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Networking Opportunities for IT Professionals in the Cedar Valley

When we started Far Reach four years ago, we struggled to find ways to meet people in the community. At the time, we were located in the Innovation Incubator on UNI's campus and the staff there recommended we join the local chamber of commerce and any industry associations we could find. 

Taking that advice, we joined the Greater Cedar Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Technology Association of Iowa. We started slowly, initially attending Power Networking events put on by the Chamber. I don't recall having a lot of other options for additional networking opportunities back then.

Fast forward a couple of years and it seems like there are many more networking opportunities for IT professionals and small businesses in the Cedar Valley and surrounding areas. We'll start this week by highlighting some of the groups and events we've participated in that are focused on IT professionals and will follow up with some things more targeted to small businesses and other business professionals. Our hope is that this will increase people's awareness and drive more participation, leading to even better events and groups.

Technology Association of Iowa

The TAI is a professional organization representing the interests of the tech industry in Iowa. There are numerous services offered and events members can participate in. We have attended the Prometheus Awards, Iowa Women of Innovation, Techbrew, Hyperstream, and Pitch Sessions. All of which we have found to be great for networking. 

Additionally, this past year TAI coordinated a meeting with local Cedar Valley legislators. This gave local TAI members an opportunity to sit down and communicate directly with our elected officials. TAI's membership fee is based on the number of employees you have, which makes it very reasonable and additional discounts are offered for startups. If you're in the tech space in Iowa, you need to be involved with TAI.

Cedar Valley .NET User Group

If you work with Microsoft-related technologies, CVINETA is definitely something you should check out. One of several .NET User Groups in the state (Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, and Dubuque also have active groups), I have found it to be a great way to learn new tools, techniques, and coding practices. This group meets the first Tuesday of every month and topics are generally related to programming with a focus on Microsoft and other .NET-related technologies. Meetings are free to attend and pizza and pop are provided to attendees.

Tech Talk Cedar Valley

This Meetup was founded by Wade Arnold of T8 Webare. Tech Talk brings geeks of all stripes together to talk web development and systems architecture and is another great opportunity to interact with other programmers in the area as well as open your mind to other technologies. Meetings are free to attend and food and beverages are provided to attendees.

TechBrew Cedar Valley

TechBrew Cedar Valley is a spinoff of TechBrew Des Moines and is backed by the Technology Association of Iowa. This free event is held the first Thursday of every month from 5-7pm at the Voodoo Lounge in Cedar Falls. The idea behind TechBrew is to get technology professionals, entrepreneurs, and investors together under the same roof to talk about what's happening in the local tech scene. TAI likes to refer to it as "lubricated serendipity," with a nod to the fact that all attendees get a free drink ticket.

Hopefully, connections made at TechBrew will spawn new business ideas and help grow technology-related businesses in the Cedar Valley. We love the energy at these events and it's exciting to see familiar faces as well as new ones each month. It really gets us pumped about the Cedar Valley! Be sure to check out TechBrew Iowa City as well. These events are held the 3rd Thursday of each month at The Vine.

Iowa Code Camp

Iowa Code Camp is a must-attend conference for geeks. The event is held twice a year (Spring and Fall) on a Saturday and is free and open to the public (lunch provided). I have attended several of these events and haven't regretted it yet. It's like a .NET User Group or Tech Talk Cedar Valley x 5. I don't know the exact number, but I would guess there are usually around 150-200 participants.

The conference covers a wide array of topics from Ruby, Silverlight, Mobile, and .NET to Open Source Frameworks. Because of the diversity of topics, it's a great place to connect with passionate programmers of many different skill sets.

Two other events I have heard great things about, but haven't had the opportunity to attend yet are Startup Weekend and Heartland Developers Conference. If any of you have attended either one, I'd love to hear what you thought.

If you know of other groups or events we're missing, let us know.