The Importance of Community

Community. It's a wonderful thing. In technical terms it generally refers to a unified group of individuals. Most often used to refer to a collection of homes in a given area it can also refer to any group that considers themselves unified by anything.

When looked at as a unified group it's pretty easy to see that your life is made up of communities. The area you live, your group of friends, your sports team, all of the fans of your favourite sports team and yourself, there are many communities you may belong to. The chances are, if you're reading the blog anyways, you're also part of the tech community. Additionally, you may also identify as part of the developer community, or the tester community, or both, or any other faction of the tech sector. The bottom line is that this is one of your communities. It wasn't until a year ago that I started to fully explore the depth that this community can have and I am now here to explain why I feel it is so important to be part of these wonderful communities.

We all started somewhere. We got into tech somewhere along the line, we may have stayed at one place for a long time, or moved through many roles, or through many places while in the industry but we all had to start somewhere. Now, consciously or not we most likely allowed ourselves to be heavily influenced by that starting point. Those things we were taught (the way of thinking, the way of acting, the things we aspired to) were all influenced in some way by that initial experience. This is why community is so important in my opinion. If we stay in one spot for too long, or we only look to one person to guide and teach us we can't grow. We can never expand our knowledge outside of that limited scope. But the bottom line is that we have the power to embrace so many other ideas and learn from so many other people, because we are, whether we acknowledge it or not, as part of a community.

1 year ago I finally started to attend conferences. Specifically, testing conferences. What I learned about myself from doing so was that I had allowed myself to be closed off and had stopped growing. I assumed that since I knew so much about my specific role and my specific company I knew everything! Of course, that was incredibly naive. I heard from people who had been in similar situations to ones I had been in and yet they had a completely different perspective. They had used entirely different techniques to solve the same problems and theirs had worked either better or worse than those we had used. That was also when I realised I had something to contribute. I could share my own experiences and potentially help others. I could chose to be an active member of this community.

Since then, I have started this blog, mentored students, spoken at conferences, attended many different events and am now about to embark on a journey into a new job. None of this would have been possible if it wasn't for my eventual engagement with the community. The things I have been able to learn from following people on twitter, following blogs, speaking to people, attending events, it was all invaluable. The best part is that if you ever think you have nothing to give back, you do! Even if you think "Oh this person is 10x as experienced as me, what could I help them with" you would be stunned. The most brilliant and intelligent people get to be that way because they never stop trying to learn. And every experience that you have and that you share will give a new perspective and allow for growth of yourself and the person you share with.

I encourage everyone to keep learning. To engage in your communities and reach out to share and learn from others. A healthy community is there to build it's members up and I can promise you that the tech communities are wonderful places where this is always the main goal.


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