A Weekly ComputorEdge Column by Douglas E. Welch





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April 5, 2002

Build a community

© 2002, Douglas E. Welch

A high-tech career can be lonely. Whether you’re working on some programming problem, installing gigabytes of software, updating web sites or trying to solve some intractable computer problem, it can often feel as if you are all alone, with no one to praise you, no one to help you and no one to watch your back. Spend enough hours in "heads down" mode, as I call it, and you can find yourself yearning for a little human interaction. There are ways, though, to help you stay focused on your career by developing your own personal support group.

Welcome to the community!

As a high-tech careerist, you have probably already found that there are a myriad of communities just waiting for you to join. These, usually electronic, communities can be developed around your technical needs, your career needs of even your personal interests. I find that when I am stuck on a particularly difficult problem, these online communities are one of the first places I turn. There is nothing quite like querying ten thousand of your "closest friends" when you can’t figure out why that network card doesn’t work with that PC. It is like having thousands of consultants on hand to assist you in your work. All these communities ask in return is that you reciprocate, offering your expertise when someone else is in need.

Sometimes these professional communities can develop into something more. As you communicate more and more frequently with members of the community you will naturally develop an affinity for certain members, and they to you. Many online friendships end up with face-to-face meetings somewhere down the road, for no other reason than putting a face to all the words on their computer screens.

While these types of communities are no replacement for more intimate relationships they can really help in quelling that feeling that you are fighting against the world with no hope of the Calvary riding over the next hill.

Friends and neighbors

The most important community you can develop, though, is that of you closest personal friends and relatives. I try to keep an on-going mental list of my friends and their high-tech specialties. If I need help with video-related issues, I call my friend Ric. Windows problems bring an instant message or email to my friend Sam. Macintosh and kiosk issues go to Mitch. Problems with QuickBooks brings a call to my sister, Denise, who runs her own consultancy in the Coachella Valley. Over the years we have come to rely on each other to help out when one of us runs into something out of the ordinary. It is the high-tech equivalent of a police officer calling for backup when things get rough.

The same rules apply if you are working inside of a large corporation. You should be able to call upon your colleagues for their particular specialties. If you find that you can’t rely on your peers then this might be a good indication that you should be looking for another position. Companies that foster an environment of information hoarding are not working up to their potential and you could find yourself out of work before you know it.

My ad hoc collection of personal experts allows me to reach beyond my known capabilities and develop my high-tech career into newer areas. Without somewhere to turn for information I would be much less inclined to take on new clients that might be using different software or require more experience with particular hardware or software. It is only through developing my support network that I can build my high-tech career. I believe you will find the same to be true for you.

Whether you are developing your own personal support group or joining the thousands of electronic communities out there, you will find that reaching out to others can be an amazing way to increase your knowledge, gain much needed moral support, and expand your career possibilities. It is always important to remember that, even in a high-tech career, people are still of the highest importance. It is these people, friends, co-workers and clients, who will make or break your high-tech career.

about this column.

Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on Douglas' web page at:

He can reached via email at

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