Silicon Valley HOWTO: networking and getting things done
Compared to how things are getting done in Ukraine, Silicon Valley is different in many ways. Here is some of the stuff I learned about work/business culture and networking from my trip.
Events are for networking
People in the Valley are super-busy.
You can’t just show up at the office and expect to have meaningful meeting with the people you need. Or shoot an email asking for a “meeting” with a person you haven’t met. Doesn’t work.
Here I came to appreciate events, meetups and conferences. People who are there came specifically to hang out and expect to be distracted and bumped into by all kinds of people.
That’s where you can meet the people you wanted to meet, present your idea and then follow-up meaningfully via email or a meeting. Mark Suster has a great post about networking on conferences, go read it.
Sourcing for events
OK, events are great. How do you actually find them and choose which one to attend? Let me guide you.
Event directories and calendars
Bigger events and conferences are easier to find via Eventbrite which also lets you buy a ticket right on the spot. Search for startup events near Mountain View yields 128 results.
Meetup for small events and User Groups, Evenbrite for conferences — this will get you
You’ll quickly discover that there
Ask people you know who share your interests. OK, maybe you don’t know that much local people. Then use the power of social networking. It really works.
They give you “social proof” — you can browse through attendees of the event to check that they’re indeed the people you’d want to meet. You can also “follow” people — this will quickly give you a short list of events worth of digging deeper, by following people you know and trust. Example.
Do not waste everyone’s time
As I said, people are super-busy. They are keen to help but it’s your job to explain how exactly they might help you.
Explain who you are, what you’re trying to accomplish with a meeting, have a couple of suggestions for time and place. 3 Ways to Request and Get a Face-to-Face Meeting.
Be on time. Cut the smalltalk. Unlike Ukrainians, Americans like to get to the core question right from the start. Control your time and do not overrun it. Again, everyone’s busy.
Prepare a pitch. Ask for specifics: advice, money, introduction. Just remember: you don’t get stuff you don’t ask for!
“Pay it forward” attitude
First question you hear after “what do you do” is often "How can I help you“?People are actually proactive in trying to help others.
Some probably do it for “karma” or purely pragmatic reasons. Many are simply seem to be genuinely interested in helping people out. I don’t know for sure and it doesn’t really matter. Use it to your advantage but do not abuse. Karma, again. Offer help though as a visitor you probably won’t be able to help much.
Btw, it’s one of the striking differences with culture I see here in Ukraine but things are changing and I’m glad to be able to help to instill these values.
Do your homework
Plan your trip to the Valley.
Prepare and refine your pitch. Research background and current interests people you’re trying to meet. Prepare lists of people you plan to meet at the conferences and questions you want to ask. Again, be specific.
It takes time, right. But you better spend this time at home then using precious time during the trip.
People seem to be at work most of their time but they enjoy it. Having fun and generally being happy at what you’re doing seems to be part of DNA of the Valley and one of the critical reasons people can actually pull off amazingly ambitious ideas.
Try it and you’ll like it. It’s contagious! ;)