Last night, I attended a session at CTO School, a New York City based meetup for current or future CTOs (I fall into the latter group). The theme of last night’s set of presentations was networking, which was helpful to me, because it’s not something I’m good at. Here are some things I learned in particular.
Not about acquiring acquaintances
Networking is not about shaking hands with every single person in the room and connecting with them on LinkedIn. Instead, it’s about forging relationships that are valuable to both people.
Many of the speakers discussed both why you need to provide value to others without expecting anything in return and how to do that. Most of the ways are pretty simple. Here are a few examples:
- Comment on someone’s blog
- Give feedback to their product
- Make introductions between people
- Send the person content he might be interested in.
- Seek opportunities to help by following blog, on twitter
- Present talks
- Host/sponsor meetups
Develop a Plan
I’ve known that I need to network, but often been frustrated because it never seemed to have a direction. By establishing goals, figuring out who can help achieve those goals, and then figuring out how to meet those people, networking has more of a direction.
If you do plan, than there is a lot to keep track of: people to reach out to, when you last reached out to them, how you know them, and what things interest them. The speakers mentioned some valuable tools for managing this process:
- Streak Browser Plugin
- CardMunch (only for iPhone, but apparently there are similar tools for Android)
- and of course, spreadsheets
Importance of Soft Skills as a Leader
Given my career goals, one of the best lines of the night was from Sameer Sirdeshpande. He said that the more successful you become in your career as a technologist, the less your tech skills count for something. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t important, but it does mean that you are expected to do a lot of other things as well.
It’s about Learning
When networking, you shouldn’t be asking for a job right away. You should listen to people. You should find out about what their interests are. You should be seeking common ground. It is with these things that we forge relationships with each other, and it is only after we have a relationship that we can help each other.