A few years ago I realized that I needed to surround myself with the smartest people I could find. I learned that my employers and coworkers were simply unable to provide the mentoring and knowledge to solve the technical challenges I faced at work. Part of it was my fault, I suppose: I was interested in solving the problems that no one else understood and had the audacity to take these challenges on.

I’m not sure who first introduced me to the concept of being the ‘dumbest person’ in the room but I heard it from rather well respected developers so it seemed rather odd. The gist is this: I find the most respected creators I can and figure out how to work with these individuals. It’s not a laid-back approach-it will teach you humility. It was hurt your pride. But you will learn more than anyone else.

The very first meetup I went to was a web simulcast of Eric Ries “Startup Lessons Learned” conference. No one in the room at the time actually worked at LeanDog but a contractor who was working out of the boat told me to connect with the company owners, that they were receptive to meeting new people and expanding their sphere of influence in the Cleveland area. At the time I was selling tech support services so that seemed like a no-brainer conversation.

I knew I found home when I sat down with Jon Stahl and learned how they had smart developers but what they really needed more of were Acceptance Test Driven Development collaborators. This was a new thing to me, but piqued my interest because I was really good at ‘breaking software’, even kind of proud of how many projects I had delayed by demonstrating how the product was broken right before launch. ATDD, on the other hand, sought success by aligning the business, development and testing aspects of development and empirically demonstrating the actual state of the product.

Since I was already looking for smart tech people and I had just found a shop who’s people traveled all over the place to help other teams, I realized this was who I needed to learn from. I started going to meetups on the LeanDog boat (well, technically a barge, but ‘boat’ is clearer). At the time they hosted meetups on Ruby, Python and Agile. Recently, I’ve seen a pronounced focus on startups, with the Lean Startup Circle. This introduced me to meetup.com and the rest of the Cleveland Tech scene.

  • UX
  • CleRb
  • [Tech Breakfast-Cleveland]
  • [Tech Breakfast-Akron]
  • [Mobile Development/Hack Nite]
  • [Apple iOS]
  • [Akron’s Coding Dojo]
  • [Canton Craftsman]

A reasonably comprehensive list can be found on Sadukie’s site, Cleveland Tech Events.