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How to Approach Taro Networking Event

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Data Engineer at Financial Company3 months ago

I'm ambivalent about attending Taro Networking events. On the one hand, the people I meet there are so talented and nice! On the other hand, what am I really getting by meeting them?

Now, I know I just said something extremely transactional. That I don't seem to "get" anything from meeting people. But let's continue this line of thinking for a bit. In my mind, going to a networking event can get you 3 things:

  1. potential job referrals

  2. potential partners for side-projects and maybe even a startup (which can be considered a kind of job referral)

  3. friends/social-contact

Let's assume that I'm not looking for friends, so only the first 2 are in play.

What should I be doing while networking? What happens is I tell them about what I do - my role, company, stack - they do the same, we'll talk about the industry for a bit, and that's that. It seems to me like I'm not getting much out of it, probably because I'm doing it all wrong.

Here's an excerpt from an email from a Data influencer I follow who makes a similar point:

Traditional networking is like a relic of the past for back when we didn't rely on the internet.

Back then, people only recommended and worked with those they'd met in person.

But in our digital age?

We can instantly find and judge coders, designers, data experts, and marketers online based on their LinkedIn & portfolio sites. 

So, here's an alternative to traditional networking... 

**Build things that matter. 

For example, let's say you wanted to break into genAI, or land an e-commerce job at Amazon, or work in ad-tech at Facebook or Google.

To impress hiring managers and recruiters at these FAANG companies, you could build an AI tool for generating custom product images to help retailers advertise more efficiently.

So his point is to build stuff and use that as the fodder for networking. I'm inclined to agree, since personally, my side-project cupboard is bare. I could be falling into the trap of thinking that I can/should only network once I've reached a threshold of building however.

So to sum this up, how do you balance networking vs. building and can you expand on the relationship between them?

Thanks!

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Discussion

(7 comments)
  • 13
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    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    3 months ago

    I like the way Daniel talked about this in his talk Building A Career Without Applying To Jobs. The most effective way to network is to:

    1. Do great work
    2. Add value to others
    3. Play the long game

    So, I agree with your sentiment that building interesting/popular stuff is an ideal way to strengthen your network. But why does it have to be either/or for networking or building? You can do both, and in fact, they can go hand-in-hand if you use the Taro meetups as a way to share what you're working on and get feedback.

    The last thing worth mentioning is that you should always strive to increase your luck surface area. It's hard to predict the impact of a random encounter/meeting, but it could be huge. I view meetups with smart/ambitious people as a good way to encourage serendipity.

    If nothing else, these meetups are an excuse to get out of the house and get a coffee paid for by Taro! ☕️

  • 8
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    3 months ago

    That influencer is 100% right (networking has helped me a lot, but side projects literally made my career), but as Rahul mentioned, side projects and networking aren't mutually exclusive. The immediate benefit of going to the meetups is boosting your mental and physical well-being. Humans are still animals at the end of the day, and we're very social creatures. Just grinding LeetCode and side projects 10 hours a day is miserable - You need to break it up with something.

    The deep benefit of a big meetup though is if you can form 1 on 1 relationships. If I was looking for a job and going to these meetups, I would say something like: "I'm currently on the interview grind, so if anybody wants to join me as an accountability partner, please let me know. We can check in on each other every 2 weeks, and I can show you the best cafes in the area 😊".

    What happens is I tell them about what I do - my role, company, stack - they do the same, we'll talk about the industry for a bit, and that's that. It seems to me like I'm not getting much out of it, probably because I'm doing it all wrong.

    Yeah, this is the intro layer, which doesn't have much value. You need to break past that. Ideally, the big meetup structures itself into "breakout rooms", but it's not like you can't do it on your own.

    From my experience running the giant Taro Bay Area meetups (75+ people), people naturally split up into groups. But even if they didn't, the easiest way to get some nice 1 on 1 conversations is just to stay late at the meetup, and it will dwindle down to the people who are the most excited about networking/ambitious about their career (these are the people you want to get to know).

  • 2
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    Data Engineer [OP]
    Financial Company
    3 months ago

    Thanks for your answers, Rahul and Alex.

    I totally accept that networking can be extremely beneficial and can be much more enjoyable/cathartic than sitting in front of a computer all day.

    Can you guys expand on how to go past the mere exchange of information - past the intro level that Alex mentioned? Do I need to have some cool side project I'm working on? I would assume not, but I'd also assume it helps.

    I'd guess it comes down to being genuinely interested in the other person. 9 times out of 10 (or more) there won't be anything to follow up on, but the last time, you'll both discover a passion for something specific that could lead to a side-project. Or maybe people are also happy to refer people they meet in person for jobs too.

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

    Can you guys expand on how to go past the mere exchange of information - past the intro level that Alex mentioned?

    As mentioned before, the goal is to convert the group setting into 1 on 1 interaction. Ideally this happens at the meetup, but if it doesn't, all you need to do is get some contact information and follow up after the meeting with individuals who have similar goals to you (looking for a side project partner, is also on the job hunt, etc). If they're active in the Taro Premium Slack, you can just reach out there.

  • 12
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    Ex-Google Senior SWE • FE/Mobile -> BE/Distributed/AI
    3 months ago

    Piping in here because I've shared a similar dilemma when it comes to networking. I'm now in the part of my career where networking is becoming valuable. I am starting now, but in hindsight, I wish I spent at least a little bit of time developing it.

    How is networking valuable from my perspective at an event like Taro's?

    1. You don't know what you don't know. Talking to others can help surface things and ideas that are happening you either don't have the capacity to pay attention to or haven't experienced yourself yet. You get an inside scoop on those things as opposed to doing the research yourself. It's one form of scaling yourself if you will.
    2. Connecting over shared experiences. The types of people that show up at an event like Taro's will have faced similar challenges with their career. It's a good place to connect with others over them, either by helping or getting help, or like the first point above mentions, learning about challenges that might exist you haven't yet encountered.
    3. Finding opportunities to help others. As a builder, I think it's often interesting to hear about the pain and challenges others are experiencing because it'll help shape the ideas I have for side projects or opportunities to build something that can really help them.

    Can you expand on how to go past the mere exchange of information

    I like to think of networking conversations kind of like casting a wide net to see what lands first before developing the topic deeper. There are a few types of connections one can make with someone else at a networking event. I'll list them out with specific questions that might be worth asking.

    • Skills. What exactly do you do at work? What tech stack are you using? Tell me more about why you decided to use <technology> in this scenario? How did you go about choosing to specialize in <technology>? What do you like or dislike about <technology>? Who are you customers and what value do you bring to them?
    • Personal. What kinds of challenges are you facing at work? What are some of your proudest accomplishments so far? Have you faced <a challenge I'm facing> before and how did you resolve it? What interesting things are you working on in your free time?
    • Trends and current events. What do you think about <this trend>? Do you know anyone that would be a good person to talk to more about <this trend>? <Tech event> is happening soon, have you attended it before?
    • Contextual. How did you find out about <this networking event>? What motivated you to come to <this event>?

    To wrap this up, one more tip: Tit-for-tat is the best game, but if others aren't playing it, you can always lead it. What I mean is you should always be aiming to share conversation time 50/50 as much as you can, and help lead others if they aren't asking questions in return by answering your own questions and covering a breadth of topics that might help you connect with the other individual further.

    It'll be hard to do this well at first, so just keep trying and iterating. You'll find that the connections you make now might not benefit immediately, but provide a ground for opportunity down the road.

  • 3
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    Data Engineer [OP]
    Financial Company
    3 months ago

    Thanks for the amazing answer, Kevin! Really love the practical questions to ask.

    I should also mention that it's funny that I'm asking the question, because I've personally got a job offer from attending networking events in the last year, as well as interviews.

    So definitely a lot of value.

    When you haven't done it in a while though, the laziness factor comes into play a lot. Gotta fight that!

  • 2
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    Staff Data Engineer at 🧑‍💻
    3 months ago

    Focusing on objectives 1 and 2 related to finding work referral or a project partner, they can only happen from people being aware you are looking for that. Often it also helps if they know what related skills you have or which you are looking to develop in. Targeted communication helps connect better to the right audiences.

    Networking is a way to talk about shared interests. This can also be done on social media, but depending on your audience size, you sometime need to reach beyond your usual circle to widen your view and current knowledge.

    I think of the difference between searching a specific book online compared to going into a book store. Online you find what you are looking for, if you already have enough details. In a bookstore, you pass by books on subjects you wouldn't have considered, you browse, and expand your scope of interests.

    Since you referenced transactional, when I think of that word, I think a $100 is exchanged for something worth $100. For networking, you can give away information that costs you $0 (no work), or maybe $1 (the time to communicate it), but the receiver gains the $100 in value.

    Let's say you did that 5 times that day, costing you a theoretical $0-5. Someone else may do the the same where you are the recipient of the value $100. It doesn't even have to be the same person. This is a more distributed way of value creation.