Eric Hogue on April 6th, 2011

Many developers I know never attempt any tech event. I am lucky to live in Montréal where we have plenty of them. The Montreal NewTech calendar shows that we have activities for everyone. And it does not have everything. Some meetings cover programming languages, others are targeted at startups, or tools like WordPress. Even with all those choices, most of the developers around me never go to any of those events.

User Group Meetups

Most user group have monthly meetings. They meetup at a certain day every month to discuss about their subject. I have a family, so I cannot attempt to all the meeting I would like, but I try to go to PHPQuébec, < span=""> href=”http://js-montreal.org/”>JS-Montreal and Montreal.rb meetings. We also have meetings for Java, .Net, augmented reality, Clojure and many more. All those events are free. They are great opportunities to learn about the subjects you like and what surrounds it. The meetups are not always focused 100% on the subject of the group. I have seen presentations about startups and how to finance them at PHPQuébec and a presentation about a freelancer association at Montreal.rb. And most of these events are followed by a visit to a bar, where you can discuss with other passionated developers around a drink.

Conferences

Tech conferences are bigger events. They are usually held once a year. Some are always presented in the same city, and other moves from city to city. Those events bring together many great developers. You get to be around very intelligent people. Not only the speakers, but the audience is also very knowledgeable. When you spend a day learning about 5 or 6 different subjects, you go home tired, but with many ideas on how to improve as a developer. This year, I was lucky enough to have my employer sends the entire team to Confoo, but last year I paid for my ticket, and it was worth every dollars.

Conferences can appear a little expensive, but developers should be able to afford it. Most of them offers an early bird rate that allow to save a few hundred dollars. And some of them are really not that expensive. Last year, I attempted Agile Tour Montreal. For 50$, I had a a full day of training. There is also Day Camp 4 Developers, an online conference that should be held 2 or 3 time a year. On this one, you get 5 sessions of an hour for 35$, and you can also download the videos after the event.

For those who don’t have local conferences, it’s harder. You have to add the price of the plane tickets and a few night at the hotel. Even with this, I think it’s worth the price. I am saving some money to go to an event outside of Montreal next year. I haven’t decided yet, but the PHP Community Conference and Tek are pretty tempting.

What Do I Get Out Of It

The obvious answer is learning. When I go to these types of events, I learn a lot. I am exposed to knowledge I would never come across at work. But it’s only a small part of it. To me, the social aspect of it is as important. Conferences and meetups gave me a chance to meet many developers that share the same passion for programming and learning. During the discussions in the pauses or around a beer after the events, I have had the chance to debate about ideas and learn even more. They also offers great opportunities to add to your network. Who knows, the next time you will need a job, maybe someone you met at an event will remember you.

And recently, I realized that it changed me. I have never been a social person. I don’t like talking to people I don’t know. But this changed a little. I now look forward to those events. They offer me a chance to talk to new peoples, chance I use to dread. And it’s not only for technical stuff, I am not as reluctant as I use to be to talk to strangers.

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