I returned back to the US on December 24th (approximately two weeks ago). I overcame a week of jetlag, where I was waking up at 4 AM every morning and going to bed by 8pm. Not such a bad habit if you ask me. Before returning, I decided I was going to do a bit of traveling in the US, knowing that I was going to bunkerdown in Orange County, while finishing up some remaining school tasks. I planned a trip to New Mexico, Texas, the Bay Area, Detroit, New York, Boston, and Washington DC.
Honestly, I have no idea why I planned the trip. I had some places that I knew I wanted to visit (Im looking at you Detroit), but no concrete reasons or goals. I sort of decided that I needed to look at jobs, I needed to reintroduce myself to cities in the US after being China for a year, and finally I needed to see friends.
Immediately after getting into Aliso Viejo, I thought I had caught a cold. The opposite timezones threw off my internal clock. I decided I needed to get a jumpstart on aclimating to US life and started a process of reaching out to old clients and meeting new web developers.
My first step started in China. I used Reddit’s /r/webdev community to start asking people if they were interested in partnering to work together on projects. I was up at 3am trying to finalize some client work when I decided it would be a good idea to look for co-workers. The result was suprising. I had respondents from Japan, Ireland, and Los Angeles.
Being the internet, I did my best to create a concrete bond beyond a Reddit comment. I got skype/email contact information and started coordinating some direct contact. The Japan and Ireland connections were both quite experienced web developers in their field. On was a designer (Ireland) and the other a security expert (Japan).
The user from Los Angeles was most interesting, because he was the one I was most likely to meet. Los Angeles connection was a PHP developer and offered to meet when I arrived back in the US.
Networking through Reddit
I met Dan Morgan the third day I returned from China. Not being able to drive, my father graciously took time to drive me up to LA. I met with Dan over dinner, where I promised to cover the tab in exchange for his time.
My goal was to get as much exposure to the developer community in Los Angeles. I was looking to justify my interest in being a frontend developer in Los Angeles, as well as look for some validation in my experience in China. Having been out of the country and never apart of the professional web development community in California (or the US), I felt meeting people already in the field was the best step.
My conversation with Dan started out with him trying to guide me in the right direction. I was looking for what organizations I should watch out for, what meet ups I should be looking to join, and where I would be most efficient at meeting people who valued the work I had to offer. Dan answered my questions by guiding me to looking into the design firm Huge. He also alluded to the fact that there was a inflated value toward UX designers in Los Angeles.
Our conversation quickly shifted to how we could be mutually useful to one another. First I understood that he had personal projects of his own (as most developers should/do). I also was able to validate my own experience in China by realizing that not all people had experience with the LEAN startup methodology. More so, I realized that my experience organizing tech meetups and events was a valuable experience that would be useful in the context of networking.
Overall Dan was very enlightening. He made me realize there are different kinds of developers. To be blunt, people like Dan are very talented but not aware of the many opportunities around. Dan is the type of person would look for an easy solution available to making money. He was not interested in working hard for someone elses idea.
This attitude was not because Dan was lazy, but because he was tired of developing other people’s ideas without being properly rewarded. I saw this in some sense a result of being jaded by the community. This showed me that if I continue to do work for others, I need to enter contracts/relationships with the understanding that I need to cover my bases from the beginning. Rather than expecting to be rewarded in the future for work in the past, I need to make sure I am rewarded in the present.
Reddit to the rescue (again)
Next step, I drove to New Mexico with Ryan. We decided to go the scenic route through the native American reservations in Arizona. Our route took us through parts of Arizona where we didnt know anybody. We needed a place to sleep, but were also keeping to a restricted budget.
Our trip began on New Years day and we were going to need to find ap l ace to stay on that evening. We expected to be in Flagstaff or Sedona Arizona (approximately 400 miles from our final destination). Also, little did we know that the nightly temperature was below 0 degrees fahrenheit. This meant no sleeping in the car.
On December 31st, I posted on the /r/Arizona sub-reddit that we were looking for a place to stay on the night of the first. To my pleasant suprise, a redditor took up the call to host myself and my friend. Mind you, complete strangers.
Zach, in all his willingness, was okay with us coming to his house at 11pm (our expected arrival time). He gave us his room (where he had a couch and bed) and told us to make outselves at home. We met for no more than 5 minutes, because he had to be up for work the next morning at 5am. He even left before we woke up in the morning, so by the time we left, we never even got to say bye.
I am extremely grateful for his willingness to host us. Ryan and I left a small gift (a book, photos, and chocolates) to say thanks. Apart from some text message exchanges, we didnt otherwise communicate. Before leaving, Ryan and I cleaned up the room. We tried to leave the place cleaner than when we arrived.
Overall, loving the network opportunities coming from Reddit. Highly recommend it to others looking to connect with new job markets or looking for places to live!