A Sheep Herder

Lessons Learned From Organizing a Meetup

Today marks the final day of the Denver Code Club’s 10 weeks of jQuery projects. I organized the meetup shortly after moving to Denver late last year. My thought at the time was that I was moving to a new city where I didn’t know anyone, and what better way to meet fellow developers than by beginning my own study group? I had never organized anything like this before, but I can now say that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

We started by spending 8 weeks on Javascript, and then worked with jQuery over the following 10 weeks. After 18 weeks of getting up early on Saturday mornings, I’m looking forward to taking a few weeks off and concentrating my own side projects. Maybe even sleeping in a little.

What have I learned?

1. You’ll find your people

Meetup.com’s motto is ‘Find Your People’ and I certainly have. Out of the 400+ people that are members of the Denver Code Club, there’s a core group of about 15 to 20 people that consistently show up every Saturday morning. These are my people. This core group comes from all walks of life; there’s both young and old, both Men and Women, and both absolute beginners and experienced developers. Together we’ve found something that binds us and that’s the ongoing quest to learn more about writing code. This is my favorite part of the study group.

2. You can’t please everyone

When I began the group I tried to make the experience perfect for everyone that showed up. Over the last 18 weeks I’ve learned to let go of that idea and come to the realization that I need to just focus on what works for me. Since everyone learns differently, I’ve lost some people that required more direction.

Some people learn by being told exactly what steps to take next, while others thrive when given the space to make decisions themselves. I’m more of the later and have a hard time finding direction for the former. At some point on their path to becoming a developer people will need to learn to learn. They’ll either learn the age-old acronym JFGI, or ‘Just Fucking Google It’, or they won’t. It’s Ok for me not to Google it for them.

3. I really enjoy people

This isn’t something I’ve just discovered of course, but more of something that’s been reinforced through organizing the group. A developers life can be quite lonesome sometimes, at least for myself. We spend hours and hours in deep thought while we build things and solve problems, but in relation, not much time just talking about what we’re working on or shooting the breeze.

It’s likely due to my extremely small social circle since moving to a new town coupled with the quiet coders life, but I’ve really enjoyed connecting with people, even if it’s just for 4 hours on Saturday mornings.

4. Watching people succeed is fun

Early in the first few meetups one particular guy started showing up each week and worked through every single project to completion. He asked tons of questions and even became a regular at our ‘bonus meetups’ Thursday nights. He was a really smart guy with an MBA but a crappy job as a waiter at a fancy restaurant.

Like all of us he found a love of writing code and was now hustling to land his first job. He was a career changer just like me. Last week he finally got his first job and he’s now a developer. Watching his journey and transformation was incredible. You won’t find him with 1000 followers on Twitter or speaking at conferences. He’s just a regular Joe who found what he loved and spent every waking minute trying to achieve his goal. It’s been fun to watch him succeed.

Final thoughts

Organizing a study group has been a fantastic experience. I learned a lot about leading people and what helps me personally and what doesn’t. I’m also happy to be bringing on Craig Freeman as a co-organizer to help take on some of the duties with me. There’s no specific roadmap to where we’ll be in the future and that’s just ok with me. As long as there’s folks out there that want to learn, I think they’ll find a meetup out there that suits them.

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