Tuesday, July 16, 2013

User Groups: Why are they important?

A few months back I began attending user groups. Atlanta is a bastion of technology and startups, and since I'm in town on business for I decided to explore the landscape. The first user group I attended was ATLRUG, I felt a bit timid, because coming in I had no experience with Ruby and here I was standing around people who had startups, consultancies, and applications all based around Ruby and web development.

Today I attended my first iOS User's Group in downtown Atlanta, I had a great experience. It followed the same format as ATLRUG, two presentations, once a month with the follow-up dinner/drinks. The overall experiences I have received from both of these groups has been overwhelmingly positive. Not only is there usually good information in the presentation, but there are all sorts of job opportunities and chances to learn. The real meat of these user groups typically happens before and after the actual presentations. This is the time where you get to learn about all the individuals, how they got there, and what keeps them busy, whether it be a startup, a consultancy or full-time employment at an enterprise.

By the end of the event, you can make a few friends, and even have a few resources that you can tap to get yourself on track. Also, if you are an intermediate or advance user of a technology taking the time to put together a presentation and show it to others helps the wider community. It could also provide you with the aforementioned job opportunities and connections.

If you're interested in joining a User Group, the internet is at your disposal. You can also check with the vendor. In the case of Oracle and Microsoft, there is a lot of backing of the regional user groups. If you are looking more around a specific technology like Ruby, Objective-C, etc. There are websites out there like Meetup.com that provide a way to search for specific interest groups within your area.

My recommendation to technology newbies to guru's. If you aren't at least an attendee of a user group join one. If there isn't one in your area, then start one. The one thing to remember is that we're all in this together, so to make it easier on all of us we must collaborate.

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