My Meetup REACTion

See what I did there...?

Posted by Matt Farmer on April 19, 2019

Coding can be really rewarding and it can also be really intimidating. It can challenge you in extremely unique and frustrating ways. It can also make you feel isolated if you let it. If you are someone who is new to coding and you’re not sure if is for you, you have to go to a meetup! Here’s why it will inspire you, encourage you, or just refill your coder tank.

Life as a Trumpet Player

I used to play a lot of trumpet. So much so that I got a degree in it. Anyone who plays trumpet or knows a trumpet player is aware that it takes quite a bit of ego to play this instrument. It’s loud, it tends to carry the melody, and it punishes timidity. This means that us trumpet players tend to be, shall we say, less-than-collaborative.

When you put a bunch of trumpet players in a room together something funny happens. They will start “warming up” (which usually means playing as high, fast and/or loud as they possibly can). There’s this weird intimidation thing that happens between trumpet players as they warm up. They play the fastest lick they know, or strive to screech out some crazy high note. They brag about who they know, where they’ve played. For those of you who aren’t musicians, it’s kind of like back in the day when people used to brag that their cousin worked at Nintendo and, like, knew Mario personally. Maybe you’re even younger, and it’s like when Uncle Rico tried to throw a football over those mountains.

Anyway, I tell you this because I assumed coders would be the same way; looking for was to intimidate and exclude those around them. Now, I know enough code to understand how much I have to learn. I worried I would not be able to withstand whatever the coding equivalent of this trumpet warm up routine would be. The idea of sitting in a room while other people laugh about jokes I don’t understand and tried to one-up my experience did not sound appealing.

News Flash: Coding is different

I’ve attended a handful of meetups now and every single one of them has had a completely different vibe from this initial fear. In each case, I have been a newcomer to regular groups, and in each case I’ve been made to feel welcome within seconds of my arrival. Hosts and other regulars ask me what I’m working on and where I’m from. Instead of sizing each other up, we try to find some common ground; we look for a language or framework we both know or a common experience or a connection. In contrast to my trumpet days, we all tend to downplay our experience and adopt appropriately humble positions (more on that later).

People are open with their knowledge and take extreme care not to condescend to one another. If I could characterize one common thread to the handful of meetups I’ve attended it is a general feeling of “humans vs. computer.” We don’t need to compete against each other here. We’re all just trying to accomplish our goals using technology. We’ve all been made to feel like fools by this technology and it’s only a matter of time before we’re made to feel that way again. A healthy respect for this fact seems to pervade every interaction I’ve had with other coders.

Now, it is a possibility that I’ve just gotten lucky with the handful of events I’ve attended. News about the toxic culture of tech seems to swirl everyday on Twitter and news outlets. I’m sure there are places where people feel they constantly need to one-up each other and mansplain to those around them. The humbling nature of coding nand imposter syndrome puts some people on the constant defensive; I can see how that might contribute to this atmosphere. However, I’ve got to say that in my experience, getting out of your own head and getting into a meetup is the way to go. If you’re someone who is intimidated by opening up to others about code I’m here to tell you: be glad you’re not a trumpet player! Coders are cool. Meetups are awesome and they’d be even more awesome if you were there!

I look forward to attending more of them and sharing what I learn here. Thanks for reading, and good luck!