When we think about advancing in a software career, we often focus on what we need to do from a technical perspective.
We tend to focus on taking classes, learning new technologies, tackling harder projects in hopes of leveling up as a developer.
But are there other things we are not considering when it comes to building a successful career as a software engineer?
Should we also be focusing on networking and building connections?
What does it really mean to network,and does it actually work?
In this article, I will talk about the power of building meaningful relationships in this industry, and how it can help you achieve your career goals.
🔗What is networking?
The word "networking" often has negative connotations assigned to it. Sometimes people only view networking as "using people for personal gain", or "kissing up to people in exchange for a favor".
People also have the belief that you have to be an extrovert to be able to network properly, and introverts will not be successful in it. But that is not the case at all. I have met plenty of people who were successful in building a network, and classify themselves as introverted.
Networking is the process of building meaningful connections. Good networking involves connecting with someone in a genuine way, and building a relationship over time. Once you have developed a relationship, you can work together to advance your careers.
These relationships can introduce you to opportunities you never knew existed. Your network may also be happy to vouch for you at their current companies, and talk you up to other developers in their inner circles.
🔗How networking helped me in my career
Before I became a software developer, my previous career was in music. I had never coded a day in my life before June 2020, and didn't know the first thing about how to break into the industry.
I decided to teach myself how to code and join a few online communities. I quickly found the value of being involved with a community because I was able to learn from other developers, and understand how the industry worked. My community was able to help me stay away from toxic environments, and provide me with helpful resources that I still use today. My network introduced me to technical writing and software opportunities that I didn't know where possible.
I took the time to learn about the industry, and build relationships with great people. We were able to help each other learn about new opportunities, celebrate each other's wins, support each through the tough times, and help each other grow.
Now that we understand what networking is and why it is important, we need to look at ways to build out a network.
🔗Using Twitter to build a network
Twitter can be a great way to build connections and meet new people in the tech industry. Here are some ways to build connections using Twitter.
Twitter spaces are live audio conversations shared by a group of people. There is a person hosting the space, and a group of speakers discussing a preplanned topic. Listeners also have the opportunity to request to speak, and join in on the conversation.
The topics range from career development, mental health, freelancing, technical writing, web 3, machine learning, and more. These spaces can be as little as 10-20 people or 500+ people.
If you find a space that you are interested in, take a listen and make note of who the speakers are. Give them a follow on Twitter, read up on their profile and reach out through direct message.
In your private message, open with introducing yourself and thanking them for the great advice during the recent Twitter space. Then if you have any follow up questions from the space, drop them in the message.
That could be a great way to initiate a conversation, and you would be surprised how many people will respond back. I have connected with dozens of developers, technical writers, content creators and recruiters through Twitter spaces. Private messaging them was my way to make an initial connection, and we were able to build a relationship from there.
Out of those relationships I have been able to build out my online presence which has led to paid technical writing jobs, podcast appearances, and insider information for new career opportunities.
🔗Publicly sharing other people's work
There have been plenty of times where I have shared other people's articles, courses and open source projects through my personal Twitter account. People put a lot of time and effort into creating good content for the community.
When you take the time to show genuine appreciation for someone else's work, they will take notice of that. You can accomplish this by retweeting's someone else's post with your own commentary, or creating your own post and tagging them in it.
I have personally retweeted and promoted other people's content and had positive responses back. This was also a way for me to initiate a conversation with them and connect with them further on other topics.
🔗Using meetups and online tech communities to build connections
Joining a tech community can be a great way to build relationships. The key is finding a community that is a right fit for you.
My suggestion would be to try out a few different online communities, and see what works for you. You will find some communities to be very active and welcoming while others are toxic.
Once you find a few communities that you enjoy, try to reach out to a few of the members. Learn about their stories and connect with them through private chat. Maybe even try to set up a short meeting with them to ask a few questions or discuss a particular topic.
Most people will be receptive to you reaching out as long as you keep your questions specific and you ask for a short meeting (think 15-20 minutes). If your approach is too vague or open ended, people will be hesitant to respond.
There is a diverse array of communities that range from web development, data science, game development and more. You can even find communities geared towards specific cultures, genders, and other demographics.
It is important to remember that not everyone you reach out to will respond back. It is possible that they were busy, and missed your message or are simply not interested in connecting. Try not to take it personally and keep reaching out to other people. There will be plenty of people that do want to connect with you and share their stories.
There are plenty of ways to connect with other people in the tech industry that can be beneficial for your career growth. Try to explore a variety of online and offline venues to meet new people and connect. Social media platforms, meetups, and conferences are just a few places to build connections and grow relationships over time.
I am someone who transitioned from being a classical musician to working as a software developer in large part because of my network. They were very supportive of my software journey and I was supportive of theirs. We continue to help each other out, and support each other throughout our careers.
It doesn't matter if you are just starting out or 20 years in the industry, we all need a network of people around us to help us grow and thrive.