Don’t get me wrong, I love doing things and learning things on my own, by myself, during my own personal time. But we as individuals can only do so much on our own. If you really want to take your skill set to the next level, you need to venture out of your introverted self, and you need to network with like minded individuals. How can you do this you may ask?
###Join a Meetup group!
Meetup.com is free to sign-up with. I’m willing to bet that there is at least one “computer-sciencey” like Meetup group in your area. Join the group, attend their meetings, participate in their discussions. Learning how to effectively collaborate with other geeks is an essential part of working in the real world, so it’s best to learn these skills earlier than later.
But there are no meetup groups near me!
If you feel like you live in the middle of no where (like yours truly), there may not be a big enough community for a meetup group. Or, more likely than not, there just hasn’t been anyone to step up and create one themselves. That’s where you come in. Create your own Meetup group.
For a basic Meetup group to exist, you need to pay $60/ year. That’s it. If you’re able to afford $60, and your town doesn’t have an established computer science group, then you owe it to your community to start the first one. Chances are, there are a lot more geeks in your area than you probably think there are. They just need a leader to bring everyone together.
Not in a financially stable enough situation to be spending $60 on some stupid group? Hey I understand, I’ve been there. But instead you can start a Facebook Group, and that’s free! It probably won’t get as popular as the Meetup group, but you can help promote it better. Head down to your library and splurge a couple dimes to print off a few flyers that you make yourself promoting your new group. Post them around town (with permission) - the library, coffee shops, etc.
###Ok so I made a group, but what do we do? How do I promote it?
Well, it’s your group, so you can do whatever you want! When I first created my meetup group, I honestly had no idea what to expect. Truthfully, it took me (us) a while to get the ball rolling, but now we have a fairly steady group that’s continuing to grow!
Every month we have one 2-hour meetup. The first hour consists of presentations, and the second hour consists of code katas.
For the first hour of presentations, we have a different “theme” for every meetup. The presentations will be on topics that correlate to the meetup’s theme, where different members are encouraged to volunteer to conduct a presentation (could be only 5 minutes, could be 45 minutes).
For instance, our last meetup’s theme was on “Databases.” One member did a presentation on an overview of databases and what they are, another member did a demo of walking through her NoSQL database to demonstrate how NoSQL works, and I did a presentation on database normalization (1NF - 4NF).
This gives everyone, including yourself, a great chance to learn something new over the month and prepare a short little presentation on it. It also helps with your public speaking!
The second half of code katas are (usually) just different challenges from HackerRank.com. We have some members work together, some members work alone, and everyone races to see who can solve the programming challenge the quickest! It’s really fun because almost everyone is using a different language, so it’s neat to see all the different implementations to solve the same problem, then analyze and see how our code could have been improved! It’s a great learning experience for everyone.
It’s important to learn with others. They will know certain things you won’t know, and you will know certain things they won’t know. Sharing your knowledge together helps everyone grow as a better programmer. For any questions about starting your own Meetup or Facebook group, feel free to shoot me an email!