The Real World

Roughly a year ago I found myself fresh off the conveyor belt called the education system with great grades but very little real world experience. I had just moved back to Canada after roughly a decade of living in the UK so it’s safe to say I didn’t know very many people in the city.

Since then, however:

  • I’ve run a start up, hitting the heights of an Uber partnership before quite gracefully failing
  • Recruited employees for specialised roles for the likes of Siemens
  • Earned several certificates from Columbia, MIT and UC Berkeley, meeting lots of interesting people along the way
  • Proposed two papers, one of which is nearing completion
  • But most importantly, connected with hiring managers from multiple industry leaders, leading me to my current role as a  Data Scientist at Rogers.

That list isn’t entirely for bragging purposes. Looking back, I think I could have done much more. What I want to share with you is how I went from what could have been a career ending move to my dream job. And that can all be summed up with one word… Networking.

As cliche as it sounds, just get out of the house and talk to people. I always thought the majority of tech people lived online and conducted business virtually. I was very, very wrong.

Tech people are still people. They want to see you in person!

Go to all kinds of events. Growth hacking, JavaScript, Data Science, Java, anything even semi related to the industry you want to enter. This is your chance to explore and see what everyone else is doing and where you’d best fit in.

Now I’m not really the type to just give abstract tips so I’ve gone ahead and linked an article (click me) that suggests a couple of apps that are used to organise events. One of my personal favourites is meetup, its the one I use most and have had the best luck with.

Use them. Go to these events! Travel to the closest city if you have to and don’t forget to look the part.

Right so you’re at this event, what next?

Talk to the person next to you, introduce yourself or ask a question. Get the conversation started, most people are fairly friendly.

‘Oh I didn’t know they were serving food, did you?’

Or maybe …

‘Do you know what the wifi password is?’

The latter never fails to get people talking, it works wonders opening up the door to conversation.

Make sure you ask questions, but if they’re being abstract, assume they don’t want to talk about that specific subject. I’ve met plenty of people who openly say “I’m not allowed to talk about it” when it comes to the details of their job.

Just try to hold the conversation and be confident.

I can’t stress this enough. You need to know your shit AND you need to be able to show that you know your shit.

The easiest way to communicate confidence is shamelessly premeditated line dropping. Prepare engaging, intelligent sentences to drop into conversations for any given subject. I’ll give you some examples…

‘What I love about Python is the interpreter, it’s like a feedback loop that makes life so much easier and faster than having to compile and run.’

Another one…

‘I learnt Java before JavaScript, so the move was like going from living in a police state to living in an anarchist commune.’

You get the idea. Technically oriented but even people who don’t know the specifics can still pick up on what you mean.

Okay, so now that you’ve done the hard work don’t let it go to waste. Ask for contact details, a card, website, email address or LinkedIn profile.

I normally get LinkedIn details, but if I think I’ll be working with them soon or I want them to link me to a specific website or resource. I make sure I take their email and send them an email right there and then so we’ve exchanged contact details.

I should also say keep up your knowledge up to date. Make sure you’re still sharp and if you don’t have any personal projects at the moment, build something!

Yes, it’s a lot of work. But at the end of the day if you want it you’ll have to work for it.

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