Thursday, February 10, 2011

The NTC, Accidental Techies and Me

"Oh, you work in IT, you must know everything about IT."

Wrong, my degree is in Finance. I got involved in IT because as the Finance Director at a small YMCA, I was in charge of IT by default. I am an Accidental Techie.

"Steve, you are an NPTech RockStar."

Wrong, by circumstance, determination and some luck I have been able to meet many great NPTech staff (including numerous awesome YMCA tech people) and have learned vast amounts from them. Therefore I am an Accidental NPTech RockStar of sorts.

Recently I have heard so many debates about whether it is time to retire the term "Accidental Techie" or if the NTEN NTC is worth attending and each time it is like someone is stealing part of who I am.

Accidental techie is just a great way to describe how some of us got our start in tech. It shouldn't be used as an excuse or something to hide behind. It should just be an easy way to say that I have learned from experience and trial by fire, so if I sometimes say something wrong it isn't because I am dumb, it is just what I know. And the fear of people finding out that you don't know everything keeps you quiet, you don't ask questions, you don't always exude confidence. But knowing that others are accidental techies creates a more open environment and breaks down the barriers to asking the "dumb" questions.

This is what I love about the NTC by NTEN.  They have built a community around Nonprofit Technology that allows you to ask the "dumb" questions and find the people similar to you. That is a big reason why I have gone every year to the NTC for the last six (or seven, bad memory) years.  I was that Accidental Techie. I was that person in the back row scared to ask my "dumb" question and hesitant to meet the "rockstars."

Beyond that there are even more reasons:
  1. Awesome NPTech people
  2. Great breakout sessions
  3. Focused on Nonprofits
  4. NTEN STAFF! If you talk to them, they listen, they change, they react. Provide Feedback, get involved in the planning process.
  5. Awesome NPTech people
  6. Flexibility to make the conference your own unique experience. NTC is what you make it. Between numerous sessions, affinity groups and private meetings through myntc you can get what you want.
The NTEN NTC has been and will be an event I look forward to.  My first years, I saw a few things that I wanted to see change or grow. So instead of not coming back, I talked to NTEN and shared constructive feedback. Then I pushed for what I believed in and provided a plan of how it could work and volunteered to be a part of it.

I apologize in advance for the following rant.

So there is talk and chatter about NPTech Rockstars sticking together and the community is forming cliques. This just grinds my gears. These rockstars are people too, they have the right to spend time with their friends, catch up with their regular crowd. But at the same time, I GUARANTEE that if you were to walk up to any of them and ask a question, they would help. 

The NPTech RockStars are RockStars because they care! They are not in it for fame and fortune. They want to help. Yes, they may need to rush to the next session or have lots to do, but I am sure they will make every effort to get back to you.  Or better yet, these RockStars are great Network builders.  They can always recommend that perfect person you should talk to that has done it already in a similar org.

I say, stop focusing on whether the ROCKSTARS are paying attention to you and make your own connections, become your own ROCKSTAR. Spend time before the NTEN conference figuring out what key topics you want to have an in depth conversation about, what key question about a big pain point you want answered and who you want to meet. Then make it happen BEFORE the conference. Connect on Twitter, NTEN Affinity Groups, MYNTC or MySpace (oh wait, noone uses that).  If you don't know who you should meet, then contact the RockStars before the conference and ask who would be good to talk to.

So to end my rant. I say that NTEN is FULL of AWESOME people and I am humbled by the dedication, expertise and willingness to give back.


Jacob said...

Steve, your right on. I can speak to the fact that the "rockstars" are people too who are happy to chat with anyone.

However, NTC is not summer camp, there are no camp counselors, to make sure everyone feels included.

After my first NTC is was easier for me to mutter about the "cool kids" than to take the time to actually get to know them.

This last NTC I took the time: before the event on Twitter and at the event at a social event. It paid off.

So I say to you huddled masses of ordinary NTC attenders, you too can enjoy a beer with John Merritt or a conversation with Amy Sample Ward, all you have to do is ask.

Marc said...

@Steve and @Jacob, I agree that it's up to the newer attendees to find people, chat with them, and make those connections. However, that doesn't excuse the fact that the "old timers" can always be more welcoming and friendly.

Yes, of course, you want to see your friends and catch up, I get that, but don't forget about that person on the fringes who may be there for the first time, and too scared to say hello in person (and maybe they aren't twitter-addicts and they're not subscribed to the email lists because they don't have time, or they don't get them).

I'll be making an extra effort to reach out to people this year, and encourage everyone to do the same.

Steve Heye said...

Excited to get some comments, thanks Jacob and Marc!

Having beer with John Merritt is my favorite! And Amy Sample Ward is simply delightful. And so many others rock!

But it is always good to get reminders and nudges to those of us that have been around to get back to sharing and creating an open environment! So don't forget to join us at #NTCbeer
and at NP TECH Karaoke Party