5 Minute Q&A with Michael Stricklen - NodeSchool Manchester

by Pat Hammond on Friday, April 17, 2015

NodeSchool Manchester

Location: TBD
Date: TBD, (check their meetup.com page for details)

The Facts:

  • price: free
  • atmosphere: casual, professional, friendly, supportive
  • amenities: TBD based on venue
  • content: workshop format, independent study with group & mentor support, open discussion, networking

The Details:

Usually when I write about networking groups I am talking about traditional business groups that share job leads and client referrals, but today I'm putting on my tech hat so that I can give you the 411 about one of Manchester's newest meetup groups, NodeSchool Manchester.

I'm going to warn you up front that this one is a little geeky, but it's a great opportunity for a developer, even a relative beginner, to pick up some new skills, connect with other developers and find a local mentor.

NodeSchool Manchester is a chapter of the international NodeSchool group, a volunteer project developed "to create a high quality programming curriculum and to host community learning events.[1]"

The program uses lessons grouped together in what they call Workshoppers.

Workshoppers are automated lessons that present a problem and all the information you need to write a program to solve it. According to NodeSchool's website the lessons start easy and build in difficulty as the student works through the solutions.

If you've ever scrolled through coding guidelines, reverse engineered a working program or trolled the IRC looking for help you can appreciate the value of programs like NodeSchool, especially when it's live in your own backyard.

Which brings us back to NodeSchool Manchester.

As a pseudo-tech person I was really excited to see that Manchester was getting a local NodeSchool chapter so I dashed off an interview request and coordinated a time to sit down and talk with NodeSchool Manchester organizer Michael Stricklen about NodeSchool and his plan to bring the power of Node.js to New Hampshire.

QCB: What motivated you to start the local NodeSchool group?

MS: A lot of local businesses are invested in Node, it's a fast way to get applications up and running, but there aren't enough local Node developers. Starting a NodeSchool chapter in Manchester is an easy way to quickly teach local developers how to use Node.

This is a common theme from a lot of the local tech group organizers. Technology is a broad term that covers a lot of territory. It morphs and expands at a frightening pace and when companies need boots on the ground it makes sense to create a community to build and support your own techs.

QCB: You haven't even had your first meeting yet, are you surprised by how many people have joined?

MS: Yes. I hadn't done anything other than create the group and was suddenly getting emails from Meetup.

Stricklen's eyes get wide and a grin spreads across his face as he recounts the day he got the email. "I was in New York City and I suddenly get this email on my phone saying congratulations. " I was shocked. All I did was set up the group on Meetup.com. I didn't do any promotions or anything.

He didn't create a first meeting, set up a Twitter or Facebook account or do anything else to promote the group. People just saw it when they logged on to Meetup.com and joined.

Putting this in context, I was amazed that Jay Winston's Londonderry Breakfast Networking Group had 60 members within the first four months and they started with a core group from a defunct Gold Star group. NodeSchool is sitting at about 40 members and they haven't even had their first meeting.

I point out that there is a lot of local interest in learning Node.js. My PHP group has been looking for someone to do a presentation on Node since last June, but we couldn't find anyone comfortably conversant. (Note: Stricklen is giving a Node talk at this month's meetup.)

QCB: When is the first meeting & where will you meet?

MS: We haven't scheduled the first meeting, but are hoping for the first or second week of May.

"It's surprisingly difficult to find a place to meet," but I am hoping to set the first meeting for the first or second week of May.

As one of the organizers of the New Hampshire PHP group I know firsthand that Manchester is seriously challenged when it comes to free, or at least budget friendly, meeting space that has good wifi, parking and food.

Stricklen says that SilverTech, a digital marketing agency and Manchester tech leader, has signed on as NodeSchool Manchester's sponsor. He's still looking at alternatives, but says they may end up meeting at SilverTech's headquarters.

It's a good solution. They have the bandwidth and are in a central location with plenty of parking and restaurants.

QCB: How often will you meet?

MS: We'll have five sessions in the summer then five sessions in October.

He flashes another one of those grins. "We're off in August and September for sailing season."

He hasn't worked out the details of the schedule, but tells me that they will be doing five sessions of Nodeschool in early summer and another five starting in October.

He also says that he would like to find a couple experienced Node people to act as mentors. The Nodeschool guidelines suggest a 1:5 ratio of experienced programmers to students. The average tech meetup draws about 15 people so two to three experienced programmers would be good.

QCB: What topics will be covered?

MS: I'd like to work through some of the NodeSchool Workshops and possibly develop one of our own.

In addition to NodeSchool's core group of five workshops featuring the tools needed to use Node.js including javascripting, git, learnyounode, npm (package manager) and how to compose streaming interfaces they offer a large selection of topics based on popular libraries. They also encourage users to develop their own workshops based on problems or situations they face in the field. When you're working with an evolving technology this gives a lot of latitude for new topics.

QCB: Who should come?

MS: Anyone interested in programming for the web.

We would like to have some experienced programmers to help mentor, but the group is open to "people interested in programming for the web, total newbies and anyone else. "

Stricklen has been in the industry since the late 80's and is still passionate about technology. Everything about him screams how excited he is to be able to share the things he's learned and it certainly looks like there are a lot of people in New Hampshire who are interested.

Anyone who follows New Hampshire business news knows that the Granite State is working hard to step out of Boston's shadow and make New Hampshire a regional hub for technology and innovation.

With the help of people like Michael Stricklen and programs like NodeSchool we may have a chance to build the skilled workforce needed to bring tech companies here.


1.For more information about NodeSchool visit http://nodeschool.io

2. For more information about NodeSchool Manchester or to contact Michael Stricklen, please visit www.meetup.com/nodeschoolmanchester

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