By Matt WojciakowskiAugust 23, 2014

Networking in Seattle's tech community

Part I of a professional networking series on Meetup groups in Seattle.

A common concern for those new to tech development is that they can’t hang

Networking is hard. The word alone conjures images of awkward handshakes and forced conversations. Add to this being the new guy (or gal) and it can become painful and terrifying. As a new student at Code Fellows, don’t be surprised if you are assigned to read the article, “How to survive your first year as a programmer.” The article assures us that spending hours fixing silly mistakes, juggling opposing pieces of advice, being unsure of what to learn next, getting your ego tied up in your code, and feeling like you have to know everything . . . is normal. Not just normal, but that this frustrating, humbling, mentally exhausting experience should be expected. Learning to code does not require above-average intelligence, but determination and perseverance are a must. The Code Fellows instructors live this out with students every day. They push hard, ask a lot, and hold high expectations, but have opened doors to this strange and intimidating technical realm for many of us who, previous to the invitation, did not feel welcome.

“Jobs was a poser. He didn’t even write code.” ~Richard

A strange thing happens as one learns more about coding languages and tools moving toward the almighty employed professional developer status. As you learn, you realize how much you don’t know. All of the determined seeking, learning, questioning, exploring, and discovery that takes place as students face exposure to other professionals in the tech world. Confidence shrivels. Signs of rejection surround you, all echoing “Five Years of Experience Required!” The next thing that you know, you are dwelling on shortcomings and moping around listening to sad, beardy, indie-rock music.

Take heart—this is not Silicon Valley

The reality is that the world of coding and tech-geek-culture can be a lot more welcoming, encouraging, and supportive than you may think—you just have to know where to look. In that interest, I am making a commitment as a newcomer to the Seattle Tech Community. For the next few months, I am going to attend and write about the local Meetup.com groups that welcome techsters, coders, creative hipster geeks, and older tech nerds alike to join together in face-to-face community. Meetups vary widely, from booze-sponsored, hip, start-up party atmospheres to intimate rag-tag groups hacking through the world’s problems in a coffee shop. Let’s start by taking a look at two groups whose organizers recently stopped by the Code Fellows HQ to invite our students to get involved.

SeaTech Connect

“We are a networking event for Seattle’s creative and tech community to explore and meet in the offices that help form some of the biggest brands that we interact with daily. Our office crawls take place during the summer months and will move from neighborhood to neighborhood. SeaTech Connect is done in partnership with KNOLL & Seattle Interactive Conference.”

Brian Rauschenbac­h, one of SeaTech Connect’s organizers/founders and curator for the Seattle Interactive Conference, might be one of the nicest guys who you’ll ever meet. President of the Add3 marketing agency, with an 18-year history in the Seattle tech community, he dropped by to tell us about SeaTech Connect. Brian and his co-organizers want the Seattle tech community to be united through people and place. The group organizes tours each month, which have included the Belltown’s illusive creative agency Wexley School for Girls and Net-Zero LBC-certified Bullitt Center (where no one takes the elevator up the six-story commercial building thanks to the “irresistible stairway” encased by floor-to-ceiling glass walls). With 909 “Connectors” at my last check, SeaTech Connect boasts one of the larger memberships of the 2,410 Meetups within 50 miles of Seattle. Rauschenback attributes part of the group’s success to a Georgetown Brewery sponsorship, although he shared that the group has been exploring a more focused atmosphere with professional speakers and industry-focused topics to accompany the fun social vibe typically associated with their meetings.

Join SeaTech Connect’s meetup group for upcoming office crawls. The last event in Fremont included a visit to Killer Infographics, Deloitte Digital, and Vitamin T, with a strong finish at Fremont Brewing Company.

Seattle JavaScript Workshop {S:WS}

“A monthly workshop for coders to learn from each other and ask questions as needed. Coders can bring their own project, book, or tutorial. A hacknight for coders to work on open source projects together, learn and solve some real world problems.”

Thomas Wilburn, Seattle JavaScript Workshop’s co-organizer and Data Journalist for The Seattle Times, has to be one of the most eclectically gifted and newsworthy web developers in the SLU neighborhood. He directs Interactive Media for Urban Artistry, where he sharpens his skills as a B-Boy; teaches JavaScript classes at Seattle Central College; guest lectures at the University of Washington; and creates browser-based news experiences over at The Seattle Times. Thomas came by Code Fellows to invite us to meet over coffee at Trabant and talk about JavaScript.

“Each month, we pick a topic for round table discussion, or hacking session on a JavaScript technology.”

Topics have ranged from exploring new features for an online game under development to helping new developers get unstuck from problems or get started with projects using templates like Yeoman and Grunt project scaffolding for setting up new applications. The group is a great place to discuss advantages and disadvantages to different approaches, explore build processes and testing frameworks, and examine real-life examples, including your own projects. At 326 members, the group still manages a reasonable level of intimacy among those in attendance. They use the events to get to know one another and partner off to dive deeper into some individual work and problem-solving.

Join the Seattle JavaScript Workshop folks on Wednesday, September 10th, at 6:30pm for coffee and JavaScripting. The steep participation fee of $1 (American) helps cover their Meetup fees. Each month, they pick a topic for a round table discussion or hacking session, so contact them early if you have ideas.