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How to get into networking as a fresher?

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Entry-Level Software Engineer [3] at Uber9 months ago

I didn't interact much with people during my school and college years. Now that I'm stepping into a new phase of my life (my first job), I want to improve myself.

I'll have obvious reasons to interact with my teammates, so I'll try my best to socialize as much as possible (any suggestions are welcome). But how should I go about networking with people outside my team? Should I just randomly approach someone to introduce myself? When should I do it? When they are working they would be busy, so should I catch up with people during lunch (and what can I do if my whole team generally eats lunch together)? Will it be okay to go and sit or talk with a bunch of people having some conversation, or should I try to talk with individuals first?

Also, I'll be the juniormost folk there (other than maybe interns), how fine will it be to approach anyone random (since they can be very senior, which I don't know yet)? Even if I know someone senior to me previously (like the people I met during my internship), I find it hard to start a chat and find the right balance between disturbing them and having a conversation. And in general, I won't have much context to talk about the majority of the topics.

I know I'm really clueless, so any answers or resources would be highly appreciated!

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(7 comments)
  • 28
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    9 months ago

    All great questions, and I really admire the energy you have for this so early in your career - I wish I was like you when I started my software journey!

    My high-level advice when it comes to networking is that it's more about fully leveraging the interactions you already have instead of creating new ones. Networking isn't exactly something that you can force - It works best when it's more of an organic expansion.

    This is especially true when you're a junior engineer. You don't have too much social credibility yet, and your track record is very short. Going to a senior engineer for a connection, especially if they're not within your organization, is almost certainly not going to succeed (in fact, there's a good chance they'll find it slightly annoying).

    Focus on being a great teammate and a kind person within your sphere of influence:

    • If you have a mentor within your team, go out your way to thank them
    • Treat feedback on your code reviews extremely seriously and proactively book follow-up meetings to dive into the very complex comments
    • It seems like you're going into the office based on your comment about lunch, so strive to make it to every team lunch and be a friendly, active presence there
    • If there's certain teammates you really want to get to know, you can figure out when they prefer to eat lunch and try to match your lunchtime to theirs on certain days for a lunch 1 on 1
    • As a top Big Tech company, I imagine Uber has regular team/org offsites. Go to those and use them as further opportunities to strike up conversations and deepen teammate relationships

    Networking works best when you start from a strong core, and you branch out from there. If you build stellar relationships with your immediate teammates, they will start introducing you to people they know. From there, you run this playbook again, those connections introduce you to the people they know, and you'll be friends with the entire company before you know it 😉

  • 13
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    9 months ago

    Another thing I want to mention is that the growth of your "people sphere" will naturally come as you technically progress in your career. As you grow from entry-level -> mid-level -> senior -> beyond, you will get put on more and more complex projects that cut across more stakeholders and teams. This means more people that you can build deep, quality relationships with to expand your scope.

    This means that one of the most effective ways to network is simply doing great work. Positive energy is contagious when you have the right team around you that truly cares about their quality of work - It is very likely this is the case for you as you work at Uber. If you become a junior engineer with a reputation of shipping amazing stuff, treating feedback as a gift, and helping others, the people around you will naturally want to get to know you more and maybe even mentor you.

    I know I'm really clueless, so any answers or resources would be highly appreciated!

    Here's some resources (we have many):

  • 10
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    Head of Engineering at Capgemini
    9 months ago

    Here are a couple ideas to build on top of Alex's suggestions.

    • Conversations come down to how soon you can find a topic that both of you are interested in. Then it's about how well you can peel the layers behind that topic together. If you don't know much about the topic and your seniors do, don't worry and just be an active listener by acknowledging interesting points and picking your spots to ask follow up questions. I wrote a post about this recently if you want to go a bit deeper:
    • Make it a habit to learn to read body language and gauge how engaged/disengaged the other person is when a topic is presented. You can do it for conversations where you are just an observer to the the pressure off and free up your mental stack to pay attention to this. This will build a mental mapping of what people are interested in.
    • Finally, I wrote a post recently on maintaining your network over time. No need to feel the pressure to immediately do everything here, but seeding the idea early will pay huge dividends over the course of your career. I'm somewhat inconsistent myself with this when things get busy, but remember doing some is way better than nothing at all!
  • 5
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    Entry-Level Software Engineer [3] [OP]
    Uber
    9 months ago

    Thank you @Alex and @Casey for your detailed answers.

    @Alex As you mentioned about the mentor, I did have one great mentor during my internship, but he joined some other org (still in the same company).

    It seems like the mentor still wants to stay connected to me (from the one chat we had since the last year 😅) as he told to meet him whenever I join. What can I do from my side to keep improving this relation (it's not so easy now that he's in a different org)?

  • 4
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    9 months ago

    What can I do from my side to keep improving this relation (it's not so easy now that he's in a different org)?

    If they mentioned that they want to talk to you when you rejoin the company, you should just reach out and book a chat! From there, you can ask if they would be open a quarterly 1 on 1 (you can try monthly if you feel like there's very strong chemistry between the 2 of you).

    Being in a different org does weaken the mentoring "yield" so to speak sort, but their advice can still be very valuable. For less tactical and more high-level mentors like these, you can propose the recurring meeting as a lunch to make it more casual.

    Here's another good discussion around finding good mentors: "How do I find a proper mentor within my company?"

  • 6
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    9 months ago

    Casey also brought up a great point about body language. Since you're working in office, you can very much use this to your advantage. I talk in-depth about how to exert positive body language here: Alex's Guide To Effective Communication

    If you're able to come across as friendly and helpful without crossing the line into overbearing, that's an extremely useful skill.

  • 9
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    Head of Engineering at Capgemini
    9 months ago

    Adding a few things to this conversation (loving the dialogue so far).

    Reframe the concept of getting a "mentor" since the word is overloaded and I find it pushes people towards trying to find a "go to person" for all career related things and/or trying to use the mentorship relationship similar to what a paid coach would do. It can get into a counterproductive cycle for many reasons.

    • Pressure to find a "unicorn" mentor that you can lean on for all career related things. It is extremely hard to find one and certainly suboptimal since there will be different people who are able to better advise depending on the topics / situation. Consider finding a "tribe of mentors" and know who to ask for help on a case-by-case basis.
    • Too much strain on the mentor. Most people are very willing to help if they provide any type of mentorship for you, but they also tend to be very busy people where mentorship is usually not their primary gig.

    Often times, what you're really looking for are perspectives, feedback, and most of the time a sounding board / rubberduck. I often solve a lot of complex problems through finding a peer instead of a mentor who I can exchange some ideas with.

    That being said, consider the following:

    • Do a very detailed investigation on the problem you are facing first. This builds your own problem solving muscles and completely avoids the failure mode "you could have Googled that" before reaching out. Additionally, you are likely to find people very well-versed in the problem domain through conducting your research.
    • You'll typically have a pretty good baseline at this point and if there are still gaps in your solution, reach out to the network of people who you've come across in your research. Frame it as "I've learned X from your content... I'd love to explore Y with you to better flush out my understanding / gaps on Z" -- response rate exponentially shoot up with this tactic
    • Once you've done this a couple times, you'll build a good mental model of "what would X mentor do in my shoes". ChatGPT does the 80/20 version of this when prompting it "advise me as if you are X person...". Feel free to use that to augment your own thinking. A few of my "mentors" I've never actualy met are Tim Ferriss and Naval Ravikant since getting access to them is really hard. Instead, I consume a lot of their content and eventually built a mental model based on their thinking for myself.