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Networking - Part 6

You can read the previous posts here. To finish up (I think), I want to share a networking technique I stumbled on a few years ago, and talk about one more good reason to network.

I've been working with SQL Server for 10 years or so, and while I can't really quantify my network, it's large enough that at almost any SQL event I'll know at least a few people, and there are usually people that 'know me' via articles or blog posts that I haven't met yet. I try to hit most of the parties to work the room a little, using that as a good time to just renew ties to people that in many cases I see only once a year, and often only talk to once a year. It's social more than business, but you never how how the two will overlap.

But I still struggle to catch up with everyone I want to see. A technique that Steve Jones & I settled on by accident is to just find a comfortable place to sit that is on the main traffic lane near sessions or registration, and spend a couple hours there each day. On any given day we'll have a couple dozen people stop by to chat for a few minutes that one of us knows, and just being in the same place makes it easy for us to tell people where to find us, or to catch back up with us later. I don't want that to sound like we're holding court! Perhaps better to say that we're setting up an impromptu booth for Steve & Andy with a goal of networking. It works better than I can make it sound, and there's something to be said for just having a place to sit and have coffee.

As I looked back through the comments on earlier posts about networking there was one that interesting - the idea that most of us are pretty reluctant to ask our network for anything. Yet the corollary is that most of would gladly help someone we know if the request is reasonable, and get great satisfaction from doing so. So if you can't convince yourself that building a network to help you succeed is a worthy task, maybe it's interesting to think about building a network to be able to do good things for people you like. Sappy maybe, but giving is pretty good stuff.

I keep thinking I need a more complicated strategy (and maybe I do), but for now my strategy is:

  • Use my blog to display my interests and use it as the primary vehicle to let people know what/how I'm doing (existing network & possible expand to new people)
  • Expand my use of LinkedIn and start posting status updates there for people that probably won't read my blog (existing network)
  • Continue to make business personal by trying to meet and spend time getting to know new people at every event I attend (new people)
  • Not expect any immediate or mid-term return on my time investment

Don't make networking work. It can be fun, and if you see it as fun you'll do more of it. Good luck on your own networking attempts!


I'm Andy Warren, currently a SQL Server trainer with End to End Training. Over the past few years I've been a developer, DBA, and IT Director. I was one of the original founders of SQLServerCentral.com and helped grow that community from zero to about 300k members before deciding to move on to other ventures.


Posted by Allan S. Hansen on 19 February 2009

I've always been fascinated with "networking" as a skill, and I must admit that I envy the people who're able to network and get to all these gatherings. Not much happening in this country at all.

Thanks for a good article series :-)

Posted by Grant Fritchey on 19 February 2009

I have to admit, the first couple of times I saw you guys haunting the halls at PASS I was pretty intimidated coming up & saying hi, but after the last summit, I can see the utility of it.

If anyone is a bit intimidated by the idea of simply hanging out in the halls, you could volunteer at the event. Then you'd have a reason for hanging around and talking to people. I've been a PASS Ambassador for three years running and it's a nice way to talk to people as well as help the community a bit.

Great set of articles Andy. Thanks.

Posted by Anonymous on 19 February 2009

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Posted by Andy Warren on 19 February 2009

Xandax, build your own event! Find a handful of speakers and build a one day free event, and then take advantage of it:-) It's not a loss if you get 10-20 people to attend, and you might do considerably better than that. Most people want to learn/grow. Something to think about!

Posted by Andy Warren on 19 February 2009

Grant, I can see we're going to have to work on our image! I'd like to think we've always been approachable and tried not to start thinking we're all that important - we're regular guys.

I can see the Ambassador thing as a useful foil for meeting people, though I worry that it's fleeting contact and not the deeper contact I prefer. But...it's a starting point, and provides a useful service.

Posted by Steve Jones on 19 February 2009

We're intimidating?!?! I guess I can see that, as I was a little shy about talking to Itzik the first time we met. Figured I'd say something dumb about SQL.

I'd like to do a bit better as well, and I probably should put some thoughts and goals down on this subject as well.

Posted by adavidphx on 19 February 2009

Andy, you brought up a good point about have a networking strategy based on your needs.  I personally go to user group meetings, code camps and the like to learn but nothing else.    I truly believe this is the case because I really had no clear idea what I want from these social events.  It's got me thinking about coming up with my own strategy to learn from and give back to the community.

Posted by Andy Warren on 19 February 2009

adavidphx, I hope you'll post back after you decide on strategy and test it, would be really nice to hear no matter how it works out!

Posted by adavidphx on 20 February 2009

After attending a user group meeting last night, it just pointed out the fact of how important having a well thought strategy can really help out newbies such as myself.  Other than the president of the user group and a mentor I had previously met, I didn't talk to anyone there.  I guess the intimidation factor came in for me, seeing all these guys talk about things I'm still struggling with.  It's frustrating but I believe I just need to sit down and write down what I want to accomplish from attending these events.

Posted by Andy Warren on 20 February 2009

I think thats a pretty average experience. Some people stick with it and get past it, some bail out after the first time. Takes effort on both sides and a little luck too!

Posted by jcrawf02 on 23 February 2009

Think of it like a musician - if you had the opportunity to play with Coltrane or the Rolling Stones or Pavarotti (or fill in the blank for your favorite), although you know they're gonna smoke you off the stage, you still were up there on the stage with them!

If you don't engage Andy/Steve/other professionals, you'll never know what you could have learned from them.

P.S. I'll let you guys duke it out to determine who's Pavarotti and who's Keith Richards. ;p

Posted by Anonymous on 10 March 2009

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