What are Meetups and Why Do They Matter to Technology Students?

Panelists talk about the value of meetups

Tampa Bay New Skills at Work (TBNSAW) hosted a discussion on Tuesday night at the St. Petersburg College EpiCenter to inform tech students on the value of Meetups.

TBNSAW is a collaborative effort among local educational institutions and employers to prepare the next generation of talent in the technology field. This effort has been funded by JPMorgan Chase as part of their $325 million effort to improve the workforce across the country.

A “Meetup” is a gathering of people with a shared interest in a topic – it could be a hobby, career or other passion. Go to meetup.com and look around – I dare you to look and not find a group that interests you!

For people interested in tech careers, it’s even more valuable.  The TBNSAW evening included a panel facilitated by Ken Dick, Director of Software Development for ValPak. The panel consisted of Mathew Thomas, Principal Software Architect at Malwarebytes; Shaun Chung, a software development manager at PSCU; Lemont Chambliss, an Agile Project Leader for Catalina marketing; and Becky Hartman, Senior Agile Coach at AgileThought and co-organizer of the Tampa Bay Agile Meet-ups.

The panel was quick to agree on the importance of connecting to the tech community.

“I am always looking for talent to help with my side hustles,” said Mathew Thomas. “Recruiters regularly attend our Meetups to look for talent.”

Every panelist shared their story of finding a job due to a connection from a Meetup group. Lemont Chambliss shared his story of being “in the right place at the right time” to connect to his last two jobs.

Becky Hartman, who co-facilitates The Tampa Bay Agile Meetup that has over 2,400 members, agrees.

“I am a serial volunteer,” said Hartman. “I built my network by helping others whenever I can.”

Chung called Meetups “Safe spaces for sharing ideas and asking questions.”

Lemont Chambliss discussed the mentoring that happens as a result of these connections.

“I regularly keep in touch with those I meet, and call on them outside of meetings when I have questions.”

Tampa Bay Tech, the tech council for our region, hosts 36 Meetups on a range of topics. Find the full list here.


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