3 Ways OKC’s Thunderplains Conference Transformed My Career in 12 Months
Fact: OKC’s Thunderplains Conference has altered the trajectory of my career in a massively positive way.
If you told me a year ago before my first time attending that it would lead to:
- Starting my dream job working at an OKC software startup
- Meeting invaluable friends, mentors, and impressive makers through the local Techlahoma community
- Amplifying my excitement for development, which would lead to massive personal growth (and happiness)
I would’ve had no idea. But I hope sharing my experience will encourage at least one person on the fence about jumping into local tech events to see what’s possible.
1. I Learned to Always Say “Yes” to Public Speaking (Even When It’s Scary)
Last year was the first time I really tried my hand at a “Lightning Talk” — a quick, 5-minute presentation. Here’s the thing: I almost never actually feel like signing-up at the time, but I’m always glad when I do.
It’s easy to sit down, stay quiet, and feel safe. Stepping out feels vulnerable.
But I’m ridiculously glad after following through at Thunderplains the past two years. My split-second decision last year to rattle through a short talk on “Marketing Your Side Project on a Shoestring Budget” sparked an introduction with 3 Tailwind team members, which eventually lead to me joining the marketing team this May.
It just takes 5 minutes of bravery to open 5 months of new opportunities. Why not give it a shot?
Just focus on teaching one thing. Lightning talks don’t have to be crazy complicated to bring value. This year I simply broke down a few quick marketing and customer development lessons I’ve gleaned from side projects and working alongside smart Tailwind folks.
Remember: Your ideas might seem painfully obvious to you — but this could be your audience‘s first exposure to a game-changing idea.
Here’s the LONG version of the presentation I gave. I whittled it down to about 14 slides to rip through the bare essentials in 4 minutes and 59 seconds.
2. I Made Time and Space to Get Friendly with Oklahoma City’s Tech Community
Twitter’s a valuable platform for connecting with makers in tech. LinkedIn makes keeping in touch with professional connections frictionless. However…
Something special happens when you bring all your community’s like-minded makers together.
I’m constantly running into smart, talented, generous people I met for the first time at last year’s conference.
Striking up conversations with the developers around me opened my eyes to a simple truth: These are real people just like me. We all want to make cool stuff that matters.
Don’t underestimate how motivating this can be! I’m far more excited to jump into a local meetup now that I know a handful of people I can strike up an (only slightly awkward) conversation with.
3. Excited Makers -> Make You Excited
Almost every week I chat with someone I’ve met from a conference — and it always pumps me up.
There’s no way I’d be diving into marketing or software development if it weren’t for a crowd of talented, passionate people who:
- Introduced me to new frameworks, communities, strategies, blog posts, podcasts, and courses
- Gave feedback on my podcasts, videos, and side project ideas
- Keep me accountable to actually ship work — whether it’s a blog post like this or a quick-and-dirty API.
Key takeaway: Find people who get as excited as you do about creating impactful projects that make the world a better place. Surround yourself with them and stay in touch.
Last year I met Dale Spoonemore who shared his burning passion to create an app that could teach anyone to grow their own food in a backyard garden. Ambitious? Sure — but he did it.
Last year, Seed to Spoon was more-or-less an idea in its infancy. This year he stood on stage at the closing keynote to share his riveting journey to 60,000 app downloads.
Dale is walking proof that you can code the change you want to see in the world — and that’s terrifically exciting.