Real world networking for engineers

Thanks to the nature of my job and being a Google Developer Expert, I get to travel a good bit. This is one part of my life that I thoroughly enjoy. It’s a ton of fun traveling to new cities and meeting interesting people from a wide variety of backgrounds, working on cool new things. This has taught me a great deal about people which I wouldn’t have ever learnt sitting heads-down at my desk churning out code day in and day out.

These days, no matter what conference, meet-up or startup incubator I go to, I see these engineers-turned-entrepreneurs or wannabe-entrepreneurs who go about trying to “make contacts”. They come over and introduce themselves, ask what you do and if they think you can do something for them, they expect you to drop everything else and just do it. Conversely, if they don’t think you can do anything for them, they bluntly end the conversation and walk away.

Now I am no networking expert, but you don’t need to be genius to figure out that this approach is self-destructive. Most things in the real world don’t provide instant gratification, like in programming. It’s not like how you write a piece of code, execute it and get the result immediately. The notion that you can meet somebody who will immediately do something to help you is a fallacy. In fact, I’ve seen the victims of this approach go out of their way to make sure even others don’t help such people.

So how does an engineer network in the real world? Read on…

Build relationships, not contacts

Over the years, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have several people go out of their way to help me. Every single one of them has been somebody I nurtured a relationship with over a period of time based on common interests and not because I thought they can help me with something.

Nobody is obligated to help you

No matter what your parents/girlfriend/boyfriend/partner thinks, you are not special buddy. Stop thinking yourself as royalty and expect others to do things for you just like that. The faster you get this, the less damage you will cause to yourself.

Do things for people without expecting anything in return

Don’t be selfish. You won’t lose anything by helping people out. Just do whatever you can, whenever you can, without expecting anything in return. You’ll be surprised how often it’ll come back to you, multiplied many times over. Do things for people before asking for help

You are not the only person out there looking to get help, pretty much everybody else is. Relationship of any kind is a two-way street. Before asking anything of somebody, ask yourself what you can do to help them. Do it honestly, not to just make them owe you one and especially not when you need something from them. When the time comes, they will be more than happy to return the favour.

Say “please” and “thank you”

The world has an excess of jerks who go about being rude to everybody. When asking for help, don’t forget to say “please”, when somebody helps you out, make sure you thank them genuinely. It won’t make you a lesser man/woman but people will remember how you made them feel.

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” — Malcolm S. Forbes

Just be nice to people, especially to the ones who can’t do anything for you today. You never know where they (and you) will end up in the future.