A few thoughts on the value of code & coffee events.
My history with tech meetup events started in Madison, WI while I was in my PhD program (finished that in May of 2017). At the time, Madison didn’t have a meetup where techies would go to work in individual projects. Instead, they were structured more like lunch-and-learn events. One (or two) presenters would speak for 20–40min on a topic. The topics and the presenters were advertised ahead of time. There was also time for question and answers. Generally, I learned quite a lot from these bite-sized educational sessions and I miss those sessions.
Then, I moved to Washington, DC (made that move in July 2018). In this area, there are at least three weekly code and coffee meetups. Northern Virginia (NOVA) has one, DC has one, and Alexandria has one. These communities aren’t uncommon across the globe.
This weekend I went to NOVA’s which was hosted at the really cool offices of CustomInk.com. I also went to DC’s but got there to find out it was canceled due to our snow. I tweeted a fair bit about going to these Code & Coffee Meetups. A fellow techie Dr. Liz Gross asked me if I was coding all weekend? I replied:
@lizgross144 It is a mix of coding, networking, and also protected time to focus/plan/think. Plus, I drink all the coffee I want. All the coffee. And bagels. #BagelsToo.
Here is a bit more on why I find Code & Coffee events valuable
Great for networking
To get the most out of Code & Coffee it is important to network. Everyone does this differently and there is no right or wrong way to do it. For me, I do my best to connect via LinkedIn or Twitter with the folks I meet and chat with.
Makes your work less lonely
Thinking back to graduate school we had these “writing groups.” The best writing groups were weekly and included a core group that would commit to being there each week. The best writing groups started with a short discussion where everyone shares what they want to work on for the day and what their goals are. Then everyone gets to work. Likewise, the Code & Coffee events start out with introductions where everyone shares what they do for a living, what they’re working on that day, what they might want help with (if anything), and what they can help others with (if anything).
A place to go for help
I don’t ask for or need help every time I go to a Code & Coffee. But, when I do need or want help I know I can find it there. I’ve never been let down by the quality of that help.
A place to practice helping others
I’ve been asked for help a few times since going to Code & Coffee. Sometimes I feel like I have something to contribute, other times I’m stumped. But, the opportunity to share in someone else’s struggle is usually a welcome distraction from my own struggles. It is a reminder that everyone starts someplace. I’m not sure I can think of another experience that is as profoundly both humbling and inspirational.
Great for productivity
My guilty secret is that sometimes I don’t work on a project that involves coding. Or maybe I’ll work on a project that once did involve coding, or eventually will involve coding, but at that moment doesn’t require coding. This means I might be reading up on methods, I might be sketching conceptual frameworks, or I might be attending Udemy/Lynda/Udacity (or similar) class. I might even just be using the time to catch up on email. Bottom line, it is a protected window of time that I can devote to being productive.
I recommend Code & Coffee for anyone interested in an opportunity to meet other techie folks, in getting help with a techie project, in helping others with a techie project, or in having protected time to make progress on whatever personal projects that have been cooking in your mind.