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NEWS · January 12th 2022

Why you should do your first tech talk

Have you ever thought about speaking at an event or wanted to be involved somehow? Learn where and why to find these types of opportunities in this post.

Kapehe

Kapehe is a Developer Relations Specialist at Sanity.

There seems to be a lot of buzz going around about speaking at meetups, conferences, open houses, podcasts, streams, etc. Have you ever thought about speaking at any of these or wanted to be involved somehow?

In this post, I am going to go over the where and why to find these types of opportunities. We’ll also look over content creation in general. I hope by the end of this post, you feel a little more confident and guided when creating.

Speaking is not for everyone, but there might be some avenue of content creation that you may find you really enjoy or an opportunity that may even land you your next job. I’ll show you ways besides public speaking.

Content creation in tech

In 2017 I was a flight attendant serving drinks at 35,000 feet. It was a repetitive job and I knew I needed to get out of it before I was too far into it. That year was when I discovered tech. I went to a coding bootcamp, got my first coding job, and loved how non-repetitive it was. The phrase, "you never stop learning in tech" really is true!

Then I found the content creation side of tech and it was career-changing even more. I found that when I did a YouTube video on ReactJS, I had to know "this" much to teach "this" much (imagine my hands showing a big space to a small space 😆). And that helped me grow as a developer in ways I never thought possible.

Let’s talk about the speaking side of content creation.

The different types of speaking engagements

There are many different types of speaking engagements. And with everything that has happened in the past 2 years, a lot of our normal conference going has been tweaked. Speaking engagements could be any of the following, but are not limited to:

  • Conference talk
  • Meetup talk
  • Twitch/YouTube stream
  • Podcast
  • Twitter Spaces

There are other ways to create content that doesn’t require “taking a stage”, whether it’s a virtual or real-life stage. We’ll talk about those in a bit.

Depending on how far along you are in your coding journey or how comfortable you feel teaching others about what you'll be speaking on, these all require preparation. And that work upfront helps us grow as developers.

5 benefits from speaking in public

Let’s go over the five benefits of speaking in public. Each one of these I have learned from personal experience. Of course, the benefits are not limited to these.

1. You learn more when you teach

When you teach others a topic, you find yourself learning more than what the actual taught content ends up being. You assume the questions that might come up, you prepare for the problems that could arise, and you want to be ready for it all.

You instantly become a teacher. Now you have to gain a comprehensive understanding to be able to explain it in a simple and understandable way to others. Generally, you could find yourself spending two hours of prep for one hour of content. If the concept is new to you, you could find that prep time being three or more hours.

Protip

Take action today: Pick a topic you’ve always wanted to learn. Create a blog post or a YouTube video about that content. Tweet about it: “Coming soon” to hold yourself accountable. And then tweet about it when it’s done!

Personal experience

My first tech conference talk was on RxJS, a library for reactive programming using Observables. My talk idea was to compare RxJS Observables and JavaScript Promises. Honestly, I didn’t know much about RxJS when I first applied. And then my talk got accepted. 🥴 For the next 2 months I studied RxJS as if my life depended on it. In my eyes it did, I was going to be on stage talking about something I knew very little about!! I prepped, learned tons of RxJS, and gave one of my favorite talks ever. Did I use all that I learned? No, only about half of it, but now I was well versed in RxJS. (high-five to me!)

You can find that talk below:

2. Build your resume

Each time you create content you are adding to your resume. This is especially helpful when you don’t have a lot of experience in tech (yet). You may be new to the tech scene, have one or two freelance projects under your belt, or are still a “junior” (”junior” is such a relative term, not a fan, but we’ll go with it for now).

Let’s say your resume is at a “one tech job” level. But you recently talked at three meetups, you were a guest on two tech streams, and wrote a blog post for an accredited tech blog. Now that resume shows a plethora of different topics you understand and can explain. And you can link to those so now potential employers can see your confidence, your energy, and how much you really know when it comes to tech stuff!

Protip

Take action today: Go update your resume today with any and all tech content you’ve created or been a part of. Were you a guest on a panel? Did you appear on a stream? Have you answered a handful of Stack Overflow questions? Organize it well, don’t want to over-clutter, but it deserves a spot on that resume.

Personal experience

I was new to tech, I had about one and a half years of tech experience when I was looking for my next job. I was fighting against others with 5+ years of experience. So I dove head-first into the “tech content creation” scene and soon I had a long list of concrete examples of my tech knowledge. No future employer could ignore that knowledge and experience.

Some things from that list:

3. Land your next job

To follow our last point of building your resume, let’s talk about what that resume is 🤞hopefully🤞 going to do for you… land you your next job! With that large list of concrete coding examples under your belt, you now have a resume that can’t be ignored. Remember, there’s a lot of luck, privilege, and who you know that definitely goes into this as well. Definitely don’t discount that aspect of job-hunting.

An even cooler point I want to address is what if at the event you speak at, your future manager or colleague is in the audience? They hear your talk, love the way it was presented, appreciate the knowledge you shared, and then approach you afterward with a “Hey, we’re looking for a [insert cool job title here]. Can we set up a time to chat?”

Protip

Take action today: Go apply to speak at two conferences right now. Submit talks that are something you are comfortable with, at conferences you would love to appear on stage for. Reach out to the organizers specifically and thank them for their time. Then go tweet about your submission. Let your followers get excited with you!

You can find a list of an open call for papers/speaking opportunities on CFP land.

Personal experience

I have two success stories.

I had just graduated from my coding bootcamp and was attending a local meetup in Las Vegas, NV. The meetup had different people share projects that they were working on. I shared one of mine. After all the presenters went, I was approached by someone looking for a Junior Software Developer. That later became my first dev job.

My first dev-rel job hunt started with jampacking my resume with speaking engagements, youtube videos, etc. I started looking, my resume was full of DevRel-ish type experience (even though I wasn’t doing DevRel professionally at the time). Fast forward through the interview process, I landed my first Developer Relations job with Sanity.io.

— NEW JOB ALERT! —

💃 Hey pupper. Guess what?!

🐶 Bark bark?

💃 I got a new job!

🐶 BARK! Bark?!

💃 Yeah! Today I start DevRel at @sanity_io !!! https://t.co/yN77DiFfES

Tweet published on: Jul 20, 2020, 4:39 PM

4. Join a community and learn from them

One of my favorite points: People help us grow. And when we speak at or attend events (whether it’s virtual or in-person) we are making those connections.

  • Receiving feedback: we can always be learning from our peers. Say you speak at a meetup, those immediate questions are so helpful in our personal growth.
  • Networking: This can happen anywhere; virtual or in-person. Whether it’s on Twitter, at a virtual conference, or an in-person meetup. Making friends in tech can help us for years to come.

Note: you can make these connections without actually being a speaker. Being an attendee to these events is a great spot to be as well!

Protip

Take action today: Be a conference attendee, find a handful of talks that really stuck out to you, and reach out to those speakers. Thank them for their talk, tell them a couple of points that really resonated with you, and ask them “any tips on how I can get into speaking?” or questions about the technology they spoke on. Starting that conversation will keep you on their radar. They might be the reason you get your first speaking opportunity.

Personal experience

I went to React Conf 2019 in Las Vegas. I was not a speaker, I was an attendee at this conference. I took this opportunity to meet people, lots of people, in the React scene. I met people like Dan Abramov, Kent C Dodds, Aaron Abramov, Ashley Narcisse, and Tejas Kumar, just to name a few. These connections will live with me and my career for years to come.

5. Speaking can help clarify your own thoughts

Speaking can be intimidating. Trust me, I know. But with practice makes perfect… or at least brings a little more confidence? With content creation that doesn’t have a “stage,” you have the ability to make more mistakes, but the “stage” brings on a different level of “I don’t want to mess up.” It forces that little extra hard work and focus before presenting it to the world.

✨ Pick a topic you want to really nail down and get more confident on. Speak on that.

You’ll find that your knowledge of it will jump leaps and bounds because of that added pressure of the live stage. It’s a daunting journey but will be worth it in the end.

Protip

Take action today: Don’t wait for a conference to present something live. Get on Twitch or YouTube and stream the thing that’s been holding you back. Ask the viewers for help and feedback. We’re all there to learn together. Nobody is hoping that you mess up. I promise.

Personal experience

I do Developer Relations at Sanity.io and when I first joined, I had a lot of things I needed to learn about the platform. What better way to do that than to speak on it. I made multiple YouTube videos on it, I wrote blog posts, I did numerous streams, and I took the virtual stage at many conferences and meetups. I was going to learn as much as I could and take others on this learning journey with me.

Find some of that work here:

  • Sanity’s YouTube: Tutorials, streams, and past meetups can be found here from me and others.
  • The Sanity Exchange: Where you can find blog posts from me and many others! Also code snippets, projects, plugins, and more! Feel free to contribute as well!

Where to find these opportunities

We can find these speaking opportunities all around us, here are a few resources:

Content that isn’t public speaking?

Still not ready to take the stage? There are other ways to create content that can definitely help with all those points above. Some of those include:

  • Writing blog posts
  • Making YouTube videos
  • Tweeting about your learnings
  • Contributing to open-source projects
  • Answering questions that other devs have (Stackoverflow, GitHub issues, etc)
  • Creating and sharing small CodePen projects

All of these can still boost your resume, possibly land you a job, create strong relationships within the tech community, and solidify your own understandings of a variety of subjects.

Come speak at Sanity’s Meetup

I also host the monthly Sanity.io virtual meetup where we welcome all levels of speakers, and especially first-time speakers! Maybe Sanity’s meetup is where you give your first tech talk!

Nicoll from Egghead.io was gracious and shared her experience from her first time speaking, which was at Sanity.io’s meetup:

As a first-time speaker, this meetup was a great opportunity to get out of my comfort zone. I usually run away from this type of activity, but as the saying goes, there is always a first time for everything. I had many sleepless nights leading up to it. Still, I’m glad I did it because Kap and the Sanity team supported me and guided me in the process, Kap was definitely a big part of my process, and I am so thankful she helped me prepare and make me feel secure in myself for that first talk. I feel more confident going into my next speaking opportunity because I have gained confidence in how to speak in public and how to handle the nerves and the anxiety that this sort of event may cause.

If you’re interested, please reach out and we’ll get the conversation going. I also want to hear about your first speaking gig you got lined up or the link to your new YouTube channel! Come find me in Sanity’s Slack Community or on Twitter (@kapehe_ok).