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Complementing your professional journey with community involvement

Nick Rout
September 21, 2020

Complementing your professional journey with community involvement

There is no single route to improving your skills and becoming technically astute as a developer/designer, especially today. Traditional academia, self-taught courses, mentorship, portfolio projects and open source contributions - all of these (and more) can be seen as "pins" on your career map. And what of community involvement? Does it have a place in the busy schedule of a growing professional?

This presentation covers why community involvement is no longer a "nice to have". Through reflecting on my own journey through GDG, GDE and beyond, I attempt to motivate how it can have real effects on your abilities and lead to career opportunities. I also share my own approaches to allocating time, finding a niche and avoiding burnout in the process.

This was presented at GDG DevFest South Africa 2019:

It was also presented at Google's SSA Community Summit 2020:

Nick Rout

September 21, 2020


  1. Complementing your professional journey with community involvement Nick Rout @ricknout

    Developer Advocate at Google
  2. “I am ${career.now}” “I want to be ${career.next}”

  3. “I am ${career.now}” “I am interested in ${career.passion}” “I am

    working on ${career.sideHustle}” “I am learning ${career.newSkill}” “I probably should be ${career.childhoodDream}” “I want to be ${career.next}”
  4. “I am ${career.now}” “I want to be ${career.next}” workExperience mentorship

    portfolio academia selfStudy sideProjects
  5. career.community.allocateTime()

  6. What/where/who is community?

  7. • Meetups and user groups • Conferences • Workshops •

    Blogging & writing • Social media and online communities • Open source • Outreach
  8. People!

  9. People! career.type == community.type

  10. Do I have ⏱? Will I reach ? Will I

  11. Do we have ⏱? Will we reach ? Will we

  12. None
  13. My journey...

  14. “I am a junior Android developer” “I want to be

    a developer/designer at Google”
  15. Engaged with Google+ •R.I.P. •First taste of using social media

    for career things •A glimpse into the broader Android community •Curating posts and ensuring correct info
  16. Attended first GDG Meetup •Discovering there is a local community

    •Forming a voice and opinion •Learning (from others) outside of work •A time to unwind
  17. Spoke at GDG Cape Town •Combatting nerves •Public speaking and

    responding to debate •Deep-dive into a particular topic •Companion GitHub projects for portfolio
  18. Helped to run a workshop •Hands-on teaching and people skills

    •Entirely about helping others •Realizing the complexity of the basics by explaining to beginners •Tiring yet rewarding
  19. Became a GDG co-organizer •Responsibility •Event co-planning, catering and “on-the-

    ground” work •After-hours motivation
  20. Engaged with Twitter •Ah, so that’s where everyone on Google+

    went •Heightened visibility - as an individual and for GDG •Online etiquette
  21. Became a GDG organizer •More responsibility •Sourcing and encouraging others

    to speak •Event planning and community management •Linked up with GDG Johannesburg
  22. Joined a Slack group •OMG - Extreme imposter syndrome •So.

    Much. To. Learn. •Mustering confidence to ask (and answer) questions •A bit too much idolising...
  23. Started blogging •Re-ignited a passion for writing •Solved needs at

    work by generalising a problem •Improved general professional communication •At first, a broad variety of topics
  24. Went to Google I/O •Huh, the people I was idolising

    are just normal folks IRL •The first taste of a conference... •Realising that “you can’t know it all” •Interactions with other GDG members and Googlers
  25. Found a niche •Went back to what I loved... Material

    Design •Filled a gap where knowledge was lacking •Deep familiarity with the design system and library •More consistency in engagement and content
  26. Spoke at DevFest SA 2018! •The first “big stage” •The

    nerves again •A step up in quality of content and delivery •Great coverage on Twitter, YouTube and SpeakerDeck •The conference
  27. Spoke at droidcon Kenya •Independent, purpose- driven travel •Keeping the

    quality bar high •Speaking to an international audience •Panel discussion
  28. More overseas conferences •GDD Kraków (Poland) •droidcon Boston (USA) •mDevCamp

    (Prague, Czech Republic) •droidcon Berlin (Germany) •Overcommitted and had to pull out of some
  29. Experienced burnout •Too much travelling (first world problems, sorry) •Not

    enough time at home with family/friends •On top of work, monthly blogging and normal life... •Manage your time and wellbeing
  30. MDC-Android contributions •Further deepening of knowledge in a specific area

    of interest •OSS procedures and etiquette •Improved programming by considering that you are impacting other developers/users
  31. Became a GDE •Failed the first time •Either: give up

    or try harder •Yay! Recognition but also responsibility •Interactions with very smart, helpful people
  32. Joined Google • ✅ •Ultimately a continuation of GDG, conferences,

    blogging, OSS, GDE, etc. •Community engagement can be a career
  33. • Sharing knowledge with others - online, locally and globally

    • Improved public speaking and people skills • Recognition and greater confidence in abilities • Deeper knowledge of niche/focus areas through writing and teaching • Improved dev/design skills • Event organising and etiquette • Awareness of wellbeing • Travel opportunities
  34. Some final words...

  35. ssaCommunitySummit.enjoy()