How else does networking benefit me?
A lot of software consultants approach networking with the goal of meeting people to find clients. But this isn’t the only benefit. And, as we discussed earlier, if finding gigs is your only goal you won’t have success with it . Here are some benefits with networking that aren’t immediately obvious.
Networking helps develop a broad view of the Industry
The more you talk with people, the broader view you have of the industry. In our day-to-day work, we only get a knowledge of the things we’re directly working with. This is a small fraction of the entire tech landscape or even your specific tech stack. Networking gives insight from people using different technologies (or using tech you know) in a different way.
“You work with iOS? How are you handling 3rd party dependencies? Are you having trouble with that approach?” “You do Android? Do you all geek out over MVVM and VIPER like the iOS devs?”
This builds expertise in your area and insight into adjacent areas. You’re not only meeting people, you’re also learning from their experience. Remember back to a previous post? Your perceived competence is a big driver for a contact to decide if they want to introduce you to someone they know. They’re putting their reputation on the line. Having a broad view of the tech industry helps them feel comfortable you’ll do a good job.
How this helped me:
I recently wrote about my first consulting gig and how I barely knew much of the tech I was using. I was backfilling for a seasoned consultant and he kept throwing out concepts I had never heard of. I hated that. I didn’t hate that he used those terms, I hated that there were concepts in-play I didn’t know.
I wanted to be the person that knew the ins and outs of the tech in use. To fix this, I spent a lot of time reading content from people sharing their experience with new tech. Reading was helpful, but my knowledge increased much faster when I was able to ask questions with people actually working with the tech.
“You’re working with MongoDB? Have you run into memory problems when doing relational queries (something I read about in a blog post)? When did it become a problem? How did you work around it?”
The combination of reading AND comparing that knowledge with direct experience gave me insight very few others have.
In 2009, I was the person struggling to understand the tech needed to do my job. In 2019, I’m the person people reach out to for insight.
Networking was a big part of that transformation.
Meet people going through the same thing as you
Are you a jr. Front End Developer at a massive company? How does your job compare to BigCorp across town? How does their management structure affect your day-to-day work? Do they solve their problems the same way?
This also works for devs at different types of companies. How does your work compare to a job at a startup? Would you like it? Talk to people and find out. You’re not going to find that startup employee at the grocery store, but they are going to be at a React meetup.
How this helped me:
When I first began iOS development, I spent a lot of time talking with experienced iOS devs AND new iOS devs learning the platform like me. This helped me grow much faster than hacking through client work on my own.
In addition, much of what I learned about running my consulting business has come through conversations with other consultants. I even ran a Meetup for independent developers at one point. I learned a ton from the people I spoke with. Consulting is a sea of hassles that regular employees don’t have to deal with. Lawyers, insurance, taxes, investment options, getting paid. My consulting colleagues help me commiserate about difficult clients (and learn how to not get in the same position again). The wisdom I gained from them helped me avoid a lot of pitfalls that have caused other consultants to give up. We also celebrate wins that regular employees wouldn’t understand.
These are a couple benefits I gained from networking that I didn’t expect. We’ll cover more benefits somewhere down the road. Stay tuned!
Where can I learn more?
This is part of a series to help software consultants learn find their own clients by building a network. Other posts are here