I’m sure you’re aware of the stereotype for software developers. The South Park episode where Cartman becomes a gamer comes to mind. Don’t be the guy tucked away in a dark room, completely shut off from the rest of the world. Dust off the Cheetos crumbs from your shirt, pour out the Mountain Dew and join the land of the living.
Break the stereotype
I’ve always been quite the introvert. In my youth I was tagged as shy, but that wasn’t a very accurate description. My preference was always to stand back and watch the world. I learned a lot through observation and working out problems on my own.
When I was in my teens and twenties my friends and I would often joke that we just didn’t like people. After all, a person is smart but people are stupid. Perhaps I was surrounding myself with people that sucked, perhaps I was overly critical. Or could it be that I just hadn’t acquired a taste for the differing personalities often found in unique and wonderful individuals?
Maybe it’s just a function of getting older (dare I say, wiser?) but I’ve come to realize that people are fascinating. Every person truly is unique with their own thoughts, ideas, hopes, dreams, and fears. I find that if I take the time to learn just a little bit about the individual it helps me immensely in my communications with them.
People can be a big help
Have you ever found yourself in a jam? Have you ever landed in a bit of a pickle? What if you were completely out of your element and far away from your support group? Where would turn for help?
I’m consistently amazed at the kindness of strangers. Having recently moved a thousand miles to live and work in a new city I’ve had to rebuild my support group. Often that has meant that I have had to swallow my pride and ask what amount to nearly complete strangers for help. I have found that people are generally willing and excited to help. It turns out my mother was right, a positive attitude and a smile can go a long way when asking for help.
Since I’ve dropped the I hate people thought from my mind and instead approach people as a potential friend I’ve had a much better experience with meeting new people. I’ll likely never be described as a social butterfly, however I have learned to be comfortable meeting and talking to new people.
I’ve learned quite a bit from other people
If you’re willing and open people have a lot to share and teach. I’m amazed at the sheer volume of new things I learn from coworkers, friends, and family on a daily basis. Finding someone from which to learn is quite easy, if you know where to look.
Some of my most recent positive experiences have been attending various meetup groups. I’m particularly fond of lightening talks, where individuals get 15 minutes to present and teach a particular technology or new skill. Its extremely entertaining to see others share the excitement of something they’ve learned recently with an attentive audience.
Helping other can be extremely rewarding
In the last few years I’ve taken great pleasure in becoming a mentor to the next generation of young programmers. I’ve conducted mock interviews at local colleges and universities. One such interview actually resulted in my company hiring one of the participants a few months later. This coming February I’ll be participating in a new mentor program at another university; something I’m very excited about.
The St Pete .NET Meetup is a user group that I, along with Clayton Hunt, started over a year ago. We’ve had a tremendous amount of support in the community and have had the opportunity to meet and befriend a large number of truly great people.
In addition to colleges, universities, and meetups; I’ve been making the rounds on the speaking circuit. Attending and speaking at a number of user groups and tech conferences has allowed me the opportunity to meet some truly awe inspiring individuals. I’ve been able to share my lessons as well as learn a great deal from others.
Opportunities to meet and greet our fellow human beings are all around us. I want to hear about your experiences in the comments below.
A Microsoft MVP, John has been a professional developer since 1999. He has focused primarily on web technologies and has experience with everything from PHP to C# to ReactJS to SignalR. Clean code and professionalism are particularly important to him, as well as mentoring and teaching others what he has learned along the way.