Last night, I went to the StackOverflow Meetup down by Irvine (~1 hour away) from where I live but I was planning to going to UCI next year so I wanted to meet a few hackers, programmers, and designers in the area and also learn a few things about the industry.
Meeting Up at Irvine
My mom drove me to Irvine and it was different from Torrance. The first noticeable difference was the insurmountable, undeveloped landscape of grassy hills. There was a lot of grass and next to it, was Irvine, a lot of new buildings. The second noticeable difference was the parking space counter. It counted the number of open parking spaces; I wish we had that at Torrance.
I was only a little late. Maybe 15 minutes but the most of the party was already there. I sat down with a bunch of older men and it was awkward but better than I expected since I described a possible outcome to my friend William earlier:
I would be the little asian kid that walks in to a table full of older men and say "Hey guys, this is my mom." then get on to discussing geek topics.
Introductions and Breaking the Ice
In Barnes & Noble, everyone was either drinking beer or Starbucks coffee and I started off by introducing a little about myself and what I do: a high school student pursuing Computer Science. I only recognized two other people there by name. First, I recognized Alexander Farennikov because he had his picture available on the Meetup site (and also the Russian name/accent). Second, I recognized Evgeny Fadeev because he arrived last and introduced himself.
There was also the other guy from Torrance, a game developer with 21 years of experience, a friend of Alex, and some guy looking for help with his side projects. If anyone could clarify who they were, it would be awesome.
All of these people had amazing experience that I couldn't compare to.
Discussions and the Topic Recursion
There were many side topics that were iterated through such as body-type disclosure, python as a programming language, and IMAP parsing but they all looped back to the same topic: side projects. Everyone had their own side project going (not surprising since engineers have that ability to innovate and create simultaneously).
These side projects are a little different from what I'm used to. First, a lot of these side projects were aimed to be potentially profitable. Second, there was a lot of discussion about how difficult it is to get started, get progress, or get help for some of these ideas.
At MetaZaku, the collaboration zone for my development team, I haven't had any difficulty with getting help for my projects but we also don't pursue profit. Our objective is a social mission to promote interest in young adults that hope to pursue higher level education or work in computer-related industries.
Alex put it in simpler terms: "free work". Although I've only done one paid project, getting involved in this industry at young age seems nearly impossible but I really hope to indulge myself in programming (that's why I'm out here anyway).
A Challenge and Expectations for the Next Meetup
One fundamental obstacle that kept these men from pursuing side projects was time. We set up a little challenge such that the next time we meet, someone should be pursuing or have completed a side project of theirs. I have a slight advantage here as a future college student with an abundance of time.
I have a goal set ahead of me to finish a project before the next meetup. I should, however, pursue a project that is potentially profitable.