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Attending Your First Tech Conference

This post is very Atlanta-centric as that's where I live, but the following tips can apply anywhere.

Introduction

If you don’t work at a company that is willing to cover the registration fee, then a lot of conferences can feel out of reach. It seems like a catch-22.

Networking is an important step in finding a job in any field–it’s not about what you know, but who you know, as the saying goes. How do you meet people if you cannot attend these conferences?

RenderATL is $600 and that's if you get your ticket early! Luckily, there are more affordable ones out there. I got to attend two of them in the same week and managed to learn a few things too.

Refactr Tech

  • Regular admission goes for $200 and you can add $99 for a workshop

Refactr Tech highlights diversity and inclusion in the tech sphere. A lot of sessions focus on accessibility and marginalized groups of people and give good insight on more than just technical knowledge. It's a small, but great conference that's easy to meet and mingle with others.

Atlanta Developers' Conference

  • $10 and you get a lunch!

Looks like it's a relatively new conference and I'm not sure if it's going to be so cheap forever, but it's definitely worth checking out! Lots of talks that delve deep into the technical aspects, but also great for junior and senior devs alike.


side note: I've noticed the coffee seems to disappear mid-afternoon. I feel like they should keep it flowing all day long at these things, but I guess it's important to hydrate too. Anyway.


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Tips

Things to consider:

  • Bring business cards

Yeah, it sounds old fashioned, especially at a tech conference. But hey, include a QR code!

  • Don't forget about the in-between

The sessions are great, but there's also an opportunity to network with people in-between waiting for the next one to start up.

  • Bring your resume

Have it on your business card, on your phone, have a print-out, whatever, just bring it. Refactr Tech sends out an email for you to upload yours so it's on file, which is pretty cool. Still, it's great to have on hand because you never know who you might hit it off with.

The sponsors at these conferences have booths set up and a lot of them are taking applications so it's worth striking up a conversation.

  • Stay for the happy hour

So you've spent all day going from room to room and up and down the stairs getting your steps in. You're tired and ready to go home to prepare yourself to do it all again the following morning. BUT don't head out just yet! Stay for the happy hour (if it's offered). Refactr Tech had board games and drinks and it was a great opportunity to meet and just hang out with fellow developers. It's another chance to network and even make a few new friends.


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TL;DR:

Get there early, stay late. You never know what opportunities you may have. And come prepared with a way for people to learn more about you.

Thanks for reading!

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