The Importance of Community Involvement

by Bob Hoffman

Whether you’re looking for a way to grow your knowledge, your career, or your business, or to simply grow your circle of trusted friends and advisors, there is no substitute for getting involved in your local community with people who share similar values and desires. There are many different ways that one can “get involved.” In our experience, one of the most rewarding approaches is by participating in local User Groups and Meetup Groups–collections of like-minded individuals who regularly come together to discuss topics of interest and educate and support each other.
User Groups and Meetup groups are typically formed to provide a convenient mechanism for discussion and sharing of information relative to a certain topic. For instance, most major cities have User Groups dedicated to the various technologies on which software developers must stay well-informed, such as .NET, Java, iOS, Android, etc. Groups are also often formed around particular interests, perspectives and goals.

One such group that Stout supports is the new Ann Arbor, Michigan chapter of the Girl Develop It (GDI) organization. For those unfamiliar with this group, Girl Develop It is an international non-profit organization that exists to provide affordable and accessible programs to women who want to learn software development through mentorship and hands-on instruction. The group’s vision is “to create a network of empowered women who feel confident in their abilities to develop beautiful web and mobile applications.” GDI membership and events are open to women and men who share an interest in this vision.

As an example of how involvement with such a group can benefit many diverse audiences, consider the following. The Ann Arbor Chapter of GDI recently organized a “Women in Technology Panel Discussion.” The goal of this event was to provide a forum for the discussion of issues facing women who are interested in pursuing and/or growing a career in a technical field. Five different volunteer panelists, including Stout’s Vice President of Operations Peg Bogema (a 22-year veteran of the software industry), discussed their views on topics and questions that were presented by the audience of 60+ women and men. The panelists represented a unique mix of backgrounds, experience levels, career paths and viewpoints. The panel included web developers, mobile technologists, executive management, serial entrepreneurs, and women who returned to the technology workforce following an extended break to raise their children. Discussion topics ranged across a wide span of issues related to careers in technology, with a focus on the unique perspectives of females and the challenges faced by them. Some examples :

  • The rewards and challenges of a technical career, including those unique to females.
  • Paths for obtaining the training and education that is necessary to break in to and/or advance in a technical career.
  • How to encourage and promote diversity in the technology workforce.
  • Unique cultural and social challenges faced by women in technology.

The two-hour discussion was engaging, lively and passionate. Afterwards, attendees reported that they derived significant value from this meeting in many different ways. Industry newbies gained valuable insight and advice from their more senior peers. Men were exposed to unique viewpoints and challenges faced by women that they were not cognizant of previously. Valuable connections were made between technologists looking for opportunities and local companies in search of technical talent. Talents and experiences were selflessly shared. Relationships were formed, personal bonds were strengthened and reputations were forged.

From our perspective, that’s an amazing return on a few hours of time invested by a group of individuals.

Do you have thoughts on a group that could benefit from Stout’s support? Do you have an idea for a group that doesn’t exist? If so, we’d like to hear them.

Email us at www.stoutsystems.com/contact.

info@stoutsystems.com
877.663.0877
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