Industry groups can be a great source of networking that can help you find the next step in your career. These groups often offer professional development opportunities to help you develop your career skills.
Like many groups organized around a shared interest, members of industry groups all work in the same field and face the same challenges. They can range from a global community like the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), comprised of computing professionals and students with nearly 100,000 members, to smaller groups focused on local IT communities.
Whether it is a difficult workplace, a tricky technical issue, or professional development tips, odds are someone in the group has gone through the same thing and often is willing to advise or mentor someone.
“Early in my career, I was involved with various groups, mainly Infragard, to network with people in the same or similar industries,” explained John Bambenek, principal threat hunter at Netenrich, an IT and security operations company. “I hadn’t really decided on where I wanted my career to go so it helped me gain exposure to other possibilities.”
He still interacts with many of the people he met there; in addition, he’s found ways for their respective organizations to work together. At this point in his career, the groups fulfill more of a social purpose, but can still lead to valuable connections to quickly resolve problems or establish trusted connections with other organizations.
“As with any organization, you get out as much as you can put in,” he said. “It’s better to be deeply involved in one or two groups than a superficial member of many.”
He recommends focusing on groups of similar technical interest. For best results, members of the group should also align with your personality, which can lead to deep connections that will last throughout your career. “When you get later in your career, it will be more important who you work with than where you work,” he said.
As Bambenek noted, it’s also worthwhile to visit each association’s website and do the pertinent research for information on membership costs and requirements.
Tech industry groups are an important means for professionals to connect and receive mentorship related to their careers. They provide ample opportunity for technologists to meet colleagues who have already charted a path to success—and learn from them.
Kevin Dunne, President at Pathlock, a Flemington, New Jersey-based provider of unified access orchestration, suggested that, in small companies, there often aren’t other individuals focused on the same issue or problem. In light of that, these groups provide an outlet to meet other individuals in similar roles.
“For those working in larger companies, they often find that these groups provide a new way of looking at problems by exploring how other companies are attacking the same challenges,” he said.
Having participated in many of these as an organizer and a sponsor, Dunne believes they provide a great outlet for those looking to advance their careers: “These memberships often resulted in promotions or even new positions at other companies.”
The groups can also provide an independent channel where technologists can ask questions of their peers without fearing any sort of negative impact to their personal brand or status within their company. Additionally, they’re exposed to how other companies attack the same problems and what best-in-class tech organizations look like across industries and company sizes.
In most cases, there aren't many downsides to joining multiple associations. From Dunne’s perspective, the main consideration is how much time you can invest overall to these associations, and whether you want to go deep in one association or more surface level in multiple associations.
“Typically, going deeper in one association will provide more opportunity to achieve a leadership role, which correlates closely to promotions and an overall increase in awareness,” he said.