and contributing to them — could make an unexpected difference in terms of your learning and career growth. Dougie attributed the fact that he frequently gets approached by companies to being an active online contributor and speaker at various events.
Consequential discussions where useful information relating to a myriad of topics of interest are held online daily, where users with a propensity for using social media all over the world contribute their opinions and ideas. People even have worked on election outcome calculators based on Twitter activity! Another attestation to the importance of social media is seen by the steady increase in social media ads, as it’s where people look for entertainment and even news. Considering today’s temporal discounting paradigm, it’s not at all surprising that social media is the main source of news for nearly two thirds of adults.
As a beginner trying to ‘break into tech,’ I thought of myself as not having much to contribute in terms of tech content on the web. As Dougie pointed out, however, beginners are the best documentation writers — we have the advantage of being acutely aware of the smaller questions which more seasoned experts may take for granted, thus naturally writing content that’d be more helpful to beginners out there googling new concepts. Also, there’s so much more for beginners to gain from connecting and interacting across platforms with groups containing content relevant to what we’re learning about. Admittedly, I myself fall into the category of the casual Twitter user who pretty much talks to themselves (the ‘Lone Ranger’ type)— using it primarily as a repository for links or quotes, and to retweet articles. It is so much more than that! It also a great way to connect with people, take polls, and even to use hashtags to ask questions to experts!
Building a web presence is about being an active member. This means regular postings about topics relevant to your interests as well as interactions with other users’ relevant posts. Even something as small as, say, replying to a post about someone’s project expressing how you may have found it helpful in your own project (and linking it as well) could help foster new connections with people that are active in the field you are focused on.
Although an online presence is important, attending meetups — and even giving talks whenever given the opportunity — is vital. As Dougie, a regular at speaker events, pointed out, there are an enormous amount of engineers in the Bay Area, but often a deficit of speakers for events! It also helps if you include your Twitter handle or a way to reach you somewhere in your presentation (or, better yet, throughout it), or share it during your conversations at a meetup. That way people can easily reach you, and can follow up with you after having seen you or heard from you at a meetup or talk.
While some of you out there may say “I’m too busy at work to think about that right now,” or “I’m just not the speaker type,” I would point out that there are so many people (especially beginners such as myself!) that would greatly appreciate and benefit from hearing you speak about something which probably comes easy to you. As for speaking jitters and getting rid of the ever-present “umm’s”, I know there are many toastmasters-type meetups (often even within tech companies) to help you get a bit of practice. Volunteering your time as a mentor for people that are just getting started with learning is also a great way to get involved, and is one which doesn’t involve public speaking! Helping others can also be beneficial to you. You may be someone who’s hiring in their team and may find a suitable, highly motivated candidate through attending a panel or mentoring. It also provides practice for speakers/mentors to be better and more proactive in those areas at work. After all, it’s not enough to be a phenomenal coder, you have to have soft skills to excel in the tech industry, as a Google study reiterated:
“the seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others’ different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.”
I’ve included some relevant links below:
GET INVOLVED, MAKE A DIFFERENCE Links:
https://wafflejs.com Meet-up about anything related to web technology — with waffles & karaoke! Meets on the 1st Wednesday of every month. Proceeds go to Black Girls Who Code and they’re always looking for enthusiastic speakers to present for about six minutes— no experience necessary! Great place to start off if you have the jitters but know you have knowledge to impart & want to take that first step 🙂
https://forwardjs.com JS Conference!