Epiphany of Volunteering

Been struggling with the desire to volunteer – to take my skills out to organizations and people who don’t normally have access to the kind of big corporate expertise – and to give myself opportunities to give back to my community.

Only problem is: the kinds of groups in which I want to volunteer (eg. Hack Oregon) are filled with amazing coders who might not feel friendly and welcoming to a “business/product/design” guy who wants to help out but isn’t a coder or database geek.

I’ve been out to a couple of events, and watched the participants gather together in their natural tendencies. I start out feeling self-conscious and a deficit for any group I force myself into, and end up just chatting with whoever it feels like might also be feeling disconnected.

I’ve lost my nerve with such organizations and ended up not finding an outlet for my desire to help, contribute my energy and experience, and effect change.

Today for no explicable reason, it occurred to me that rather than approaching volunteering as a place to contribute, and instead set my goal to “learning”.

I thought of this when Catherine Nikolovsky talked about the number of Big Data and data visualization nerds her organization, and I lit up thinking, “I want to learn about Big Data and Dataviz!”

What if I showed up and attempted to simply ask questions, see how Big Data apps are built, and what kinds of decisions are made in developing an effective data visualization?

Do I have the nerve to show up and insert myself without any ego – without an intention to help, but rather just to listen?

And now, a random picture from today’s Facebook distractions:


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