Conferences What I’m Up To

How to “work the room” at PyCon US 2022!

You never know what kind of connections you’ll make!

PyCon US 2022 is happening this week, with tutorials happening on Wednesday and Thursday, and the main conference starting on Friday and running through the weekend. It’s Python’s largest conference, and according to the venue’s events calendar, almost 3,500 people are expected to attend!

I’m sure that you’ve perused the schedules and picked out the ones that you’d like to attend (and hey, be sure to check out my teammate Jess Temporal’s talk on JSON Web Tokens — a.k.a. JWTs — on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. in room 255DEF). Or perhaps you plan to hit some booth on the Expo floor (come by the Auth0 booth — I’ll be there!). 

But have you planned out how you’re going to work the room?

What is “working the room?”

It’s been my experience that some of the most important things I’ve learned and all the connections I’ve made at conferences didn’t happen at the presentations. Instead, they happened between presentations — in the hallways, lounges, lunches, and social gatherings, where I had the chance to chat with the speakers, organizers, and the other attendees. This observation is so common that it’s given rise to “unconferences” like BarCamp, whose purpose is to invert the order of things so that the conference is more “hallway” than “lecture theatre”.

It’s especially important to talk to people you don’t know or who are outside your usual circle. Books like The Tipping Point classify acquaintances with such people as “weak ties”. Don’t let the word “weak” make you think they’re unimportant. As people outside your usual circle, they have access to a lot of information, people, and opportunities that you don’t. That’s why most people get jobs through someone they know, and of those cases, most of the references came from a weak tie. The sorts of opportunities that come about because of this sort of relationship led sociologist Mark Granovetter to coin the phrase “the strength of weak ties”.

The best way to make weak ties at a conference is to work the room. If the phrase sounds like sleazy marketing-speak and fills your head with images of popped collars and wearing too much body spray, relax. Working the room means being an active participant in a social event and contributing to it so that it’s better for both you and everyone else. Think of it as good social citizenship.

If you’re unsure of how to work the room, I’ve got some tips that you might find handy…

Have a one-line self-introduction

A one-line self-introduction is simply a single-sentence way of introducing yourself to people you meet at a conference. It’s more than likely that you won’t know more than a handful of attendees and introducing yourself over and over again, during the conference, as well as its post-session party events. It’s a trick that Susan RoAne, room-working expert and author of How to Work a Room: The Ultimate Guide to Making Lasting Connections In-Person and Online teaches, and it works. It’s pretty simple:

  • Keep it short — no longer than 10 seconds, and shorter if possible. It’s not your life story, but a pleasantry that also gives people just a little bit about who you are.
  • Make it fit. It should give people a hint of the cool stuff that you do (or, if you’re slogging it out in the hopes of doing cool stuff someday, the cool stuff that you intend to do.)
  • Show your benefits. Rather than simply give them your job title, tell them about a benefit that your work provides in a way that invites people to find out more. Susan RoAne likes to tell a story about someone she met whose one-liner was “I help rich people sleep at night”. That’s more interesting than “I’m a financial analyst”.

My intro will be something along the lines of “I’m a rock and roll accordion player, but in my side gig, I’m a developer advocate for an incredibly cool company that helps make logins happen.”

How to join a conversation

At PyCon, you’ll probably see a group of people already engaged in a conversation. If this is your nightmare…

Click to read the Onion article.

…here’s how you handle it:

  1. Pick a lively group of people you’d like to join in conversation. As people who are already in a conversation, they’ve already done some of the work for you. They’re lively, which makes it more likely that they’re open to people joining in. They’ve also picked a topic, which saves you the effort of having to come up with one. It also lets you decide whether or not it interests you. If they’re lively and their topic of conversation interests you, proceed to step 2. If not, go find another group!
  2. Stand on the periphery and look interested. Just do it. This is a conference, and one of the attendees’ goals is to meet people. Smile. Pipe in if you have something to contribute; people here are pretty cool about that.
  3. When acknowledged, step into the group. You’re in like Flynn! Step in confidently and introduce yourself. If you’ve got that one-line summary of who you are that I talked about earlier, now’s the time to use it.
  4. Don’t force a change of subject. You’ve just joined the convo, and you’re not campaigning. Contribute, and let the subject changes come naturally.

Feel free to join me in at any conversational circle I’m in! I always keep an eye on the periphery for people who want to join in, and I’ll invite them.

More tips

Here’s more advice on how to work the room:

  1. Be more of a host and less of a guest. No, you don’t have to worry about scheduling or if the coffee urns are full. By “being a host”, I mean doing some of things that hosts do, such as introducing people, saying “hello” to wallflowers and generally making people feel more comfortable. Being graceful to everyone is not only good karma, but it’s a good way to promote yourself. It worked out really well for me; for example, I came to the first DemoCamp (a regular Toronto tech event back in the 2000s) as a guest, but by the third one, I was one of the people officially hosting the event.
  2. Beware of “rock piles”. Rock piles are groups of people huddled together in a closed formation. It sends the signal “go away”. If you find yourself in one, try to position yourself to open up the formation.
  3. Beware of “hotboxing”. I’ve heard this term used in counter-culture settings, but in this case “hotboxing” means to square your shoulders front-and-center to the person you’re talking to. It’s a one-on-one version of the rock pile, and it excludes others from joining in. Once again, the cure for hotboxing is to change where you’re standing to allow more people to join in.
  4. Put your coat and bag down. Carrying them is a non-verbal cue that you’re about to leave. If you’re going to stay and chat, put them down. When you’re about to leave, take your coat and bag and start saying your goodbyes.
  5. Show and tell. We’re geeks, and nothing attracts our eyes like shiny, interesting pieces of tech and machinery. It’s why I carry my accordion around; I think of it as a device that converts curiosity into opportunity (and music as well). I’ll be doing the same with my iPhone and ARKit apps as well! Got a particularly funky laptop, netbook, smartphone or new device you just got from ThinkGeek? Got a neat project that you’ve been working on? Whatever it is, park yourself someplace comfortable in the hallway, show it off and start a conversation!
  6. Save the email, tweets and texts for later, unless they’re important.They’ll draw your attention away from the room and also send the message “go away”.
  7. Mentor. If you’ve got skills in a specific area, share your knowledge. Larry Chiang from GigaOm says that “It transitions nicely from the what-do-you-do-for-work question. It also adds some substance to party conversations and clearly brands you as a person.”
  8. Be mentored. You came to RWDevCon to learn, and as I said earlier, learning goes beyond the sessions. One bit of advice is to try and learn three new things at every event.
  9. Play “conversation bingo”. If there are certain topics that you’d like to learn about at PyCon, say ARKit, Android, architecture, and so on, put them in a list (mental, electronic or paper) of “bingo” words. As you converse at the conference, cross off any of those topics that you cover off the list. This trick forces you to become a more active listener and will help you towards your learning goals. Yelling “BINGO!” when you’ve crossed the last item on the list can be done at your discretion.

I’ll see you at PyCon, and if you see me or anyone else on the Auth0 team, please say “hi” — we would love to meet you!

Current Events

What to do now that Elon Musk owns Twitter


Now that Twitter’s been bought by someone with a fifteen-year-old white suburban teen’s concept of free speech and who doesn’t understand how content moderation actually enables free speech, there are a number of people who are considering leaving the platform, in that same way when Donald Trump took the presidency on that bleak day in 2016.

To those people, I say: STAY.

Twitter is about to turn into Reddit from its freewheeling days of the early 2010s, when free speech absolutism was the rule of the day, and what did we get for it? A speaker’s corner for terrible people, a platform for harassment campaigns, a gathering place for bigots, and the birthing ground for Gamergate and the alt-right culture that it enabled.

In the face of this, the best thing to do is to STAY, be ready, organize, and follow the advice of Canadian author Dennis Leigh, which Scottish writer and artist Alasdair Gray adapted:

“Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation.”

Or, since this is a site aimed at techies, here are some encouraging words from David “The 10th Doctor” Tennant said shortly after the UK vote for Brexit:

Here’s a transcript:

It’s all gonna be okay. Trust me, I’m a doctor.

But — it’s up to us to make it okay.

It’s time to be positively rebellious and rebelliously positive. As long as we stand up for what we believe in, don’t give in to anger or violence, look out for the little guy, keep an eye on the big guys, refuse to keep our mouths shut, and just generally try not to be dicks, everything little thing is gonna be all right.

Games Hardware Humor

Know your logic gates!

Need explainers?

Conferences Programming What I’m Up To

I’ll be in the Auth0 booth at PyCon US 2022 this week!

PyCon US 2022, the U.S. edition of the Python conference, happens this week in Salt Lake City, Utah at the Salt Palace Convention Center — and I’m going to be at the Auth0 booth!

Come drop by the booth — we should be pretty easy to find. Just listen for the accordion.

My history with Python

Toronto programmer D’Arcy Cain was looking for a programmer to help him develop an ecommerce site for a client. At the time, the stack that web developers needed to know was LAMP — Linux, Apache, MySQL, and Perl (later expanded to include other languages whose names start with “P”). D’Arcy’s preferred stack was BSD, Apache, Postgres, and Python, which at the time was considered to be a contrarian choice.

He asked if I was willing to learn Python, and I said “Sure! I can pick it up after I get back from Burning Man, on the first day after Labor Day…”

He said “No — I need you to hit the ground running on the first day after Labor Day.”

The edition of Learning Python I used — the first edition!

And I said, “All right. I’ll make it happen.” So I packed my laptop and a copy of O’Reilly’s Learning Python and took it with me to Black Rock Desert.

Those were wild times and even wilder hair, man.

Since Burning Man is more of party-all-night place, it can be quite peaceful in the morning. The rental RV that I shared with San Francisco-based artist David Newman and our friend Nancy was an oasis of calm with a good generator, and I was able to spend a couple of hours a day going through Python exercises, catch a nap, and then strike out onto the playa in the afternoon for the next evening’s mayhem.

By the time I got back to Toronto, I was ready to start coding in Python, and a descendant of that original site and its business still exists today. I figured that any programming language you can learn at Burning Man has to be good, so I’ve been using it to get things done since then, including putting together the Tampa Bay tech events list that appears on this blog weekly.

In spite of my long-time use of Python, even during that period when Ruby was ascendant thanks to Rails, I’ve never gone to PyCon — until now. I’m looking forward to it!

Current Events Meetups Tampa Bay

Scenes from the 2022 Tampa Bay Tech Golf Classic

Tampa Bay Tech Golf Classic flag flying

Last Monday, a good number of the Tampa Bay tech scene got together for a good time for a good cause: the Tampa Bay Tech Golf Classic.

Golfers at the Tampa Bay Tech Golf Classic practicing on the driving range

Organized by Tampa Bay Tech — Tampa Bay’s non-profit technology council, whose mission is to make “The Other Bay Area” a flourishing tech hub — it took place at Carrollwood Country Club and the title sponsor was Okta, where I work (remember, Auth0 is now an Okta product unit)!

Golf carts lined up and filled with players ready to play in the Tampa Bay Tech Golf Classic

The proceeds from the tournament went to the recently-founded Tampa Bay Tech Foundation, whose purpose is to radically connect area students and job seekers to opportunities in the technology community. The Foundation’s initiatives include:

  • Internship development programs
  • Scholarships
  • Talent-focused programming
  • Workforce gap research
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is jill-st-thomas.jpgThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is karen-popp.jpeg

I was there as a volunteer and got to see Tampa Bay Tech’s CEO Jill St. Thomas and Member Engagement Manager Karen Popp.

Since Okta was the title sponsor, it was only fitting that Chris St. Thomas, Strategic Account Director at Okta, gave a quick opening address:

Chris St. Martin giving the opening announcement at the Tampa Bay Tech Golf Classic

I sharpened my credit card-processing skills selling “super tickets”, which entitled the bearer to raffle tickets, extra drink tickets, entry into a couple of contests, and most importantly, a mulligan:

Joey deVilla on teh credit card machine at the Tampa Bay Tech Golf Classic

Here’s what Tampa Bay Tech’s Karen Popp posted in LinkedIn about the event:

Thank-you to all who participated in the Tampa Bay Tech Golf Classic presented by title sponsor Okta. We’ve got the best members, sponsors, guests and volunteers! It was a sensational event and raised significant funding for our Foundation. Save the date for next year, 4/17/23. Contact me if you’d like to reserve your sponsorship today! I appreciate the #radicallyconnected community we’re building in Tampa Bay!

#techforgood #techcommunity #golfevent

Current Events Tampa Bay

What’s happening in the Tampa Bay tech/entrepreneur/nerd scene (Week of Monday, April 25, 2022)

Here’s the list of tech, entrepreneur, and nerd events for Tampa Bay and surrounding areas for the week of Monday, April 25 through Sunday, May 1, 2022. That’s right, we’re going into a brand new month this week!

As far as event types go, this list casts a rather wide net. It includes events that would be of interest to techies, nerds, and entrepreneurs. It includes (but isn’t limited to) events that fall under the category of:

  • Programming, DevOps, systems administration, and testing
  • Tech project management / agile processes
  • Video, board, and role-playing games
  • Book, philosophy, and discussion clubs
  • Tech, business, and entrepreneur networking events
  • Toastmasters (because nerds really need to up their presentation game)
  • Sci-fi, fantasy, and other genre fandoms
  • Anything I deem geeky

By “Tampa Bay and surrounding areas”, this list covers events that originate or are aimed at the area within 100 miles of the Port of Tampa. At the very least, that includes the cities of Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater, but as far north as Ocala, as far south as Fort Myers, and includes Orlando and its surrounding cities.

This week’s events

Monday, April 25

GroupEvent NameTime
Rafael StuchinerHow to Make the Crypto Markets Work For You~~~Tampa, FL
Young Professionals of Tampa Bay Networking GroupIn person at Fords Garage St Pete11:00 AM
Professional Business Networking with RGAnetwork.netSt. Pete Networking Lunch! Fords Garage! Monday’s11:30 AM
Entrepreneurs Empower EmpireEntrepreneurs Empower Empire-Official Meeting11:30 AM
Christian Professionals Network Tampa BayLive Online Connection Meeting- Monday11:30 AM
Entrepreneurs & Business Owners of Sarasota & BradentonVirtual Networking Lunch Monday11:30 AM
Professional Business Networking with RGAnetwork.netVirtual Networking Lunch11:30 AM
Thinkful TampaThinkful Webinar || Learn Data Analytics With Thinkful12:00 PM to 1:30 PM EDT
Orlando Melrose MakersIn-Person: Laser Cutter Orientation2:30 PM
Network After Work Tampa – Networking EventsHow to Grow an Audience Using Your Archetype4:00 PM
Headquarters Coworking – KissimmeeHeadquarters Coworking Expansion Party4:00 PM
West Orange Comics & Video GamesMagic Mondays5:00 PM
Board Game Meetup: Board Game BoxcarWeekly Game Night! (Lazy Moon Location)6:00 PM
Thinkful TampaThinkful Webinar || Data Science vs. Data Analytics6:00 PM to 7:30 PM EDT
BerLagmark – Sarasota AmtgardMonday Night Fighter Practice!6:00 PM
Beginning Web DevelopmentWeekly Learning Session6:00 PM
Critical Hit GamesMTG: Commander Open Play6:00 PM
Tampa Bay TabletoppersMonday Feast & Game Night6:00 PM
Orlando Adventurer’s Guild[IN PERSON] DDAL05-16 – Parnast Under Siege (Tier 1, FR, historic)6:30 PM
Toastmasters Division GTriple Crown Toastmasters Club 4147 (Virtual)6:30 PM
Tampa – Sarasota – Venice Trivia & Quiz MeetupTrivia Night – Off the Wagon Kitchen & Brewery Smartphone Trivia Game Show6:30 PM
Toastmasters District 48North Port Toastmasters Meets Online!!6:30 PM
Toastmasters District 48Sharpen Your Presentations at South Tampa TM Before Going Live!7:00 PM
Toastmasters District 48Time to Take Speaking Your Passion to the Next Level at South Tampa TM!7:00 PM
Tampa HackerspaceWoodshop Safety (Members Only)7:00 PM
Orlando StoicsONLINE: “The Impact of PTSD” (Part 1)7:00 PM
Tampa Bay Gaming: RPG’s, Board Games & more!Board Game Night at Armada Games7:00 PM
Learn-To-Trade Forex – Online (As Seen on Orlando Sentinel)Learn-To-Trade Q&A (ONLINE)7:00 PM
Tampa Area Crypto And NFT IRLTampa Area Crypto and NFTs – Share and Learn Group7:00 PM
Tampa Flutter Meetup GroupIn-Person Meetup7:00 PM
Central Florida AD&D (1st ed.) Grognards GuildWorld of Greyhawk: 1E One-Shots7:30 PM
Thinkful TampaThinkful Webinar || Intro To Data Analytics: Tableau Basics9:00 PM to 10:30 PM EDT
Tampa / St Pete Business ConnectionsMonday Virtual Business Introductions11:30 PM

Tuesday, April 26

GroupEvent NameTime
Tampa Bay Business Networking Happy Hour/Meetings/Meet UpClearwater/Largo Professionals Networking Breakfast All Welcome7:30 AM
Business Game Changers GroupClearwater Breakfast Mastermind Village Inn7:30 AM
Tampa Bay Agilev-Lean Coffee7:30 AM
Professional Business Networking with RGAnetwork.netBreakfast with professionals at Perkins!!! New Location!7:30 AM
Orlando Cybersecurity MeetupSimplify Password Policy Compliance10:00 AM
Tampa Cashflow Meetup GroupReal Estate Door Knocking Walking Tour10:30 AM
Orlando Melrose MakersIn-Person: Makerspace Open Lab10:30 AM
Young Professionals of Tampa Bay Networking GroupIn Person Networking at the Great Catch ~~ Oldsmar All Welcome to connect!11:00 AM
Professional Business Networking with RGAnetwork.netOldsmar Tuesday Professional Networking Lunch The Great Catch! JOIN IN11:00 AM
Florida Startup: Idea to IPOHow to Find Product Market Fit Quickly11:00 AM
Tampa Bay Business Networking Meetings & MixersUpper Pinellas, Oldsmar,Safety Harbor, Westchase Business networking lunch11:00 AM
Tampa / St Pete Business ConnectionsOldsmar Professional Business Networking lunch11:00 AM
USF Chapter of the National Academy of InventorsFlorida High Tech Corridor: Driving Impact Through Industry Collaboration11:00 AM to 12:30 PM EDT
Pasco County Entrepreneurs & Business Owners All WelcomeProfessional Business Networking Lunch Glory Day’s New Tampa11:30 AM
Network Professionals Inc. of South Pinellas (NPI)NPI Seminole Referral Pros Chapter – Exchange Qualified Business Referrals11:30 AM
Wesley Chapel, Trinity, New Tampa Business ProfessionalsNew Tampa Networking Lunch at Glory Day’s Grill New Tampa11:30 AM
Thinkful TampaThinkful Webinar || Free Crash Course: JavaScript Fundamentals12:00 PM to 1:30 PM EDT
Tampa Bay RPAWho is winning the automation race, government or the public sector?12:00 PM
Block Co-op – Crypto Blockchain Orlando & Beyond ClubBitcoin/Crypto. Buying, Selling and sharing ideas. Small group atmosphere.1:00 PM
Orlando Unity Developers GroupVirtual: Create an Escape Room VR Game Part 21:00 PM
Work From Home -Online Business Opportunities and NetworkingLearn What It Takes To Think Like A Successful Entrepreneur3:00 PM
Free Video Production Classes – TV/InternetSocial Video Marketing Tips(ONLINE CLASS)-FREE for Hillsborough County Residents4:15 PM
Tampa Bay DevOpsAutomating Security Compliance at Scale4:30 PM
South Florida Photographic SocietyLight Study Pro, Intermediate Lighting for Pro Portrait/Commercial Photographer.4:30 PM
Tampa Bay Tech Career Advice ForumLinkedIn Local Tampa Bay – In-Person Networking5:30 PM
Front End CreativesLinkedIn Local Tampa Bay – In-Person Networking5:30 PM
Tampa Cybersecurity TrainingLinkedIn Local Tampa Bay – In-Person Networking5:30 PM
Thinkful TampaThinkful Webinar || Enhancing Your Career With Mindfulness6:00 PM to 7:30 PM EDT
Florida Center for Creative PhotographyMeet & Greet at O’Keefe’s Family Restaurant6:00 PM
Tampa HackerspaceWeekly Open Make Night6:00 PM
The Tampa Chapter of the Society for the Exploration of PlayCool Stuff Games: Board game night6:00 PM
Tampa – Sarasota – Venice Trivia & Quiz MeetupTrivia Night – Moose Lodge 2117 Smartphone Trivia Game Show6:30 PM
West Pasco Toastmasters Club #2824Weekly Meeting6:30 PM
Communication Skills for Quiet PeopleThe Guide to Beginning a New Relationship for Introverts7:00 PM
The Orlando Python User GroupPythonic Monthly Meeting7:00 PM
Tampa Bay Gaming: RPG’s, Board Games & more!Board Game Night at Hammerfall Games and Collectibles7:00 PM
Critical Hit GamesMTG: Streets of New Capenna Evening Prerelease7:00 PM
Central Florida Computer SocietyCentral Florida Computer Society TechSIG (Please join us!!)7:00 PM
Crypto/Trading/Online Business/Entrepreneurship nightsCrypto/Trading/Online Business/Entrepreneurship Nights7:00 PM
Toastmasters District 48Dunedin Toastmasters Club #21667:00 PM
St. Pete Beers ‘n Board Games for Young AdultsSt. Pete Beers ‘n Board Games Meetup for Young Adults7:00 PM
Orlando Adventurer’s Guild[Online SEASONAL] Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden – DM Canon (Tier 2)7:00 PM
North Florida Stock Investing EducationInvesting Roundtable with class: “Celebrating Our Workhorses”7:30 PM
TB Chess – Tampa Bay – St. Petersburg Chess Meetup GroupLet’s play chess at Muddy Water!7:30 PM
Shut Up & Write!® TampaOnline Event: Shut Up & Write on Zoom7:45 PM
Thinkful TampaThinkful Webinar || UX/UI Design: Designing A UX Case Study9:00 PM to 10:30 PM EDT
Tampa Entrepreneurs NetworkFlourish or Struggle? Choose flourish. I’ll show you how. | Peyvand Danesh10:00 PM

Wednesday, April 27

GroupEvent NameTime
Entrepreneur Collaborative Center1 Million Cups Tampa 
Network Professionals Inc. of South Pinellas (NPI)NPI Profit Partners Chapter – Exchange Qualified Business Referrals7:30 AM
Professional Business Networking with RGAnetwork.netDowntown St Pete Professionals Networking Breakfast7:30 AM
1 Million Cups – Orlando1 Million Cups – Orlando Weekly Meetup8:30 AM
North Tampa Networking GroupBusiness networking9:00 AM
Front End CreativesPanel Discussion: Being a Software Developer11:00 AM
Wesley Chapel, Trinity, New Tampa Business ProfessionalsLutz, Wesley Chapel, New Port Richey Networking Lunch11:30 AM
Tampa Bay Business Networking Meetings & MixersBrandon Networking Professionals Networking Lunch11:30 AM
Young Professionals of Tampa Bay Networking GroupBrandon Business Professionals Just Love Coffee11:30 AM
Success Strategies for Business OwnersSales Series – Part 4 of 4 – Identifying the Golden Ticket Client12:00 PM
Sarasota Web Development Meetup GroupLunch Hour Meetup12:00 PM
Thinkful TampaThinkful Webinar || Intro To Data Analytics: Excel Basics12:00 PM to 1:30 PM EDT
Tech4Good TampaDesign for Non-Designers – How to Create Eye-Catching Graphics With Canva12:30 PM
Pasco County Entrepreneurs & Business Owners All WelcomeWednesday Business Networking Lunch New Port Richey at Widow Fleatchers12:30 PM
Dr. Phillips Chamber of CommerceBUSINESS BREAK NETWORKING – BBN Luncheon12:30 PM
Free Video Production Classes – TV/InternetDigital Video Editing Class (ONLINE CLASS) -FREE for Hillsborough residents only1:00 PM
Big Data and Analytics TampaSimple SDLC Security Mistakes that Can Cost you Big During Compliance1:00 PM
Tampa Bay AgileHeart of Agile MONTHLY Coffee Corner1:00 PM
The Woman Entrepreneur NetworkHow to Bust Your Limiting Beliefs in 60 Minutes or Less3:30 PM
Orlando Melrose MakersIn-Person: Make an Earth Day Decal for a Water Bottle (w/ the Silhouette Cameo)4:30 PM
Florida Startup: Idea to IPOFREE WEBINAR: How to Outsource Development of Your App5:00 PM
The Tampa Chapter of the Society for the Exploration of PlayPlaying Games in the Alley5:00 PM
Brandon BoardgamersBoard Gaming – In Person5:00 PM
Front End CreativesHang Out with WITI Tampa Bay5:30 PM
Computer Coach Training CenterHang Out with WITI Tampa Bay5:30 PM to 7:30 PM EDT
Sarasota Business Exchange ClubWe ARE meeting again at Rusty Bucket Restaurant5:30 PM
Tampa Gaming GuildWednesday Board Game Night5:30 PM
Tampa Bay Tech Career Advice ForumHang Out with WITI Tampa Bay5:30 PM
Tampa Business ClubWine Women Wednesday @The Floridan Hotel Downtown6:00 PM to 9:00 PM EDT
Brews N Board GamesBoard Game Night at Gatlin Hall Brewing6:00 PM
West Orange Comics & Video GamesVS. System Wednesdays6:00 PM
Network After WorkNetwork After Work Tampa at WXYZ Bar at Aloft Tampa Downtown6:00 PM to 8:00 PM EDT
Thinkful TampaThinkful Webinar || Intro to Data Analytics: SQL Fundamentals6:00 PM to 7:30 PM EDT
Thoughtful WritingPhilosophy in Writing6:00 PM
Critical Hit GamesBoard Game Night6:00 PM
Network After Work Tampa – Networking EventsTampa at WXYZ Bar at Aloft Tampa Downtown6:00 PM
Tampa Bay Gaming: RPG’s, Board Games & more!Hobby Night – Minis Painting Tips & Tricks at Armada Games6:00 PM
Pasco County Entrepreneurs & Business Owners All WelcomeBusiness Networking Evening Dinner at Brick City Eatery6:00 PM
Tampa Bay Inventors Council – www.TampaBayInventors.orgTampa Bay Inventors Council – bi-monthly Meetup6:30 PM
The Weirder Things Book ClubThe Essex Serpent- finish6:30 PM
Tampa Bay Business Networking Happy Hour/Meetings/Meet UpLutz /Land O Lakes /Odessa /Trinity Evening Networking Dinner All Welcome6:30 PM
Central Florida AD&D (1st ed.) Grognards GuildNew Beginnings & Old Rivalries7:00 PM
Communication Skills for Quiet PeopleHow to Communicate Effectively7:00 PM
Tampa HackerspaceGirls Who Code Python for Grades 6-127:00 PM
Central Florida CitySecCitrusSec Meetup7:00 PM
Toastmasters District 48Carrollwood Toastmasters Meetings meet In-Person and Online7:00 PM
Castaways Euchre ClubCastaways Euchre Club7:00 PM
Downtown Tampa Software DevelopersArmature Works Developer Hangout7:00 PM
Writers of Central Florida or ThereaboutsOrlando Word Lab7:00 PM
MakerFX MakerspaceMakerFX Monthly Membership Meeting – VIRTUAL7:00 PM
Florida Center for Creative PhotographyFCCP Assistant Organizers Only Meeting7:00 PM
Nerd Night OutGames & Grog – Party Games Social Night7:00 PM
Real Life Trading – Tampa FLReal Life Trading Tampa8:00 PM
Thinkful TampaThinkful Webinar || What Tech Career Is Right For Me?9:00 PM to 10:30 PM EDT
Tampa / St Pete Business ConnectionsCarollwood Professionals Networking Lunch!11:30 PM
Tampa / St Pete Business ConnectionsBrandon Business Professionals IN Person!!!!11:30 PM

Thursday, April 28

GroupEvent NameTime
Bianca Baez with United Wealth EducatorsBusiness Networking event 
Professional Business Networking with RGAnetwork.netVirtual Networking Breakfast Thursday’s7:30 AM
Wesley Chapel, Trinity, New Tampa Business ProfessionalsBusiness Over Breakfast ~ Happy Hangar IN PERSON JOIN US!7:30 AM
Young Professionals of Tampa Bay Networking GroupTampa Young Professionals Virtual Networking Thursday Morning All WElCOME7:30 AM
Pasco County Entrepreneurs & Business Owners All WelcomeHappy Hangar Early Bird Professionals Networking7:30 AM
Professional Business Networking with RGAnetwork.netWesley Chapel/Lutz networking breakfast7:30 AM
TampaBayNetworkersSun Coast Networking Meeting8:30 AM
Job Fair ProTampa Job Fair April 28, 2022 – Tampa Career Fairs11:00 AM to 2:00 PM EDT
Tampa Bay Business Networking Happy Hour/Meetings/Meet UpPinellas County’s Largest Networking Lunch and your invited!11:00 AM
Business Game Changers GroupClearwater Professional Networking Lunch11:00 AM
Florida Startup: Idea to IPOHow to Cut Product Development Costs by up to 50%!11:00 AM
Best Hire Career FairsTampa Job Fair April 28, 2022 – Tampa Career Fair11:00 AM to 2:00 PM EDT
Tampa / St Pete Business ConnectionsClearwater/Central Pinellas Networking Lunch11:00 AM
Young Professionals of Tampa Bay Networking GroupThe Founders Meeting where it all Began! JOIN us! Bring a guest and get a gift11:00 AM
Block Co-op – Crypto Blockchain Orlando & Beyond ClubCrypto Set-up Class -Limited to 5 Seats Only11:00 AM
Network Professionals Inc. of South Pinellas (NPI)NPI Power Lunch – Exchange Qualified Business Referrals11:30 AM
Toastmasters District 48Sarasota Speakers Exchange Toastmasters12:00 PM
“Learn and Earn” Millionaire Mind Secrets & NetworkingOnline Zoom! Millionaire Mind Lunch; Book Club and Networking!12:00 PM
Thinkful TampaThinkful Webinar || Intro to HTML & CSS: Build Your Own Website12:00 PM to 1:30 PM EDT
Tampa Deal Finder REI (Real Estate IQ)Bankable AF: The 5 C’s of Lending1:00 PM
StartUp XchangeStartup Strategy Office Hours2:30 PM
UiPath RPA TampaUiPath Citizen Developer – Discover Three Easy to Build Use Cases3:00 PM
Free Video Production Classes – TV/InternetYouTube Basics (ONLINE CLASS) – FREE for Hillsborough County Residents3:00 PM
Library Book Clubs – OCLSVirtual Event: Tween Book Club (ages 9-12)5:00 PM
Entrepreneurs’ Empowerment EmpireEntrepreneurs Empower Empire Live Happy Hour5:00 PM
Tampa – Sarasota – Venice Trivia & Quiz MeetupTrivia Night – Bunkers Bar of Sun City Center Smartphone Trivia Game Show5:00 PM
Pasco County Entrepreneurs & Business Owners All WelcomeAfter Hours Mixer/Professional Head Shots, by Best of the Bay Captured by Arlene5:30 PM
Titans of Amazon FBA | Clearwater, FloridaTitans of Amazon FBA | Clearwater-Tampa MEET UP5:30 PM
Tampa Bay Business Networking Meetings & MixersAfter Hours Mixer/Professional Head Shots, by Best of the Bay Captured by Arlene5:30 PM
West Orange Comics & Video GamesThursday Night Yu-gi-oh!6:00 PM
Critical Hit GamesD&D Adventurers League6:00 PM
Tampa Bay Data Engineering GroupWorkshop: Streaming Data in Azure6:00 PM
Brandon and Seffner area AD&D Group1st ed AD&D Campaign.6:00 PM
Land O Lakes Cigars and Networking GroupCigars, Networking, Referrals –6:00 PM
New Yorker Magazine Discussion Group Pinellas CountyJoin us April 28 to discuss the March 28 Issue6:00 PM
Tampa Bay Gaming: RPG’s, Board Games & more!D&D Adventurers League at Critical Hit Games6:00 PM
Black Orlando Tech (BOT)BOT’s Cohort Speed Dating Night6:00 PM
Thinkful TampaThinkful Webinar || What is UX/UI Design?6:00 PM to 7:30 PM EDT
Cocktails and Convo: Book club for RomCom LoversBook review: The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochran6:00 PM
Tampa Writers AllianceTampa Writers Alliance Poetry Group6:30 PM
3D Printing OrlandoIntermediate TinkerCAD 3D Design7:00 PM
Drunk’n Meeples the Social Tabletop (Board) GamersTHURSDAY Game Night @ de Bine Brewing Co.7:00 PM
Tampa Hackerspace3D Printing Guild7:00 PM
WordPress Clearwater FLWordPress Monthly Meetup7:00 PM
Live streaming production and talentLive streaming production and talent7:00 PM
Modern MinimalismONLINE: “Minimalism and Wellbeing” (Part 2)7:00 PM
Explorations in PhilosophyIntroduction to philosophy7:30 PM
Thinkful TampaThinkful Webinar || Bootcamp Alumni Success Secrets9:00 PM to 10:30 PM EDT

Friday, April 29

GroupEvent NameTime
RGAnetwork.netInternational Professional Networking JOIN us to grow your business 
RGANetwork.netProfessional Business Networking in East Tampa/ Sabal Park at Cafe Delanie 
Winter Park Toastmasters – Learn while having FUN!Improve your communication, listening, and leadership skills7:15 AM
Agile OrlandoAgile in the Morning7:30 AM
Brandon Biz ProsBuild your Business with Brandon Biz Pros8:30 AM
Dr. Phillips Chamber of CommerceFriday Weekly Leads Group of Dr. Phillips FACE-To-FACE Networking8:30 AM
NTi Port Richey, FLNTi New Port Richey – Business Referral Network9:00 AM
Project Codex: Orlando Junior DevelopersVirtual Coffee9:00 AM
Toastmasters District 48Real Talkers #73069:15 AM
Christian Professionals Network Tampa BayImprove Speaking Skills & Build Confidence9:25 AM
Computer Advantage, Apple Premier PartnerAdvantage Talks: iCloud Photo Library10:00 AM to 11:00 AM EDT
Front End CreativesPanel Discussion: The Importance of Personal Branding for Career Success10:00 AM
Creative Entrepreneurs OrlandoTampa Bay Publishing Conference 202211:00 AM
Tampa Bay Writing, Publishing & Marketing MeetupTampa Bay Publishing Conference 202211:00 AM
Tampa Bay Business Networking Happy Hour/Meetings/Meet UpInternational Networking Westshore McAlisters Deli11:30 AM
Powerful Women NetworkingS Orlando/Dr Phillips: Join us for fun connection growth & networking too!11:30 AM
Professional Business Networking with RGAnetwork.netFriday International Business Introductions at McAllisters Westshore11:30 AM
Young Professionals of Tampa Bay Networking GroupFriday Business Introductions JOIN us at Cafe Delanie All Welcome11:30 AM
Tampa Bay Business Networking Meetings & MixersFriday Business Introductions!11:30 AM
Tampa / St Pete Business ConnectionsInternational Professionals Networking Meeting11:30 AM
Thinkful TampaThinkful Webinar || UX/UI Design: Wireframes and Prototypes12:00 PM to 1:30 PM EDT
Clermont Nerd GamesBoard Game Night!5:00 PM
Toastmasters District 48MESSAGE CRAFTERS5:30 PM
Tampa Gaming GuildFriday Board Game Night5:30 PM
Ironhack Tampa – Tech Careers, Learning and NetworkingWelcome to our Data Week! Enjoy expert-led sessions! 🚀6:00 PM
Tampa Bay Gaming: RPG’s, Board Games & more!Board Game night at The Strange Realms in Carrollwood Friday, 6 PM6:00 PM
Thinkful TampaThinkful Webinar || Data Analytics: Tools of the Trade6:00 PM to 7:30 PM EDT
Toastmasters District 48Positively Speaking Toastmasters6:15 PM
West Orange Comics & Video GamesFriday Night Magic6:30 PM
Central Florida’s Best Real Estate Investing CommunityFOLLOW UP Q&A FROM INTRO – ATL – FLORIDA7:00 PM
Oviedo Middle Aged Gamers (OMAG)Tabletop: Friday Board Game Night7:00 PM
Bradenton Photo GroupSelf-Assignment Photo Challenge – Depth of Field Transitions7:00 PM
Critical Hit GamesMTG: Streets of New Capenna Draft Launch Party7:00 PM
Orlando Adventurer’s Guild[Online HISTORIC] Canon’s Custom Campaign Moonsea Tour – DM Canon (Tier 3)7:00 PM
Gen GeekCongo River Mini Golf7:00 PM
Read Between The Wines // SarasotaAPRIL MEET // “The Silent Patient” by Alex Michaelides7:00 PM
Ironhack Orlando – Tech Careers, Learning and NetworkingWelcome to our Data Week! Enjoy expert-led sessions! 🚀7:00 PM
Thinkful TampaThinkful Webinar || UX/UI Design: Creating A Design System9:00 PM to 10:30 PM EDT

Saturday, April 30

GroupEvent NameTime
Doris Muller for NPI Westchase ChapterBusiness Networking Event for Local Professionals 
Central Florida Philosophy MeetupWake Up and Think Clearly Saturday morning share and discuss.7:00 AM
Toastmasters Division GEarly Bird Ocala8:00 AM
Florida Center for Creative PhotographyLearn to Photograph Animals in Zoos and other Captives9:00 AM
Tampa HackerspaceSteel TIG Welding Safety and Basic Usage (Members Only)9:00 AM
Pinellas WritersWeekly Group Meetings – All Writers Welcome!9:30 AM
Chess RepublicCoffee & Chess: Tampa Midtown9:30 AM
TB Chess – Tampa Bay – St. Petersburg Chess Meetup GroupQUAD & BLITZ Chess Tournament (At the St.pete chess club)9:30 AM
Orlando Lady Developers MeetupCode with me – learning sessions weekly on Saturdays10:00 AM
Toastmasters Division EKeynotes and More Advanced Toastmasters 5th Saturday Meeting10:30 AM
Gen GeekFlorida Orange Groves Winery (Tour and tasting)12:00 PM
Cannabis Entrepreneurs & Investors420 Festival at Horan Park, St. Pete Beach, FL12:00 PM
Lithia Chess Meetup Group(Chess in the Park) Chess at Park Square Plaza12:00 PM
New Wealth CoLabJoin a Team of Investors in Tampa Who Have Closed Hundreds of Deals12:00 PM
Thinkful TampaThinkful Webinar || Intro to JavaScript: Build a Virtual Pet12:00 PM to 1:30 PM EDT
Critical Hit GamesSpring Swap Meet12:00 PM
Oviedo Middle Aged Gamers (OMAG)Golf Group – Starfinder12:00 PM
Network After Work Tampa – Networking EventsPremier EMBA Online Event – North America12:00 PM
Tampa Entrepreneurs NetworkMaximize your return on community | Maruxa Murphy1:00 PM
The Maker Team – Plant CityThe Maker Team regular monthly meetup1:00 PM
Suncoast MakersFREE Fab Lab Orientation1:00 PM
Tampa Hackerspace3D Printer Orientation: Prusa mk3s Printer (THS Members only)2:00 PM
Central Florida Florida Foam Fighting (Fumetsu)Fighter Practice! (Newbies welcome)2:00 PM
Tampa Bay Gaming: RPG’s, Board Games & more!Saturday MTG Draft at Hammerfall Games and Collectibles3:00 PM
Tampa Social Networking Meetup GroupTampa Social Networking Meetup Group First Event4:00 PM
Orlando Adventurer’s Guild[In-Person] The Wild Beyond the Witchlight – DM Calvin (Tier 1)5:00 PM
Purpose Driven Divergent ThinkersGraduating to Limitless – Divergent X Vol. 6 – Meetup5:00 PM
Orlando StoicsIN PERSON: The Most Meaningful Stoic Quotes5:00 PM
New Port Richey Casual Games and Fun Socializing Group!Mermaid Day Game Night5:30 PM
Thinkful TampaThinkful Webinar || Learn Data Analytics With Thinkful6:00 PM to 7:30 PM EDT
Riverview Cryptocurrency Meetup GroupWings and Crypto7:00 PM
Nerdbrew EventsCommunity Hang-out Night7:00 PM
Central Florida AD&D (1st ed.) Grognards GuildTHE ONE-SHOT GUILD8:00 PM
Thinkful TampaThinkful Webinar || Data Science vs. Data Analytics9:00 PM to 10:30 PM EDT

Sunday, May 1

GroupEvent NameTime
Florida Center for Creative PhotographyFCCP Photowalk to Eagle Lake Park, Largo, FL8:30 AM
Toastmasters District 48Clearwater Sunday Speakers Toastmasters Club9:30 AM
Thinkful TampaThinkful Webinar || Intro To Data Analytics: Tableau Basics12:00 PM to 1:30 PM EDT
Tampa Bay Gaming: RPG’s, Board Games & more!D&D Adventurers League at Critical Hit Games2:00 PM
Drunk’n Meeples West PascoWeekend Game Day2:00 PM
Dialogue and Human Experience.What does freedom mean to you?2:00 PM
Drunk’n Meeples the Social Tabletop (Board) GamersBoard Games at Dented Keg (New Port Richey)2:00 PM
Critical Hit GamesD&D Adventurers League2:00 PM
The Tampa Bay Movie Fans Meetup GroupUnbearable Weight of Massive Talent @ Regal Park Place & RPX3:00 PM
Toastmasters, Division DWeekend Toastmasters3:00 PM
Learn-To-Trade Crypto – Online (As Seen on Orlando Sentinel)Learn-To-Trade Cryptos, Forex & Futures (ONLINE)5:00 PM
Tampa HackerspaceSew Awesome! (Textile Arts & Crafts)5:30 PM
The Historical History Book ClubBook Discussion: In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende5:30 PM
Thinkful TampaThinkful Webinar || Free Crash Course: JavaScript Fundamentals6:00 PM to 7:30 PM EDT
Volusia Young Professionals Group (covers East and West)February West Volusia Networking Social6:00 PM
Nerdbrew EventsHidden Gems Night, Presented by A Duck!7:00 PM
Nerd Night OutA Duck Presents NB Movie Night7:00 PM
Thinkful TampaThinkful Webinar || Enhancing Your Career With Mindfulness9:00 PM to 10:30 PM EDT

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Entrepreneur Florida Tampa Bay What I’m Up To

I’m going on StartupBus again, and you should too!

After the great interruption of 2020 and 2021, North America’s largest, longest-distance hackathon, StartupBus North America, is back for 2022! From July 27th through 31st, 2022, seven buses will depart from seven locations across the continent…

Tap to view the map at full size.

…and make their way to Austin, Texas in three days. During those three days, “buspreneurs” — StartupBus’ term for its participants — think up and build a tech startup from the ground up: the idea, business plan, software, and pitch.

One of the seven buses making its way to Austin over three days is the Florida bus, and it’s leaving from Tampa. This year, one of the Florida bus’ conductors — StartupBus’ term for its coaches/facilitators — is…Yours Truly!

🚨 Keep reading: later on in this article, there’s something that I’ve never told anyone online until now.

I was on StartupBus in 2019

Me on StartupBus Florida, shortly after we pulled out of Tampa.
Tap to view at full size.

I was a “buspreneur” on the Florida StartupBus in 2019, the last year the event took place, when the destination city was New Orleans. Along with my teammates Rina Bane, David Castaneda, Justin Linn, and Tracy Ingram, we made it all the way to the finals and got the runner-up position.

Team Hyve! From left to right:
Tracy Ingram, David Castaneda, Joey deVilla, Rina Bane, Justin Linn.

The startup we created on the bus was Hyve, a service that lets you create virtual disposable email addresses that you can use when subscribing to services or communicating with untrusted people.

My whiteboard diagram showing a use case for Hyve.
Tap to view at full size.

Rather than provide a service or person with your real email address, you use Hyve to generate a disposable email address to give to that service or person, and it forwards emails sent to that disposable email address to your real email address.

What happened on StartupBus Florida 2019?

It started with a get-together the day before we boarded the bus, which was captured in this ABC Action News piece:

Our ABC Action News piece. Tap to play.

As you may have guessed, we spent a fair bit of time coding and designing the service…

Tracy, Rina, and David at work.
Tap to view at full size.

…but at the end, we present our startups to panels of judges, so we also spent a lot of time working on our pitches. We did so many practice pitches on the bus, followed by feedback from the conductors and our fellow buspreneurs, including this one by Tracy:

Tracy Ingram pitches Hyve to our busmates.
Tap to play.

Just as startup life is full of unpredictable events, StartupBus is designed to mirror that unpredictability. For starters, we only knew that the destination was New Orleans, and that it would be a roundabout one so that it would take three full days. I pieced together the route shortly before we arrived:

StartupBus Florida’s 2019 route from Tampa to New Orleans.
Tap to view at full size.

We knew that there would be stops at night for hotels as well as other places, but we didn’t know where or when.

Our first non-meal/gas/bio-break stop happened in the late afternoon of Day 1 when we visitied the Entrepreneurship Garage at NC State University in Raleigh, North Carolina. It let us get more work done in a stationary place with access to more guidance, better internet connectivity, more reliable power, and (very importantly) bathrooms. It’s where we recorded this mandatory “Why are we on the bus?” video at the end of Day 1…

Meet the Hyve team.
Tap to play.

…and it gave us a chance to refine our pitch by trying it out on non-bus people, such as the Lyft driver who took us from the Entrepreneurship Garage to our hotel:

Pitching Hyve to our Lyft driver.
Tap to play.

Day 2 gave two buses a surprise: upon our departure from Raleigh, the Florida and DC buses merged to become the Swamp Thang bus!

Boarding the newly-merged Florida/DC bus.

Now we had a full ride:

The newly-united Swamp Thang bus.
Tap to view at full size.

We got to know the folks from DC, and the spirit was one of “coopetition” — we knew we were all competing against each other, but we also made friends and even helped each other out. I ended up spending a little time helping a DC developer with a bug in their Flutter project.

We had a stop at Advent Coworking in Charlotte, North Carolina, where our bus met up with the New York bus, and some of us (time was limited) got to do our first pitches in front of a panel of judges.

One of the teams pitches at the stop in Charlotte.
Tap to view at full size.

There were also the “unexpected unexpected” events — the unexpected events that the conductors didn’t plan. There was the time our bus got stuck on one of the oversized speed bumps at NC State:

Usually, we say “we’ve run into a speed bump” only figuratively.
Tap to view at full size.
The solution: Unload the bus completely — after removing all the people and luggage, the bus was able to clear the speed bump.
Tap to view at full size.

Our big “unexpected unexpected” happened when the bus overheated and had to pull over on the highway somewhere in the mountains in Tennessee:

Stuck on the mountain in Tennessee.
Tap to view at full size.

This delay meant that getting to the next stop meant staying on the bus well into the night:

Into the night.
Tap to view at full size.

Day 3 was a long, hard drive with a lot more pitching, designing, coding, and reaching out to prospective business partners and customers (yes, you have to treat your bus startup just like a “real” one!), but at long last, we arrived in New Orleans:

Finally in New Orleans!
Tap to view at full size.

Which brings us to Day 1 of two days’ worth of pitch competitions: the qualifiers.

At the qualifiers in New Orleans.
Tap to view at full size.

All our previous pitches were mere rehearsals. This pitch would determine if we would get into the semifinals!

Our qualifier pitch in New Orleans.
Tap to view at full size.
Our qualifier pitch in New Orleans.
Tap to view at full size.

Here’s our qualifying pitch:

Our qualifying pitch. Tap to play.

We continued working into the night of Day 1, refining the code and pitch. We wouldn’t find out who would make it into the semifinals until Day 2 — and we did!

Announcing the semifinalsts in New Orleans.
Tap to view at full size.

So we worked on our pitch and code, bringing in Andrew Romaner as a consultant (remember, you’re running like a real business, so you can get consultants if you have the connections!)…

Getting some help from Andrew.
Tap to view at full size.

…and made it to the finals!

We made the finals!
Tap to view at full size.

So we worked some more…

A quick selfie break before getting back to work.
Tap to view at full size.

…which led to our final pitch:

Our final pitch. Tap to play.

Once all the finalists made their pitches, the judges sequestered themselves, and shortly afterwards, they made their announcements, which included Hyve!

Announcing the winners. Tap to play.

Just because I love that bit about walking the line between good and evil, here’s just the part about Hyve:

“There’s a thin line between good and evil.” Tap to play.

Here’s the reporting on our victory:

The reward for our efforts

Let me be very clear: StartupBus offers no prizes of any sort. No cash, no prizes from sponsors, not even a trophy or certificate. In fact, you’ll spend money in the process, including getting home (the bus gets you to the destination city, but you have to make your own way back).

So why do it? Because what you gain from StartupBus is more valuable in the long run than mere coin or prizes: experience.

It’s one thing to be an employee working from home or in an office. It’s an entirely other thing to be a startup founder — even for less than a week’s time — collaborating closely with people you’ve known only for hours, on a bus, where the power and internet are unreliable, and dealing with the curve balls that the conductors and the vagaries of the road will throw your way.

Something I’ve never told anyone until now

There are more comfortable things that you could do with your time, but I remind you that the magic happens outside your comfort zone.

Here’s something I’ve never said online until now: I was fired from my job in June 2019. But rather than cry in my own beer and wonder how I’d explain it to prospective employers, I decided to shake things up.

My plan was simple:

  1. Join StartupBus, which was happening in July 2019.
  2. Winning or at least be a finalist.
  3. Parley the victory and experience into my next job or a new company.

Simple? Yes. Easy? Most certainly not. But extraordinary outcomes need extraordinary effort, and StartupBus definitely falls in the “extraordinary effort” category…

This picture takes on deeper meaning after you read the next paragraph.
Tap to view at full size.

…especially since one of the judges in the finals was the CEO of the company that fired me. We’re on good terms, but if I can pitch under those circumstances, I can pitch anywhere, anytime, anyhow. I knew it was going to happen if I made it to the finals — in fact, I was counting on it.

“Guess who’s back / Back again…”
Tap to view at full size.

StartupBus gave me the opportunity to gird my grit, sharpen my software skills, and polish my personal pitch. I’ve taken my experience on the bus and used it to get to the rather nice place where I am today.

After StartupBus, I contacted Trey Steinhoff, a buspreneur from 2017. He and Robert Blacklidge created Course Align, which grew into a real business beyond the bus. Trey was Director of Product at Lilypad at the time, and they were looking for a mobile developer.

Me and an ad for Lilypad in an industry magazine, shortly after my first bug fixes to the Android version were released.
Tap to view at full size.

“Why just take on any mobile developer, when you can get one who’s also been on the bus?” I asked, and got hired. It turned out that Akira Mitchell, one of the conductors on StartupBus Florida, was a scrum master there! I remember telling Akira “You know, it’s so much easier working with you at actual desks in a stationary office than on a bus bouncing all over the road while the wifi’s going in and out.”

I also cited my StartupBus experience during my interview process with Auth0, where I now work.

I got to go places I’d never seen or place I hadn’t seen in a while. I got to get to know some friends better, and made new ones with whom I’m still in touch today. I got to experience a challenge that most techies don’t take on, and I boosted my “personal brand” at a time when I really needed that boost. StartupBus can pay off big if you harness the experience.

And now, I’m a conductor

Posing with some Humvees that we spotted on the final hours of the bus ride.
Tap to view at full size.

A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted about being a conductor. “Your name keeps coming up, over and over again, so — would you like to be a conductor?”

I still have more to experience and learn, and this time, I’d like to do it by helping, mentoring, and guiding buspreneurs on the Florida bus. I owe it to the Tampa Bay and Florida tech communities that have given me so much. And hey, after all this time cooped up, I’m ready for some new road adventures.

Are you on the bus?

This is probably the most important slide they show at the finals.
Tap to view at full size.

As I write this, we’re less than 100 days away from the day the bus leaves Tampa for Austin. The question you should be asking yourself is:

Are you going to be on StartupBus? The Florida bus will depart from Tampa, but there are others leaving on the same date:

  • The Advancing Black Entrepreneurs bus is one especially for a greatly underrepresented minority in tech, and it departs from Cincinatto, Ohio.
  • The California bus’ departure point is yet to be determined.
  • The Latinxs in Tech is another bus for another greatly underrepresented minority in tech, and it departs from Miami, Florida.
  • The Mexico bus departs from Ciudad de Mexico, a.k.a. Mexico City.
  • The New York bus departs from New York City?!
  • The Texas Bus departs from San Antonio, Texas, and yes, they’re going to plan a route that takes three days.

You can’t just sign up for StartupBus — you have to apply, because we’re looking for people who are determined to create a great startup under sometimes-gruelling conditions and give it their all.

To register, you’ll need to visit StartupBus’ “Apply” page and enter an invite code. Of course, you’ll have to enter an invite code, and you just might get one if you tweet @TheStartupBus and explain why you’ve got what it takes to be on the bus!