From code to community: What led this dev to organize Google Developers Group in his town.
Danny Thompson, a software engineer who went beyond coding and reached community at large to help anyone and everyone to get oneself tech ready. From organizing google meetups to delivering speech in a room full of prisoners, here is the story he shared with us!
Hello, please introduce yourself to our readers.
I live in Memphis, Tennessee, US and work as software engineer at a company called Frontdoor. I am the Chapter founder and organizer of GDG Memphis (@gdgmemphis). Apart from coding, i host meetups and provide resources to developers from all over to help them grow and excel in tech!
You are a software engineer without a CS degree. Do you think CS degree is mandatory to become a developer?
Through persistence and by engaging in consistent action anyone can become a developer. It absolutely is NOT mandatory to require a degree to land a position in tech.These days more companies are concerned with what you are able to produce with code as opposed to requiring a degree to do so.
I started my journey with FreeCodeCamp. I have recommended that more times than I can count! An amazing resource that will take you step by step to help you learn the basics of development. In February of 2019, I was able to join a bootcamp called LaunchCode. Nonprofit bootcamp that does amazing work. I missed the deadline to get in! I begged to get in. I told them “I will be the best student you ever had if you give me the opportunity to get in!” I kept my word. Graduated at the top of my class. That is when I fell in love with helping others find jobs in tech! So last year I focused on creating a network so powerful that I could help others find jobs. Last year i was able to help 44 people land their first jobs in tech!
Wow, that is amazing Dan. Lets talk about ‘GDG Memphis Meetup ‘. When was it started and purpose to organize?
I started doing meetups with another group and the reason why I wanted to get involved was I kept hearing the same answer over and over again. I would ask people “How do you get that first job in tech?” and everyone would say the same thing “OH MAN! It is SOOOOO hard to get the first job. It is the hardest thing! but once you find the first job it is much easier to find more.” I thought this was the worst answer I have ever heard. It is demotivating instead of motivating. So i wanted to be able to help developers find jobs, become better and learn more to further help them grow. Not only that, I realized many developers are introverts. They are nervous to speak with other developers. So i decided I will be the extrovert for the introvert! I will be their megaphone to help show the world how great they are! So i started focusing on meetups as a tool to help do that. In October of 2019, I started GDG Memphis. We have had some phenomenal people be members of our community and truly grow within it. We have had some amazing meetups with speakers such as Quincy Larson, Kent C Dodds, Josh Carroll and MongoDB! They have inspired and helped our developers grow. The group has helped developers feel comfortable in a meetup environment, it has even helped developers make friends with other local developers around them!
GDG Memphis is a group backed by Google developers. It was a natural partnership for me because they are also passionate about the same things I am. They WANT to help other developers grow, they want us to build our communities and there are GDG’s all over the world. India, other parts of Asia, Europe and America. You can probably find a local GDG near you!
How are the meetups conducted and how often is it done?
My goal is for the entire tech community, whether you have 20 years of experience or 3 months. You are all welcome at GDG Memphis meetup. We want everyone to feel comfortable, have an environment where they can grow and learn. The one thing about this field, this is a life long journey of learning, so I want to be open to developers of all background and skill levels.
Due to the coronavirus we have been doing all of our meetups online. Previously, every meetup has been in person. I really enjoy the in person meetups because that is where you are getting the full experience! But now with the online meetups, I am realizing we can help developers all over the world. So i think even after things go back to normal after the virus, we will maintain some meetups online to continue to provide resources to developers all over! I will do anything within my power to make sure if there is a developer that wants to learn, I will be there to lend a hand in their journey. Whether I need to help them with advice, ideas or guidance.We have a meetup coming up on April 9th,2020 and I have a feeling that meetup will be around 150 people or so.
What are some common questions people ask in meetups?
I don’t think there is a common question. I think everyone comes with the idea of learning, meeting new people and becoming a better version of themselves.
I am also focused on helping more women learn to code and get more jobs in tech. Not just because there is data that suggests they have a harder time fighting against bias BUT 84% of single parents in America are women. There are some very low income areas in our city. Average household income of 18k a year. If I can take one person from that area and get them a better job making 100k, they are now generating the income of 5.5 households. If I can get 20 people from that area, I just changed the neighborhood! Now if I can get more of the single mothers in this category, this trickles down to their children. This now helps deter gang activity and drug use which ultimately trickles down to help give their children a jump start on their own future. This helps the family get out of poverty. Now everyone in this area is in a new tax bracket. So now this can help the schools get more resources. This can help the area get more funding, can create a ripple effect felt for generations!
Any advise you want to give our readers ?
I just gave a speech to a room full of prisoners that are learning to code. The passion filled the room and could tear down the walls it was so strong! They hung on my every word. These developers are working with some difficult situations to achieve their goals.The odds are stacked against them and they work SO HARD to be phenomenal at what they are doing. They may be down, but they haven’t sung their last song just yet!
The only advice I could give is don’t stop! Just don’t stop! as long as you are heading towards you goal, no matter how slow, the possibility of your goal exists. But if you stop, the only guarantee I can give is that your goal will die. So just keep moving towards it and doesn’t matter how long it takes. I have a friend who took 6 years to become a software engineer, took me under a year. The big thing with that is, it DOESN’T MATTER! Both of our titles are “Software Engineer” his title isn’t “Took 6 years to be a software engineer” Our titles are the same, our paychecks are the same. So there is no prize for doing it in a short period of time or a long period of time. Just be true to yourself and focus on YOUR journey! You are valuable and amazing. Just remember that.
Everything I do and am able to achieve is through the help of my amazing partners and communities in Memphis,like the Memphis Technology Foundation.They are focused in growing Memphis tech, CodeCrew, a nonprofit that teaches new developers how to code. CareerQuo , need a mentor ? they help pair people with mentors for one on one sessions to give advice and help. Vaco Memphis, they have been AMAZING partners to help developers become better at marketing themselves and help in finding jobs. I also thank my mentors! We all need mentors. I have amazing mentors like Joe Ferguson and James Q Quick.The lessons they have helped me with and given me are more valuable than words can express. I also have amazing group of people around me to learn with and talk through ideas like Lawrence Lockhart, Isaac Arcos Huicochea, JC Smiley, David Nguyen and Walker Laury.I really want to express HOW MUCH and HOW VALUABLE all of these people and groups have been to me.
This was really amazing and inspiring interview Dan, thank you!