Wednesday, January 29, 2014

In Service, The Series - Wellington Waterloo Webmakers Meetup

I keep thinking that I am at the end of this series, but then I remember one more neat thing I am a part of. Like the Wellington Waterloo Webmakers Meetup, which might actually be the Waterloo Wellington Webmakers Meetup, I'm not really sure which W come first.

Of course that name is new. Until a couple of weeks ago the group was called the Guelph Web Makers Meetup, or GWMM.

GWMM has been running for three years and is a monthly meetup bringing together any person involved in making a website or app. It's a really inclusive group that includes coders, designers, usability experts, SEO specialists, content creators and anybody that has ANY part in creating a website.

I started attending and found that even though I'm pretty much just on the soft side of website creation (in the content area) I was really interested in many of the other topics we covered. Some nights the demos went way over my head, but the results of what people were live coding was always really cool.

My involvement in GWMM got me back to coding and I started learning HTML and demo'd a website I created from scratch (no templates here). Sure it was only four pages and ugly as hell, but I built it.

I'm adding this group to my In Service series because I have donated my time to help market the group. Tonight I was at the Guelph Technology and Design Showcase, held at the University of Guelph in the Science Atrium. It is basically a career fair where local technology companies set up booths and meet with the computer sciences students.

This is the second year that I have attended and worked the GWMM booth, meeting with students and encouraging them to come to our group meetings. There are so many jobs available to computer science students, so many fields they can go into. But it is also a volatile industry, with start-ups launching and failing every day and long time established companies being pushed out of the industry when they stop innovating.

Like I said yesterday, everyone needs a network of people they can go to for support, and in the technology field the more people you know, the more opportunities there are for you. A meetup group is a great way to build that network.

Last year, as I mentioned, I build a webpage from scratch, with the help of GWMM and presented it to the group. It was not pretty, barely functional and had no bells and whistles, but the people watching (most of whom could have built that in seconds) were incredibly supportive and some even reminisced about their first time learning to code. It could have been a terribly embarrassing demo, but instead they shared my excitement about building something that worked.

Not long after that GWMM took part in an event which happens in Waterloo called Family Hack Jam. It's an event for kids to learn coding and engineering skills. There was a module for building a video game, one for HTML coding to build a website about a unique animal, a section for building 3D boxes with paper, and a section for using a 3D printer.

I was asked to represent GWMM and help run the module on HTML coding and building a website.

I feel strongly that there is absolutely no better way to learn a skill than to try to teach it to someone else. I got to spend that entire day teaching kids some very basic HTML coding, more basic even than the website I built. And I got to see in those kids what everyone else in GWMM saw in me when I was showing them my website, pride and amazement when you hit that button and the page loaded just the way you wanted it to.

Unfortunately, some of my other volunteering has gotten in the way of my regular involvement with the webmakers meetup. It's the one technology event in Guelph that I truly miss when I can't attend it, and it's been a long while since I've been to a meetup. So when the opportunity came to go represent the group tonight I jumped at.

I think the GWMM has been one of the most beneficial things I've been involved with and has both introduced me to a network of people I can go to for help, and taught me how to do things I used to think were beyond me. I was happy to put in 4 hours of my time tonight and tell the comp-sci students how much they can gain by attending a meetup.

And you can bet I will be at the next one, February 12th at Symposium Cafe at 7pm. See you there, maybe?

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