The Power of People: My Experience Building a Local Tech Community Over the Last Four Years

The Power of People: My Experience Building a Local Tech Community Over the Last Four Years


The moon shone upon the quietly lapping waters, gently brushing against the piles of the Waterloo Bridge and moored boats. I gazed to my side, maintaining balance with my bicycle as I leisurely made my way across. It was late, and I was just about to head home to my wife and small children. I was tired and even a little hungry after missing out on the pizzas earlier.

It had been a long day, but deep inside, I was excited. Invigorated. Just half an hour ago, I was in a room full of people. I didn't know them, but we shared the same enthusiasm for new updates in the artificial intelligence and machine learning space. I had just concluded the event, and already I was looking forward to the next one.

My mind was racing. Post-event, I tried to catch up with some of the attendees. There was one comment that made my heart tick.

"What you have built, it is amazing, and I am even jealous. It is not just the idea, but the whole community and people coming to share about AI."

It was a start. I realized maybe... what we've got there is actually a thing. Community building in London from 2019, I'd like to share my experiences and tips for those who want to do so.

Value Your People, For They Are Part of the Tribe

The real deal of what makes or breaks a community is the PEOPLE. They are the very soul of the community.

I get that topics, interests, and agendas are the common aspects that community managers look at. In fact, we probably spend a majority of time on these issues when planning and executing events. But my belief is that it's people who are valuable, at the end of the day. People will vote for events and their communities with their time, voice, or even money.

When I run tech events in the evening, I am acutely conscious of the value that I need to deliver. It's a matter of reciprocal respect for other people's time. Think about this, why should another person be at another corporate event or work event after a long day at the office? I'd rather be at home, kicking back and cosying up on the couch with a nice book.

The relationships built during events are another whole dimension, too. I enjoy hearing the stories of others, and you never know who you'll meet. London is a diverse melting pot with some of the brightest minds.

Genuinely Having Fun

Just seeing others doing cool stuff is what excites me.

To me, there is nothing more encouraging than seeing people use their potential. This was the same for me when I was working in healthcare. My own dad couldn't walk due to a spine injury and required serious rehabilitation. He eventually overcame this, and I couldn't be more proud and happy with him the moment he was back to his usual activities.

I see it as building a platform for other smarter people to gather, mix, exchange ideas, and move forward to a better future. Maybe idealistic, but that is how I see it and what I hold myself to. It is genuinely fun, and I have been enjoying the organic growth within the community. Of late, we had community-curated tech demos. It is always exhilarating when going from building something to showcasing a creation to the public.

Taking a Break

This might seem antithetical to the prior tip about being energized. It's equally important.

Burnout is real. Trust me, I know how terrible it feels. I've had major burnout phases, where I was completely flat out and dragging myself out of bed every morning.

It is imperative to know when you are approaching your limits. My personal advice is not to get to this stage because the recovery is usually prolonged.

Also, life happens – unexpected and unplanned events such as illness can occur. And know that it's OK, perfectly human to take a breather at times.

Set regular breaks for yourself. Take time out when you need it. Always reflect on how things are going with these useful questions:

a) Is what I am doing still aligned with my goals?
b) Am I learning or progressing on this path?
c) Are things becoming too much, too overwhelming, and is it time to bring forward a break?

Taking care of yourself is important, especially when the community depends on you. Having an open communication channel helps to not feel like you are letting people down. I believe most people are reasonable, and they would definitely appreciate you at your best, rather than a half-assed, tired attempt.

Build Long-Term Relationships and Strong Networks

This is another way of adding more value to the community that you are building. There is no one-man island, or whatever they call it. You get my point.

This sort of ties into the first point, about the power of people. There are always people who are more resourceful, ingenious, or outright better at a particular field than me. And I am not ashamed to admit that – instead, this is a perfect opportunity where the community is a platform for these talented individuals to showcase their ideas and work.

I find it is always recharging to learn what exciting things people are doing. Having an initial contact is great, however bridging that into a longer-term relationship is even better. Coming to understand what are the interests of others, what the audience wants to achieve out of the event is part of this.

Thinking About the Whole Package

It is useful to be holistic about the approach to hosting community events. As they say, "People forget quickly, but they DO remember what you made them feel."

Overall, I think having a smooth agenda, a warm environment, and keeping people fed are the smaller and finer details. These can be easily and often overlooked. In the grand scheme of things, missing the mark on one aspect might not affect the overall success of the event. Though it could certainly help. The human brain is incredibly perceptive and picks up a lot of unconscious cues and subtleties that eventually form the 'memory'.

I would genuinely love to connect with others who are doing so too! Also, if you want to keep updated with the events I'm hosting then sign up to my newsletter below 👇

David Tang