Contributing to tech for beginners

Giving back to the tech community is important! Every time we use Slack/Twitter/Stack Overflow/Reddit to ask our fellow devs how to do something, I hope we think to ourselves, “Somewhere down the road, I need to help someone else the way I’ve just been helped.” It may be naive, but I feel that remaining a community of givers is so important to tech, and it should never go away. But if you’re new to coding, this concept of paying it forward can seem tough to implement. You may not yet know enough to answer others’ questions. You may be completely overwhelmed by the concept of contributing to OSS, or presenting at a meetup. I faced the same issues when I first became a developer. The good news is, there are things you can do to be involved and help the community. Here are the things I’ve done so far – maybe this list will help you brainstorm some ideas that work for you!

Help plan a conference

Conferences abound everywhere, and they need volunteers to help pull it off. Here in Salt Lake City we have the awesome UtahJS organization, and for six years now they’ve put on an annual conference for all of the amazing developers we have around here. A year ago, I noticed their website wasn’t updated with the newer location of one of the many JS meetups, so I found the code on GitHub, did a quick change and pull request, and then offered to help out in any other way they needed. Shortly after that I was on the planning committee for the conference, helping to pick speakers, voting on everything from venues to t-shirt designs to schedules, and doing everything possible to keep ticket costs low.
time commitment: 10-15 hours a month for the 8 months leading up to the conference, then 35 hours the week of

Transcribe a podcast

Think of your favorite developer podcast. Then think about making it more accessible – as in, available to people who need to read it instead of listen to it. Now think about how bad talk-to-text technology still is, and how in the world that podcast is going to get transcribed. You can provide this service! I volunteered to do this for an episode of CodeNewbie, and it’s not easy, but if you believe in what the podcast is trying to do, it’s worth it.
time commitment: 6 hours per 1 hour podcast

Help foster a community

On social media all the time anyway? There are Twitter accounts, Slack channels, and Facebook groups that could use your help! You could volunteer to post meetup schedules, take pictures or make videos of the meetups while you’re there and post those – anything at all to keep the community active and engaged. Sometimes it’s just a matter of welcoming new members, setting guidelines, and being available when someone has a question. I do this for UtahJS and our local FreeCodeCamp chapter and it’s by far the easiest way to be involved and give back.
time commitment: 1-2 hours a week

Co-host a study group

All around us, people are trying to learn to code. Can you help out by being present for a study group? Even if you feel you don’t know enough to answer questions, you can still be there to open the door, welcome attendees, and provide encouragement. Getting into this field can be intimidating and overwhelming, but if we can help others feel less alone on the journey, that’s worth a ton. Plus, chances are good you’ll come away feeling inspired – I know I do whenever I do this for the FreeCodeCamp meetups here in SLC!
time commitment: 4-8 hours a month

Smaller ways to help a conference

If the time commitment above is too much for your schedule, there are still other ways you can help out with a conference! This kind of event always needs usher-type attendants present in each room to help out the speakers, be available for code of conduct issues, help direct the audience in and out or answer general questions, or even help out at the registration desk in the morning.  Interacting with that many people not your cup of tea quite yet? What about volunteering to review and rate applications for the conference’s scholarships? I happened to be on vacation when I was asked to do this for ReactRally, and although there were 150 applications, it actually didn’t take that much time. (It did help that my vacation was nothing but laying by a pool, but still.)
time commitment: 2-12 hours

I hope you take these ideas and run with them! Find your niche of giving back to the tech community, until that day comes along when your knowledge reaches the point where you can answer someone’s question, and make them start thinking, “How am I going to pay this forward?”

Author: Ashly

I like learning, food, travel, and sports, and I love Salt Lake City.