Two Important Takeaways From my First Developer Conference (RWDevcon)
March 22, 2016
After two flights I stepped foot in Washington DC for my first developer conference. Excitement is a boring way to describe how I felt about attending my first conference! Meeting the crew that runs raywenderlich.com at RWDevcon was something I'd been looking forward to since I got the news I won a student scholarship. It's a two-day conference with an optional fun day people are invited to attend before it starts (all the days were fun if you ask me). Now that it's over though I wanna share some important insights from my first conference.
1. Forget about "Networking" and be yourself
Just to be totally transparent I did feel awkward when the conference started. I think that's pretty natural but I just tried to move past it. The most important thing I realized was I am surrounded by people as excited to learn about software as me! When you know you share such a deep interest with everyone around you it'll be easy to be genuine with everyone.
I'm aware that "just being yourself" and making new friends is pretty much "Networking". The point I'm trying to make is that when you forget about that pressure you're free to enjoy yourself and people gravitate to somebody like that more than somebody networking per say. If you're anything like me you'll feel great leaving a conference having made so many new relationships with people.
If I had any cliché piece of advice for the introverts out there it would be just imagine everyone as an old friend. I did my best to meet as many people at the conference and not a single person sneered at me or told me to leave.
2. No one expects you to be an expert
Conferences aren't reserved for the few and the proud people that pioneer your profession. In fact when I went and met people I considered experts come to find out they're normal people too. I know this shouldn't be a surprise but for many and myself included it's easy to feel unqualified to really contribute to conversations or talks at conferences.
At RWDevcon there was an inspirational talk by Jeremy Olson the founder of Tapity that encouraged me to forget about the fear of not being an expert and find a way to just lead. That's one of the biggest realizations I had during the conference and it's that attitude that turns people into leaders in the community like Jeremy Olson. I could write more about this but just remember at your first conference that nobody is an expert either.
If you go to a different conference you might get a completely different experience than me. RWDevcon was obviously put together very thoughtfully to make sure all attendees got optimal experiences both coding and socially. I'm extremely grateful to the team that put it together and appreciate their dedication to giving me and everybody else the best experience possible.
Thanks again to everybody at raywenderlich.com and I hope to see you all again in the near future at more conferences!