In April 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, I started having virtual coffees. It started as once-a-week sessions where we talked about the pandemic and our lives, and being laid off, and homebirths, and having kids at home, and terrible interview practices, and what our hearts were broken for. And then it went to two times a week. And then it became a slack. And eventually, we became Virtual Coffee. We’ve grown a lot. And I know that I certainly have, but it took me a while to realize that.

Recently, I was laid off. I had just finished my first year in DevRel-though I had been doing DevRel-y things since I started coding. It’s been a lot to process.

Tweet with text: "My last couple of weeks in tech have been such a roller coaster. I’ve been angry, sad, excited, disappointed, tired, pessimistic, and optimistic. I’m hoping to add *happy* next week."

During that time, I felt behind. “I’m not as good a coder as I was a year ago.” “I don’t technically have experience as a developer advocate since my title didn’t reflect that work.” “I should’ve done things differently.” “What am I going to do next?” And maybe I should’ve done things differently. And maybe I could be better at some things. But someone pointed out to me that no matter what my experience in my last role was, I still have everything I’ve learned from Virtual Coffee.

So I started going through the notes from this year, just from Virtual Coffee meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays in 2023.

Just in this year, I’ve had conversations about interviewing, job hunt, career growth, salary negotiations, severance negotiations, layoffs, core skills, effective meetings, general technology, learning, hosting websites, unions, contracting and consulting, public speaking, finances, mental health, documentation, hardware, open source, mentoring, onboarding, scope creep, company culture, scope creep, kids & code, teaching code, listening effectively, coding best practices, effective communication, indie-hacking, adhd, effective feedback, management, AI, security, and debugging. This year.

Friends, I have been doing this for three years and I almost forgot the value I get beyond making connections with some of the most amazing people I know. I forgot that I am learning with every conversation. And I’m learning in a way that most people don’t have the opportunity to learn. I have three years of education, learning from other people at all stages of the tech industry, at all levels, in roles that encompass most of tech.

I am privileged to say that I have one of the best educations available to anyone in the tech industry because I have been lucky enough to listen to so many different people with so many different experiences. I don’t have experience in some roles in tech, but I have heard the pain points, the success stories, the complicated experiences, and I’ve learned from those situations.

When you’re in school and you’re studying a topic, you’re often three or more times removed. The author researches other people’s experiences and reports on them, and then the teacher facilitates the conversation about those experiences. I’ve had first-person conversations with the people who have had the experiences. And beyond that, I’ve had them in a space where people often feel comfortable being open and vulnerable in their conversations. And we often miss that piece in higher education.

I am so lucky.

My greatest strength in tech is that I have learned from all of the people around me. That I have had conversations with people when they were vulnerable, at the height of their career, making a career pivot, managing other people, being their authentic selves at Virtual Coffee. I have a Master’s Degree worth experience in the tech industry, and I’m just getting started.