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How User Groups Can Help You Develop Your IT Skills

People attending a user group

Nicole Doughton A Career in IT

If you work in the IT industry, you may have come across user groups but not yet attended a meetup. User groups are a great way to develop your own IT skills, meet new people in your industry and learn from experts in the field.

Continuing personal development helps to ensure you stay at the top of your game, whatever stage of your career you are at. The IT industry is fast-moving and there is always a new technology around the corner or a new software that can be implemented. It pays to stay up to date with trends, as well as any advancements in your IT niche. Local user groups can be the answer, and there are many hundreds of them around the country (use Meetup to find IT user groups near you).

These tech meetups happen regularly, usually on a monthly basis. The idea of a user group is to bring together technology enthusiasts and industry leaders to discuss the latest developments and breakthroughs in the IT sector. They range from formal presentations and seminars to more casual get-togethers with a social atmosphere. Some user groups focus on very specific technologies and others are broader. The user groups that Spectrum IT sponsors cover PHP, Agile, .Net, SQL, DevOps, Docker, FullStack and more.

If you’re looking to develop your IT skills, there are some key reasons why attending a user group is a good place to start.

1. Learn from the experts

Many user group meetups will host sessions with key speakers who present a talk on their chosen subject in detail. These talks can vary in content from ‘how-to’ guides on using new technologies, to ideas on methodology and application that can help you do your job more efficiently. There is always something to learn, so attending these sessions is useful for your own personal education as well as gaining some practical advice you can apply to your current role. As well as speakers, some user groups might have hands-on workshops for you to practice and apply your new-found knowledge.

2. Share your own knowledge

User groups are also a good forum for you to present your own ideas. You may have had a breakthrough at work and think it is something that could be applied to other areas. Hosting a short talk in a user group gives you a platform for your ideas. You can invite discussion, which will help you to expand on your ideas and improve them based on the feedback. Presenting your ideas in this way will build on your own IT skills by giving you suggestions for taking a project forward. It will also help you develop professionally in other areas, such as public speaking, delivering presentations and commanding the attention of an audience.

3. Network with peers

The great thing about user groups is that they are based in a specific geographical location, which means you can meet up in person with like-minded peers. This is useful for making contacts in your industry, but it also means you can debate, discuss and deliberate on ideas, technology trends and more in a way that you can’t do on your own. You may meet people who you can partner with to take projects forward, or who can help you with a specific area that you might be having trouble with.

4. Solve IT problems 

Many informal meetups of user groups will offer the chance you bring your laptop and work through ideas and problems with others in a sociable environment. This is invaluable, as brainstorming with others will open up new ideas you might not have thought of, expanding your own knowledge. You can return the favour by helping with other projects and problems too. It can often lead to a healthy debate around how to approach a problem or apply a certain piece of tech, which is all useful for developing your own skills.

5. Meet a variety of people

User groups attract a wide range of people from the IT sector, from recent graduates who are just entering the industry to high-level professionals with years of experience. You also get people who are enthusiastic about technology and want to learn more, as well as those who would like to break into the industry but don’t know how to get started. This broad spectrum of talent is what makes user groups so successful. Most people who attend user groups are interested in expanding upon their own knowledge and capabilities. 

Find out more about the user groups that Spectrum IT are involved in.