JANUARY 2

SLACK CHAT: HOW TO BUILD A TECH NETWORK IN DALLAS

by    |  SLACK CHATS

Alan (Alan Cook, client development manager): Hi guys! In a previous Slack chat, we discussed why Dallas isn't always perceived as a technology hub, even though we are home to some of the leading tech companies in the world. Today, let's dispel that notion once and for all by sharing some of our best ideas for networking and getting involved with the local tech community.

Scott (Scott Baradell, president): I think for newcomers to Dallas in particular, the sheer geographic sprawl can be intimidating. We have a spread-out population and several business-heavy suburbs. For would-be networkers, it can be difficult to know where to start. It's not like there's one place where all the tech geeks hang out.

Jarrett (Jarrett Rush, content marketing director): That's also true as it relates to the types of tech companies in Dallas. We've got these big, old-school tech players in skyscrapers or on their own campuses, and that is very different from the community of young startups working out of WeWorks or facilities like Addison Treehouse.

Farha (Farha Syed, account executive): Exactly. Which makes it very important to find the right organizations to join for networking purposes. Becoming part of an organization like Tech Titans can spiral into further networking and being invited to company events, other tech group events, etc.

Scott: Tech Titans is a great one for established tech companies in Dallas; it grew out of the days of the old telecom corridor and has evolved with the city's tech community over time.

Kristal (Kristal Milazzo, senior content producer): I follow Dallas Innovates, and used to attend One Million Cups and Dallas Entrepreneur Center (DEC) regularly. They are both good resources. I also am a member of DFW Search Engine Marketing Association, which encompasses a lot of people working for tech companies.

Scott: I'm glad you mentioned the DEC, Kristal. Probably the best thing to happen to our local tech community this decade has been the launch of the DEC by Trey Bowles, which has led to co-working facilities, educational programs, workshops to help entrepreneurs get capital to start their businesses and more. Trey passed on leadership of the DEC to Alyce Alston earlier this year.

There are also startup oriented organizations like Launch DFW. That one was started by Alexander Muse as Dallas Startup Happy Hour more than a decade ago. It's a great resource. There are also all kinds of tech meetups going on all the time—some are highly technical and others for the business or marketing folks. Just search for Dallas tech meetups and you'll see lots of opportunities to learn and meet people.

Jarrett: Great info, Scott. One of the things that I've always struggled with is doing something with networking after I've done it. So how do you turn those meetings into opportunities?

Scott: I think you have to go beyond shaking hands and exchanging contact info and use that first conversation to establish a reason for staying in touch. If you don't, it probably won't happen. That means you really have to go into these events with a purpose in mind. You have to be willing to start conversations, genuinely show an interest in what other folks are up to, help them where you can, and see where it goes.

Les (Les Worley, senior content manager): As the lone representative of Idea Grove's Mexico bureau, I wonder how this translates to those who—for whatever reason—are far flung and have less local, in-person networking opportunities. Online communities abound, but more and more, so do telecommuters.

Alan: LinkedIn is a truly valuable tool for online networking. Even though I'm in sales, it's helpful for far more than that. You can build mutually beneficial relationships. 

Les: Yes indeed, Alan. And I use it for that, but attending events is different. Virtual networking events are something I am looking into more and more. I miss the in-person tech events in Dallas, just like I miss seeing everyone in the office every day.

Scott: To me, networking works the same for communities online and IRL. LinkedIn offers online extensions of groups like the Dallas-area GeekMeet, for example. LinkedIn also overhauled LinkedIn Groups fairly recently, so if you haven't checked it out in a while you should. I joined a private Facebook group for marketers several years ago and have made real friendships from it and ended up meeting people IRL in Dallas and elsewhere. Other online groups haven't been as useful.

Whether it's online or IRL, you have to try different groups and events and see where you fit. In some of these groups, everyone you bump into just seems to be out of work and looking for a job. Those are generally pretty useless.

Les: I agree about having to find the right online communities. Those that fit. The ones that are centered on learning something that you're truly interested in are best, because they attract people with common experiences and backgrounds.

Jarrett: It is all about intention and assuming the best of everyone, I guess. To be honest, the cynic in me has tended to view networking as something opportunistic: "What's in it for me?" as opposed to something that is mutually beneficial.

Les: There will always be those who attend a networking event for that and only that reason. Of the people I meet networking, there are some who only contact me seeking opportunities for themselves. It isn’t symmetrical at all. But for many others, it’s the opposite. Those relationships are the ones that, in my mind, make all the difference.

Scott: My closing thought is this: you've heard the expression, "It's not you, it's me." Well, in this case, if you have been unable to build a tech network here, I'll be a little bit harsh and say, "It's not Dallas, it's you." We might not have the cache of Silicon Valley or Boston, but there are plenty of opportunities to connect with folks in Dallas to build your network and build your career or business. You just have to go out there and find them. 

Farha: Hopefully, the links in this chat will provide a good start!

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