The Lincoln Tech Scene

I am sure fellow members of the Lincolnshire tech community are looking forward to the DDDEM conference that happens in nearby Nottingham this year. I know that because there is a regular meetup in Lincoln now, Digital Lincoln, where we are talking about it. There is promotion activity happening at our meetup and we are proud sponsors of the conference.

Opening a blog post like that makes me reflect on the whole of the community, a little of the experience in Lincoln in recent years and what that means.

Lincoln Center  — photo by Matthew Feeney on Unsplash

— photo by Matthew Feeney on Unsplash

Lincoln has had a technical community for a number of years, mostly post-university, but more recently it has started to grow a bigger technical community. In 2011 the first hackathons were run in Lincoln. The first events were Lincoln Hack, a community-organised hackathon and DevXS, hosted by the University of Lincoln for students. These were great fun and not insignificant in size. However, then there was a bit of a hiatus. Events did occur, such as the iLincoln meetup and Lincoln JavaScript. However, the numbers and consistency were lacking.

Until recently, when that was revived with the establishment of Digital Lincoln in 2016 and the start of Lincoln Hack as the community become vibrant again. The hack event has been hugely successful and the meetup has seen many speakers, both locally and from outside Lincoln, come to share their passion and expertise with the locals. It has been inspirational to many.

Picture of hackers

Lincoln Hack, the annual hackathon organised by Digital Lincoln, attracts 100-120 people each year

I recently read a wonderful post by Nottingham tech community member Lex Lofthouse, who has gotten so much out of the tech community in only a few short months. I am so pleased for Lex! I also chatted with someone who is using the power of the community to help her grow her career, which is brilliant. I so love that these opportunities are around in our industry. So, whilst not plagiarising the ideas (honest!), I was inspired to finish the blog post I promised Jess and Moreton for DDDEM on that very topic: what the community can do for you. More specifically, what I have observed during my involvements in tech communities in Nottingham, Lincoln and Leicester, and what it can do for your tech career. The post was commissioned a while back and has taken some time to come out but hopefully, those in any tech community, new entrants or otherwise, will get something from it and release how and why we should nurture our communities.

So why are community and meetups important to your technical career?

Free tech learning

A meetup is similar to a conference, offering a bridge between experts and learners. A meetup differs, educationally only slightly, but there is undoubtedly often a difference in the accessibility of the experts. There is a different sort of culture and the relaxed approach of a meetup often means the sometimes artificial barriers we put between ourselves and speakers are removed. I have yet to meet a speaker who is not helpful, willing to chat and talk after the presentation or demo. I mean that is why they are there, right? There are, of course, lots of other learnings besides that of the speaker. You’ll find collaboration between groups in a hack, or catch a demo going on.

The debugging power of the conversation

Whether you talk to your established friends, new members of the community for information-sharing, advice-giving, or just to vent about the latest thing in tech, conversation helps you put things in perspective. We work in an industry where there is no shortage of change, which can be empowering and/or bewildering. It’s good to talk and is often the way you find the answer to that problem that has you perplexed or whose final goal you have just not reached yet. The diversity, experience and perspective of our conversation partners change the options open to us. It helps us see problems anew, consider ideas that may go unnoticed, and fosters the kind of creativity nearly impossible to achieve in isolation.

Building a super team

When you’re at work, you may not always get to pick your colleagues and collaborators. If you have a side project or a business of your own this is very different. If you’re looking for a super team to get your project to the next level, then community⁠—whether online or local⁠—is an ideal place to meet the collaborators that you really need. People who complement or share your skills are aplenty, and I have often found are in the same position: looking to find the next project or willing to help. Our industry attracts a very industrious bunch.

Knowing who to ask

Imagine you can find a StackOverflow voice assistant that actually listens, parses text correctly, and returns valuable insights and much more. Well, that is the community. OK, maybe not always immediatleyt accessible, but a wealth of knowledge is available to you. Fortunately, organisers try as hard as we can to ensure a diverse mix of people attend these groups. I know from experience they are not always focused on the exact topic at hand, so the range of skills are extensive and experiences far-reaching.

Being able to help

There is a great deal of satisfaction from helping others. If that is not enough, when one person performs a good deed, it can cause a chain reaction of other altruistic acts. Within a community, this often pays back big time. Helping someone within the community is great⁠—whether it be helping with a coding problem, volunteering at an event, or just being there to listen, you will be surprised at the benefit both parties get.

Need a job

So it is simple: you get a group of people together who share common skills and employment profiles. This allows them to network and learn of other roles in different companies. We hear of new opportunities, build collaborations and maybe even start businesses together. Recruitment companies often present themselves at meetups too and sponsor them, thereby widening opportunities.

Making others outside of the community aware

In the digital world, we live-in people are not always aware of the technical and non-technical effort that goes into providing the services, sites and mobile applications we deliver. A meetup or other events attract publicity and allow people to see what is happening in the space, what goes into people’s roles and businesses, and the plethora of roles and diverse skills that go into this. Transparency is good! Allowing people to see what we do educates people. We can share the information which helps make them more digitally savvy, cyber secure and informed. It also allows the tech community to break down any stereotypes. The industry is diverse and certainly, diversity and inclusivity in my experience is something the community works hard on. If people perceive those working in technology in a certain stereotyped way then they are likely ill-informed.

Building friendships

Tech meetups are learning opportunities for sure, but they are also social gatherings for meeting and building friendships among people. Friendship is good for us — there is solid scientific research behind that. Enough said.

Digital Lincoln Logo

Digital Lincoln Logo

Digital Lincoln members and organisers will be around at DDEM supporting the good work they are doing at promoting community in the East Midlands. If you spot us, come say hi and learn more about our community.