This week’s guest blog post is contributed by Jim Lane, Director of User Experience, Oracle Data Cloud. Lane leads design teams working on AddThis website tools and other Oracle Data Cloud products, including AddThis Audience Discovery.
As designers, software engineers, and other software development professionals we all have skill sets specific to our jobs. Our respective fields evolve constantly and it can be challenging keeping up with the latest news, research, and competitive landscape. Meetup groups are a great way to meet others in our respective fields and challenge ourselves to grow professionally.
What’s a meetup?
Meetups are a simple idea: Gather people with similar interests to share information and do things together. At AddThis, the Oracle Data Cloud’s Northern Virginia office, we regularly organize two large meetup groups for technology professionals. Big Data DC offers technical discussions in the areas of large scale data processing and analytics. My own group, NoVA UX, provides monthly meetups featuring speakers, panel discussions, and workshops about user experience design.
What’s so great about meetups?
Meetups can enhance your professional growth in a number of ways. They provide learning opportunities to build skills, hear other points of view, and discover new things. You can also expand your professional network, meeting others in your field you may never have met otherwise.
You can even look for people to hire, or find a job yourself. Presenting at meetups is a great way to build confidence in public speaking and grow your personal brand. Finally, mingling with peers is a fantastic way to get outside of your comfort zone and talk with others with similar interests and experiences.
Finding a meetup group
Wondering how to go about finding your own group? Check out sites like Meetup.com to discover groups that are organized in your area. You can join as many as you like, and most groups will send emails announcing upcoming events so you can decide if a particular meetup would be interesting.
Starting a meetup
Starting your own meetup group is a great way to grow professionally, and can be incredibly rewarding. Four years ago there weren’t any user-experience-oriented groups in Northern Virginia – all of the existing design and tech groups were in Washington D.C. So, I started NoVA UX to give back to the Northern Virginia creative community. And with 2,500 members and 55 monthly events later, the group has grown more than I ever could have imagined.
Running a group can be as big a job as you choose to make it, but regardless it’s a great way to hone organizational skills and network with speakers, sponsors and group members. If you happen to also be a hiring manager, organizing a meetup group can be a great way to create a hiring pool that you can pull from when it’s time to hire full-time or contract work.
So what are you waiting for? Check out Meetup.com and find a group near you to start super-charging your professional growth. If design is your thing and you find yourself in the Northern Virginia or the DC Metro area, check out the NoVA UX site and Twitter feed. You can also follow me on Twitter, where I post about design, user experience, technology, and professional development.
Read more from Jim Lane on the Oracle Data Cloud blog, “Designing for Better Audience Discovery at AddThis.”