Stepping away from my work desk: WordCamps, WebVisions & Meetups

Over the past couple of years, I have been diving back into the tech communities out there to get brought back up to speed. In addition to training for new technologies online, I not only wanted but needed to have a face-to-face community to compare what other designers and developers are doing. Being self-employed, one can quickly disappear from the tech scene. Therefore, it became one of the best decisions I had made in my career, to get out and away from my work desk. In addition, I also am fortunate to be located in Chicago, which naturally has vast groups of people wanting to talk about a wide range of topics all within a concentrated demographic area.

Chicago WordCamp

I attended my first WordCamp Chicago this year. The Thursday before the 3-day event, I had the ‘might as well check it out… why not… although probably not a life-changing event’ attitude. Sunday night, I threw out all my preconceptions of WordPress and began a new view of how I worked, what I worked on, and the future of my work. Oh, and they talked about WordPress too! It was a ‘work life’ changing event.

In addition to the overwhelming amount of information, insight, and excitement about WordPress technology, there was the community. The WordPress community was an impressive group of people to see firsthand and talk with. People came from over the world and varied in expertise from the very developers of WordPress to retired people wanting to learn more for their own projects. I was also introduced to SiteGround via the vendor booths. There, for the first time, I could talk person to person-with the people who run and develop WordPress-specific hosting needs. Their company’s culture really impressed me and have been using them from that day forward.

Best of all, WordCamp Chicago 2014 was archived on video to reflect back on months and probably years ahead.

I will definitely be back in 2015 and hope to participate more in the non-structured areas to extend my experience from the year before. Feel free to reach out to me if you plan on attending too!

Chicago WebVisions

A few months after WordCamp, I was thrilled to have won a raffle within a Meetup group to attend Chicago WebVisions 2014. For years, I had always wanted to attend this event to see ‘the future’ in web design and development, as well as the technologies they will be displayed on. Similar to WordCamp, there were many great presentations to choose from throughout the day. Some of my favorites included:

Build for the future, don’t just talk about it

Finding Balance in the Techpocalypse

MARS Project/Teaching Afro-Futurism!

I hope to go again to WebVisions next year and also participate in one of the hackathons they hold the day before.

Chicago Meetups

A couple of years ago, I also started again attending Meetups in the Chicago area. Ranging from WordPress-specific topics to wearable technologies, I always pick up something new that translates into a better next project. Some of the past Meetups that I have attended include:

Neuromarketing: The Brain Science of Web Marketing

Designing with SCSS

Making the Most of Email Marketing

Responsive Web Design

Technical Search Engine Optimization ( SEO )

There is a different energy that I truly enjoy when going to these Meetups that I would surely miss otherwise. I urge anyone, and I mean anyone, to attend these Meetups to see for themselves. A few favorites that I attend regularly include the Chicago Northside WordPress Meetup, Queer Tech Club, and Chicago HTML5 Meetup. Please, say hi if you see me!

Occasionally, I also attend other tech-related events throughout the year, such as gdgt, Nokia, and other emerging tech unveiling events ( to fulfill the geek needs in me ).

On those days when I can’t escape the desk, I occasionally signup for the ever-growing list of free webinars that are being offered. Various subjects ranging from responsive email development to Adobe product usage to hosting optimization with SiteGround, have all been well worth the time. Groups of people have also been virtually gathering on Google Hangouts which can be equally informative as the above.

To wrap things up, I wanted to share this with not only fellow designers and developers but my clients as well. All of this translates, if not immediately, but eventually to better web design. I have seen my own skill set grow at a much faster rate than ever before by getting away from the computer. Who would have thought?