In Halifax, many people know Andrew Shouldice from the Halifax Game Collective event he runs. The event brings together a group of talented creators who demo the games and digital media projects they’re working on. On a recent weekend, Andrew's upcoming game, TUNIC, appeared prominently in Microsoft's E3 announcements.
"That tiny fox in a big world is a prime example of the reach of gaming today. A labour of love conceived and created by a single developer in Halifax, Nova Scotia, is today commanding gaming's largest stage." Phil Spencer, Executive President of Gaming at Microsoft
It's inspiring to hear this sort of story mention your home town. But more than inspiring, it's empowering having a friendly group of people doing world-class work. Halifax isn't a huge city, but there are success stories like this around every corner. Several of them surprising even to my extremely in-the-loop coworkers.
I bet your home has similar stories, too. So, here’s my pitch to you: Find those stories and share them. Networking events aren't just for gossip and beer (although, I'm loath to say no to the latter). They can help to materially improve where you live. In "Boosting Tech Innovation" Mulas, Minges, and Applebaum argue that innovation is more likely to occur in places where more random "collisions" occur. That is, when innovative people who wouldn't normally meet are encouraged to chat. The authors suggest that networking and collaborative spaces should be policy priorities for urban areas wanting more tech innovation. Intuitively, this makes a lot of sense. Every crazy idea gets slightly less scary if you know the people who can help make it happen. You might know (or be!) just the person to help inspire or empower someone else.
While I love large networking events - and even do a bit to help run one - they're not always for everyone. That’s where Halifax has another surprise: The Connector Program. This matches Connectors (those who know the scene) and Connectees (recent grads and people new to the city) and helps those who are new to the area get their foot in the door. I'm proud to be a member of this program, and it's a great feeling to help people—many still new to Canada—get their start in a city I love. Not in Nova Scotia? The National Connector Program is a Canada-wide effort based on the original Halifax program.
Never been to a networking event before? Please give it a shot. They're everywhere, and sites like meetup.com can help you find just the right group for you. Are you a seasoned networker? Encourage others to step outside their comfort zone and make new connections. They're more than just a fun way of socializing, they can contribute to the economic development of your city with every new conversation.
——— Gavin Anderegg is a former Lead Developer, Data Insights at NATIONAL Public Relations