Everyone needs a community of interest – even analysts, consultants, data scientists (and business owners)

by | May 5, 2015

Communities are an increasingly important dimension of our lives, we all have them – our families, friends, colleagues, neighbours, professional bodies etc etc etc. Working in this fast moving digital and technology space communities of interest really can come into their own for a raft of reasons – networking with peers, learning about new tools / techniques / capabilities, meeting the cool kids who are doing the cool stuff, meeting the other people like you who are in similar roles to share experiences.
Last week I attended a fabulous event – the launch of the Data Driven Innovation report by Innovation Partnership. The fabulous dimension for me was the opportunity to network within one of my communities, data people. So many OpenData advocates in one room, many of my data hero’s in NZ and so many really cool things going on as we collectively drive towards a Data Driven economy.
I almost didn’t attend this awesome event and selected it over a talk on Exporting Software to North American markets (which sounded awesome too). Equally I try to limit myself to only two meetups / events per week so had to consider it within a jam packed week. The other event I attended was a diversity panel discussion – a completely different community of interest as a business owner.
This excess of opportunity to connect is relatively new, if you are a bit older like me you will hold fond memories of getting your first cellphone or email account – revolutionary in terms of staying connected with my peer group and other techie bods back in the day (3am pager / landline phone calls preceded the cell ). Then there were conferences, large format, 3 days, with exhibitor halls that primarily existed as the once-a-year regionally located opportunity to meet up with that community of interest.
The next milestone I recall was joining an online forum – the TOAD forum for us early downloaders of that game-changing tool for Oracle DBA’s and Dev’s, OMG that was revolutionary – followed closely by Oracle creating a phenomenal global community of interest in Metalink which was a combo of knowledge base help and essentially early crowd sourcing for problem solving. Basic stuff  with a basic UI, no chat or threads but meant we could connect with other Oracle geeks all over the world ask questions and get answers.
Rolling this forward to today it’s mind blowing in comparison just how easily we can find or form a community of interest both physically and virtually. Our industry is hot right now and there are meetup groups on Data, Big Data, Vendor-specific-big data, Business Intelligence, Visualisation, OpenSource, OpenData – you name it there are many things you can join. Equally if you can’t find one that really meets your needs – you can just start a new one!
Large organisations are naturally designed on a function based business hierarchies as we all know, which in turn creates pockets of specialisation within structurally silo’d groups – so communities or centres of excellence within organisations is another dimension again. One of the bi-products of hosting Wellington’s all about BI has been the wonderful opportunity for people with similar roles working within the same very large organisation to meet and network via this external meetup group. Speaking of which here is a link to the most recent presentation Mel Butler – DW presentation 210415
Before signing off the biggest community event going my neighbourhood is GovHackNZ so blatant plug now – we are providing sponsorship in terms of people, time and technologies. The fabulous Bronnie, Princess of Parties from our sister company OptimalPeople is helping with her specialisation of Event Management; Shaun McGirr, Data Digger (otherwise known as a Data Scientist) is helping with leading the Data Stream. Check it out and if you can, get involved – feel free to contact Shaun or Bronnie.
To close – I strongly recommend you go forth and find your community, or communities if you have many dimensions in your life,  get out there listening to people in your field, it can be amazing to see and hear what is going on, the opportunities and innovation. I find it invigorating. Enjoy, Vic.
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