I recently gave a talk on my journey into the Azure Technical Community. While my day job is working for Microsoft, I get a lot of energy through blogging, podcasting and vlogging - ultimately, helping others grow, inspiring and encouraging them along their own technical journey. In this blog, I write about why I got involved with the technical community, some of my reflections on the journey and what I continue to look forward to.
My journey into the community has had many failed attempts. If you go back through my blog posts, you'll find a few older posts from 2016, 2017 and 2019. I had many ambitions of regularly writing blog posts and contributing back to the community. Alas, it mustn't have meant to be back then.
Fast forward to 2020. After much encouragement from several people in my network, I decided that it was time for me to revisit my latest attempt at community contributions. I owe a big thanks to Abel Wang for his encouragement to just get going... in his typical wise words, 'what's the worst that can happen?'. So, in March 2020 - I released my first few podcasts after purchasing a Blue Yeti USB Microphone - the go-to starter-streamer microphone. Cloud With Chris was born.
Of course, COVID-19 then had a big impact upon all of us. Throughout that period, I was living alone - unable to see my girlfriend, friends or my family due to the government restrictions. This was a huge challenge for me, and amongst other triggers, led to a series of mental health challenges.
After working through my challenges, I properly returned to the podcasting again in October. Interestingly, this return coincided with my first release of video content. It was at this point that I started releasing video and audio content simultaneously.
In November 2020, I then got in touch with Richard Benwell who was listed as the organizer of Azure Thames Valley on meetup.com. The group seemed inactive, so I was curious on what the plans were for the group. We then got talking about how to re-invigorate the group and kick things off once again. This led to the group re-launching in February 2021, and we're still on our growth journey, as we gain more regular members in our community.
Jumping back to Cloud With Chris, let's progress towards 2021. I had some extended vacation in December 2020, which meant that I could use it as an opportunity to plan my aims for community contributions. This resulted in -
- Nov 2020 - Kicked off the Architecting for the Cloud, One Pattern at a Time series
- Jan 2021 - Kicked off with weekly vlogs
- Jan 2021 - Kicked off with at least one blog a week
- Feb 2021 - Kicked off the Cloud Gaming Notes series
- Mar 2021 - Kicked off the Cloud Drops Series (Short-form video series)
- May 2021 onwards - Regularly releasing at least 2 video episodes a week
- Throughout the majority of 2021, had scheduling booked at least 2 months in advance
So, what's the purpose of this section of the blog post? To highlight that building up a rhythm, growing a community and contributing in a regular way takes a lot of effort and time. It's not a simple and plain-sailing journey. But, I can tell you that it's absolutely worth it. Let's explore that in the next section.
Why did I want to get involved in the technical community? There were several reasons -
- Career Development - It's unlikely a secret that I have progression into Developer Relations (DevRel) on my career development plan. This was one of my primary motivations for starting this all off.
- Meeting some incredible people - The wider technical community is full of amazing people. I have my own areas of expertise, but realized that there's an opportunity to learn a lot more from others.
- Build technical intensity - To blog, podcast or vlog about technical concepts - I need to make sure I know what I'm talking about. Tech intensity is a concept introduced by Satya Nadella. In this cloud world with evolving technologies, it's important that I can not just keep up, but thrive and showcase how to developer innovative solutions with these new technologies.
- Contribute to others' success - Last, but by no means least. I'm passionate about helping others grow and learn. I've coached/mentored several interns, graduates and industry hires throughout my years at Microsoft. It's a passion area for me. Sharing my learnings out in the open is a great way for me to help others learn, not just showing what I've learned, but my learning/thought process as well.
And I can wholeheartedly say that the reality matches the expectations. There are some incredible people in the tech community, who I've had the pleasure of having on Cloud With Chris. Likewise, I've been able to speak at several meetup groups, alongside some absolutely amazing speakers and common names in tech circles. I never imagined my community journey would open up opportunities like that.
Like anything, it's important to make sure that you get the right balance for yourself, and are clear on the reasons on why you want to start your own community journey. Is it to help your career development? Is it to meet new people and network with others in the industry? is it to increase your technical capability? Or to help others grow? It could be all of these, just like it was for me.
But, what are your indicators on whether it's giving you energy? What are your indicators if it's taking energy away from you?
I have sessions scheduled on Cloud With Chris until almost the end of 2021. Something that is incredibly top of mind for me is to reflect on the last year, and whether it has given me as much energy as I've put into it all. If there are areas that have taken energy away, why is that?
This is why it's important to be clear on what you want to get out of it. Is it to help grow the skills of others? Is it to work as part of a development team and contribute to an open source project? Or create a new open source project, and grow a community based around it?
For me, I'm passionate about helping others learn, grow and increase their capabilities. Not just a subset of people, but doing this out in the open, at scale. Not limited to a subset of people, without any bias, being inclusive and accessible for all. If you've been following me for a while, you'll know about some of the accessibility changes that I've recently made to the website. This is a journey I continue to go along, and hopefully now makes a bit more sense on why this is important to me.
So, what is your reason for getting involved in the community? That question is not intended to sound like a gatekeeping question that "you must" have a reason before you start. But, in this fast-paced world that we're all operating in - it's very easy for us to say 'yes' to things which take energy from us, rather than give us energy.
Something that I learned from The Coaching Habit (an excellent book, that I thoroughly recommend if you're interested in coaching/mentoring) - When you say yes to something, what are you saying no to? We have a finite amount of time, so when you say yes to something - you're really saying no to something else.
So, with that - How are you taking your next steps in the community? What will you be saying yes to? And therefore, what will you be saying no to?
I've shared a bit about my journey, and the progress to date. It hasn't been easy, there's still a way to go, and I'm still loving it. There are days where it's a struggle to write a blog post, record or edit a video. That's normal. But, as long as it brings you energy overall - then you're on the right track.
I'd love to hear more about your own community journey. Have you started, or perhaps you're planning on starting? If so, what's stopping you from supporting your local meet up group? Or giving a lightning talk? Or writing your first blog post? I'm always happy to chat and give some tips, if you're nervous about getting started. Get in touch with me over on Twitter, @reddobowen.
Thanks for reading this one. Until the next post, bye for now!