yesterday i gave at talk at the nyu women in computer club, winc, and it was super casual and a nice small group (it was midterms week). i gave a candid talk on how the industry is built on this weird foundation of toxic feedback and how we can help solve it by being better at giving feedback and fostering a good feedback culture, but ultimately women need to be prepared for shitty feedback in general (ie. catcalls, being called aggressive in performance reviews, etc). this blog isn't about feedback though lol maybe another day...
anyway, so it was in the q&a afterwards where the really interesting conversation occurred, and one particular question was around how to be a woman under 21 who needs to network but cannot go to the events that are typically held around the city.
cool fun free fact #1: i only do q&a at events where the massive majority of the audience is women
so i will be the first to tell anyone that i am complicit in the underage tech events problem. i run jerseyscript which is a super casual no-tech-talks meetup in jersey city. we meet at the barcade and people seem to enjoy it. the main problem is that only people 21+ can enjoy it and This Is A Problem For Me™ which is hard to solve because to run an event in a space that is all ages would require a lot of money and providing my own food and drinks.
cool fun free fact #2: 3 years ago when i first started jerseyscript, i paid $450 out of pocket per month for the event space but was too busy with my job to handle ticketing or finding sponsors, so that rarely happened and so i almost had to shut the meetup down to prevent draining my savings
being a community leader and organizer is hard and costs money and - most harder to find - time. and honestly, this isn't a problem i can solve on my own and so for the time being i tell younger folks about the slack channels of my and other meetups i know that have them. this has turned out to be quite effective for them, and they get to know a lot of us older folks in the community - and even end up with mentors!
the idea behind having a chat room behind your brick-and-mortar meetup is not only great to include younger folks (as most meetups tend to be 21+), but also those who live a sober lifestyle, cannot afford the travel or tickets, cannot physically attend for whatever reason, or simply and completely reasonably have a hard time attending large gatherings of strangers.
cool fun free fact #3: i, personally, have fallen into each of these categories at some point in my life, and i know for a fact that it had kept me from some excellent opportunities - which are hard to come by as a woman in tech.
anyway this is a lot of words to say that if you want to run a tech meetup or do already, i'd seriously consider having something like a slack team to go along with it and not only make it open to those who physically attend the meetup. your meetup should already have a code of conduct, and it should also apply to the group chat. and yes, this will take work to moderate and stay involved, but it's really important work to do the job of community leadership and organization well.
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ps. slack, you should have a free tier for community organized meetups that don't cap the searchable messages at 10k :)