I’m involved with a number of local groups. I participate regularly with my local SQL Server user group and my local Albany UX group. I occasionally attend events held by my local college alumni group. And I hold a leadership position within the local community symphonic band with which I play. Additionally, there are several other local groups with which I would like to be involved; only lack of time keeps me from getting involved with more of them.
Why is it important to get involved with local user groups? There are many good reasons.
- It’s a free resource for learning. Both my SQL and UX groups regularly include a presentation about some topic at their meetings. These presentations provide me with an opportunity to learn something new.
- It’s an opportunity for you to get involved and to give back to the community. I am a musician in my spare time. My involvement with music groups give me a chance to share my talents with the rest of the world. Likewise, I’ve become a presenter with my SQL group (more on that in a minute). Through my user group, I have an opportunity to share my knowledge and my thoughts.
- It’s an opportunity to grow. Years ago, I started attending SQL Saturday, a series of SQL-centric technical conferences that are held at various locations. I wanted to contribute to these conferences, but I wasn’t sure how. I gave some presentations at my local SQL group. I took those presentations, submitted them to SQL Saturday conferences, and was accepted. I now regularly submit to and speak at SQL Saturdays around the Northeast United States.
- It’s a chance to network and make new friends. I have made a significant number of friends through my involvement with user groups. These are people with whom I feel comfortable getting together, having dinner, inviting to parties, playing games, going to ballgames, and so on. From a professional perspective, it’s also a great opportunity to network. It’s entirely possible that user group involvement could lead to professional opportunities and job leads. You never know. Speaking of professional opportunities and job leads…
- It looks good on a resume. Getting involved with user groups demonstrates that you are genuinely interested in something. That’s something that might appeal to potential employers.
- You become involved with something bigger than yourself. Doesn’t it feel good to be part of a team? When you’re involved with a user group, you can point to it and proudly say, “I’m a part of that!”
- It’s fun! I’ve often told my wife that band practice “isn’t just a hobby; it’s therapy.” I’ve often gone to rehearsal angry about something, and by the end of rehearsal, I’ll completely forget about what it is that upset me. These user groups are something I enjoy, and it makes for great therapy.
These are some of the reasons. Are there any others? Feel free to add by commenting!
So go out there, find a user group that interests you, and get involved. Chances are that it might lead to something. You never know!