Networking in a New Town
This is my site Written by Alora on December 5, 2008 – 9:54 pm

There is something amusingly ironic about tech industry networking events: a group of people who are part of a subculture that is notorious for challenged people skills all in a room guzzling alcohol and trying to make small talk.

I’ve been to too many to count — in the Bay Area, in New York, and as of last night, now also in Austin. I have to say that the Austin High Tech Happy Hour is like most other things in Texas: it is bigger and friendlier than the ones I’ve attended in other cities.

In the Bay Area networking events suffer from a series of geographic hurdles. In a nutshell: water. Bridges over water, the tolls, the traffic and the distance make networking across the Bay impractical in many cases. If you live in San Francisco proper, there are events. Or if you live/work in the Silicon Valley there are options. But for those of us from the North Bay, it’s a reasonably small and in-bred network with inherently fewer networking opportunities.

Then, of course, there is the hub of all networking: New York City. What I routinely found about NYC networking events is that New Yorkers are New Yorkers and as soon as you open up a bar to them, one of two things happen: those who are there just for the booze drink themselves into oblivion, and the rest are often anti-social enough that making small talk is difficult. Even worse, because space is so tight in Manhattan, everyone is cramped into extremely small space, often with non-event bar customers, and over-flowing onto a sidewalk in the icy New York cold (or hot humidity in the summer).

And then there was Austin. Off the bat, there were a few immediate and obvious differences: first of all, the space was fairly large and dedicated exclusively to the event. Secondly, it was PACKED with people. Honestly, I can’t remember a tech industry networking event anywhere with as many people. And, even stranger for someone who’s been in NYC for the past four years, everyone was extremely friendly, talkative and engaging.

And, quite honestly, it was very jarring for me. I definitely don’t think of myself as a “geek” in the anti-social sense of the phrase; and I don’t think of myself as a New Yorker to be sure (in fact, I frequently tease my husband for his “paranoid New Yorker” inclinations). So it was stunning for me to catch myself feeling a little overwhelmed by how friendly everyone was, and how utterly out of my element I spent most of the night feeling.

It was actually very strange, and a reminder to me that I’ve been in my comfort zone for too long. Clearly, I’m rusty and need to work-out my face-to-face networking skills a bit. So, I guess that means I need to make a habit of attending more local events. Fortunately, there seem to be quite a few of them.

  • Joel Casarez

    The Austin High Tech Happy Hour was my first networking event. I drove from the San Antonio area and have always been happy with how friendly Austinites are. I guess that is why I’m trying to find a job in Austin. Anywho, glad you enjoyed the event. We Texans are all pretty friendly!