User groups and meetups are a great way to learn and network!
I’ve attended the Nashville .NET User Group meetings in the past since I’m a .NET developer. The typical vibe is less awkward than you might think if you haven’t been to one. C’mon, it’s a bunch of nerds nerding out about nerd stuff – you’d be crazy not to think it would be awkward. The neat thing is that most of the people who attend are nice people who want to learn about .NET related topics, share their knowledge or experience, and get to know you as someone who shares interests.
You don’t have to “fit the demographic” to be welcomed into the meeting. The .NET meetup is great for .NET developers, but it’s also great for developers who do not use .NET. Any developer can usually glean at least a nugget of insight or useful information from the presentations. The fact that you aren’t a .NET developer may be the reason you want to go – to learn about .NET.
If you work with or near someone who is a developer, you can benefit from talking to developers and at least hearing the presentations even if you don’t understand a word of it. You’ll likely pick up more than you realize, and you will be able to say some words in a conversation … even if you say nonsensical things, the dev will likely appreciate that you know some words.
Finally, you should attend a meetup if you just want to be exposed to new topics. What better way to discover things than to attend a meeting about the things? It’s much safer than switching careers just to learn about an industry you’re curious about.
The content is not always specific to the group. The technical meetups I’ve attended sometimes have presentations on career panels, conflict resolution, and other topics that span almost any career. So, go find a meetup and get some knowledge!
It so happens that I will be speaking at the Nashville .NET User Group meeting this Thursday (03/14/2019). Check out their meetups page and follow them on twitter for more info!