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Finding my Tribes and Leveling Up

TL;DR: There are many channels available for leveling-up and for finding your tribe, some of them less ‘traditional’. These are some that I use:
– In-person gatherings (meetups, conferences etc)
– Twitter
– Instant messaging (Slack/HipChat/Jabbr/Gitter/IRC etc)
– Websites (MSDN/Stack Overflow etc)
– Podcasts


This post was prompted by several things: My interview for Source; a conversation I had with two developers I am coaching, who had been thrown into the deep-end on a project with new, unfamiliar technology, and very little support from their company; a conversation with an acquaintance about resources available for leveling up.

A number of years ago, I felt very lonely and misunderstood as a professional developer. I care deeply about my craft and self-development and self-improvement, but struggled to find people with a similar outlook and experience. Part of my frustration was not having anyone with whom to discuss things and soundboard ideas.

I’m glad to say that today my life is totally different. I belong to several tribes, both in meatspace and virtual, have access to a lot more people and resources, with lots of different experiences and points of view. In fact I could probably spend my days only in debate and discussion now, without doing any other work. Besides the communities and resources discussed below, I’m extremely fortunate to be working at nReality where I have amazing colleagues, as well as access to a broad range of people through my training and coaching work.

The resources I use the most these days to level up are
– Meatspace Events
– Twitter
– Slack

Meatspace events are great for many reasons, including: you learn at a lot during the talks; you get to meet awesome, like-minded people and have stimulating conversations. There are a number of great in-person events. The best place to find them is meetup.com.

Of particular significance is DeveloperUG (Twitter) which has monthly events in Jo’burg and Pretoria/Centurion. I owe a massive debt to the founder and past organisers of DeveloperUG, Mark Pearl, Robert MacLean and Terence Kruger for creating such an amazing community.

I am involved in running or hosting these meatspace communities:
Jo’burg Lean Coffee
Jo’burg Domain Driven Design

These meatspace communities are also valuable:
Scrum User Group Jo’burg
Jozi.rb
Jozi JUG
Code & Coffee
Code Retreat SA
Jo’burg Software Testers

Conferences that I’ve attented and spoken at include
Agile Africa
Scrum Gathering
DevConf, and
Let’s Test SA

I haven’t yet had the opportunity to attend others, like JSinSA, RubyFuza, ScaleConf and others, but I know the same applies to them as well. Pro-tip: Getting accepted to speak or present a poster at a conference usually gets you in free, sometimes the conference also pays for your travel and accommodation costs.

As important as meatspace events and communities are, virtual communities provide access to people in other locations. My current way of connecting is finding people and conversations on Twitter, then using Slack to have deeper, ‘better’ conversations. I do have good conversations via Twitter, but its a bit clumsy for a few reasons, and Slack often works better for real conversations.

Twitter and Slack are great for connecting with people for a number of reasons:
– public & discoverable
– low ceremony
– no strings attached

This means that its very easy to start a conversation with anyone, and they’re more likely to respond since its easy to (low ceremony), and they’re not making any kind of commitment (no strings attached).

I’ve been lucky enough to have conversations with some of my idols, like Kent Beck, Uncle Bob, Woody Zuil, Tim Ottinger etc, some on Twitter, some on Slack, some on both.

I belong to these open-to-the-public Slack communities:
– ZADevelopers – South African Developers (invitation on request)
Legacy Code Rocks – All things Legacy Code (technical debt, TDD, refactoring etc)
ddd-cqrs-es – Domain-Driven Design, CQRS, Event Sourcing
Software Craftsmanship – Software Craftsmanship
– Coaching Circles – Coaching, especially Agile, Lean etc (invitation on request)
WeDoTDD – Test-Driven Development
Testing Community – Testing (I joined very recently)

What resources do you use to level up and connect to communities of interest? Let me know in the comments!

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