Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Networking - people, not computers

I am a prolific networker, it comes from my days as a consultant, where my network was my livelyhood. I've shunned the ways of consulting for life as a full-time CTO. But I still network.

Why network? It increases ones knowledge of technology. Don't know the latest Open source CMS tools, or how to scale MySQL, or optimal email backup stategies? Someone in my network knows, and would be happy to share.

I approach networking by doing the first favor. My good friend Kevin Sickles of Sun Microsystems put it best "plant the seeds, you never know where the flowers will grow". So I plant seeds. I don't track who's returned favors and who hasn't, that's not the point. It's having a whole network I can go to with a question when I am in need.

I've recently incorporated networking as I interview senior candidates. I look for past connections, and when a candidate is not a good fit for a position, but a good technologist, I might give them advice, and maintain a connection as they track into their next job. Just because they are not on my team, doesn't mean I can't learn from them, or even recommend them to another CTO. I recently found an excellent PM through a candidate I interviewed but never hired.

My tool of choice for networking is email (was doing this long before LinkedIn). For a connection email, I'll use subject "Ping", "Hey", or "Catchup", and simply ask how are things going. That way if the person is too busy to respond, they'll understand its just a touchpoint and we'll get another chance to connect. I also try to do 2 lunches a week with my network, nothing beats a face-to-face interaction. I roll through my contact list, ping some contacts, suggest lunch with others.

I can't imagine doing my job without my network.

1 comment:

Carol said...

You and me both. I've been networking since before it was a buzzword. For me it was just a matter of naturally keeping in touch, which has always been important to me. And now, as I look for a perfect fit for my next career position, my network is the first place I turn, and the most fruitful as well.