Friday, November 29, 2019

Growing your community through User Groups

This article is about sharing my experiences with starting a user group in Wellington and growing the user group.

The "Wellington Data Management and Analytics" ( user group was started back in August 2017 with just 1 member. Also, I am a vegetarian and non-alcoholic but still decided to organise the user group and other events in Wellington.

I had the meetup site created and patiently waited for a month before I scheduled the first user group session. I was surprised that without much promotions or marketing I had more than 20 people attending the session with more than 30 registrations. Now the user group in 2019 is close to reaching 1000 members.

Scheduling regular sessions at user group

I have seen some interesting user groups getting started but not being able to schedule regular sessions and the community losing the interest with the group. I was clear with one thing which is to run at least one session each month at our user group. This helped really to build the community as we meet regularly each month and share our knowledge and experiences.

Engaging more women attending the user groups

Twice a year I make a point to run Women in Tech sessions to engage more women to get involved in the tech community. It is always great to see more women turning up for these sessions. I am working on few more ideas around how to grow this initiative further.  

Collaboration with other user groups

I build relationships with other user group leaders within the community to increase the visibility of the user groups. I met Xiaodi Yan who runs the Chinese IT Association New Zealand (CITANZ) user group in Wellington. We met last year and co-organised Global AI bootcamp, Global Azure bootcamp and few other events.

Xiaodi uses his experience related to the community to help CITA grow rapidly. These days the CITA meetup has more than 500 members. As a core member of CITA, Xiaodi helps CITA organize monthly meetups. Over the last year, CITA has delivered more than 10 meet-ups, and successfully delivered a range of diversified topics, which covered Azure DevOps, blockchain, cloud computing, .NET Core, Container, Agile, job hunting and many more. The overall attendees are more than 400.
Now I have more Chinese IT professionals attending our events and thanks to Xiaodi for promoting the events and supporting us.

Also, this year most of the Microsoft user groups in Wellington joined together as a single group and hosting the Christmas party on December 5th, 2019. This is a great effort initiated by Ondrej Aubrecht (PowerShell User Group Leader) and we are supporting this initiative. We have more than 100 people across the following user groups attending the Christmas party this year.
  • Wellington PowerShell
  • Wellington Data Management and Analytics
  • Wellington Azure AI
  •  Wellington Azure
  • Wellington Excel and Power BI
  • Wellington Dynamics
  • Wellington D365 

Hosting more events and talks to keep community engaged with support from MVP community

Post starting the Wellington Data Management and Analytics user group, with the support and mentoring from the MVPs I decided to bring SQLSaturday event back to Wellington which further increased the number of people attending the user group and helped in growing the community further. Along with that whenever I get to know about MVPs visiting Wellington, I try to host a user group event to help the community to learn from the experts.

Support from co-organisers and volunteers

User groups can be started with one person but to run it long you need support. I am lucky enough to have Raju RH as my co-organiser who understands the core ideologies of the user group and supports me running it from Day 1. Also, thanks to all my Volunteers and other User group leaders who assist with the user groups as well as other events that we host in Wellington.

Here is a great video put together by one of my volunteer (Lavanya) showcasing the highlights of our SQLSaturday events in Wellington

It is great to be an MVP not just focusing from technical front but also showcasing how to build a great community to learn and share knowledge and learning.

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