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Proactively Meeting Interesting People

I’ve glimpsed early enough the importance of being proactive in life. Sadly procrastination and inactivity make up for an easier road. I’ve fallen victim to those vices, hard and repeatedly. Seeing how that doesn’t lead to the life I desire, I’ve been changing my ways.

Professional life is one area I’ve put more effort in. I’m now regularly talking at events and conferences. I’m organizing some as well1.

More importantly I’m meeting amazing and interesting people. Proactively. This is rewarding professionally. Even more, it’s deeply enriching privately. You should do it as well!

Confidence

I clearly remember the first time I contacted someone who I normally never would. For the Bachelor thesis I was implementing Support Vector Machine by following John Platt’s Sequential Minimal Optimization paper. I found a particular section of the pseudo-code very confusing. As I was the first one implementing SMO algorithm in my university, nobody could help me. Then a thought occurred to me – why don’t I just ask the author? Sure, he was a director at Microsoft Research, but what would be the harm in asking? In the worse case he wouldn’t answer. I went on and sent the email. A few days later I had my answer. This event has thought me that there is nothing to be lost and a lot to be gained by contacting someone you’d normally consider out of your league.

It takes confidence to do so. I’ve always been in the top of any intellectual activity I tried. At first I thought about authority figures as people who just had more time and experience, a head start – otherwise we were alike. While I’ve been been humbled once or twice since then – there are some amazing people out there, I’ve also become a self-reassured adult. Now there isn’t anybody in the world I would be hesitant to approach.

While confidence is the key, context is important as well. It is easier to approach someone in your strong field. If you deem yourself unworthy of someone’s time, it would be hard to ask for it.

Experience

My experience meeting people has been singularly positive so far.

When I’ve decided to go and actively meet new people, I wanted to learn as much as I can from them. Not just about their work, I wanted to know who they are, how they live their lives and what motivates them.

That’s when I’ve started communicating with @martinklose. I’ve learned a lot from him since then about software ecosystems, organizing events, consulting and much more. I’ve tried to give back value from the start. By doing this we ended up friends and not just a teacher and a student.

Next I’ve started organizing events and going to more conferences. There I’ve met @sandromancuso. We only met a couple of times at conferences so far as we live in different countries, but we’ve spent many a sleepless night talking till the sun would be up. It has broaden my horizons of the software industry and how world works. He seems to be enjoying it as well. Again friendship formed where we can talk unfiltered about family and work-life balance, challenges in running a company, different career problems and possibilities, and much more.

I can’t possibly write about all enriching encounters I had. But there are those that can’t be skipped – talking about diversity and listening to profoundly human and sad experiences people had. It has widen my perspective. I dare to hope that it has also made me a better person. It’s one thing to logically understand problems some have and completely another to know real people and how world has treated them. And what impact they felt…

Another step

I’ve take the effort to approach new people in opportune situations and have been immensely rewarded for it. It is in the last two weeks that I’ve done something new – I’ve cold-emailed three individuals I wanted to meet on a Chicago trip. Only one email was left unanswered. Amazing outcome given limited time and circumstances they all have.

First I had a lunch with @MichaelOChurch. It was engaging, thought provoking and intense. Not unexpected if you’ve seen his writings.

A few days later, I had a dinner with @tqbf. He also brought @boboTjones and @patio112 with him. I’ve spent most of the evening talking to Erin. It was fun and unconstrained. Open and enriching.

I could continue forever, but you wouldn’t get a better picture. I don’t have the gift of words needed to express such encounters. You need to experience it for yourself. You’ll be amazed!

Parting words

The fullness of the encounters you have is shaping who you are. I’m grateful for mine and hope to meet them all again. With equal anticipation I’m looking forward to getting to know all the amazing people that have yet to enter my life.

Go and meet new people! Even if it’s scary at first. Enjoy new perspectives. You don’t need to agree with every single one, but each will broaden your horizons. There is nothing to be lost and so much to be gained. Fortune favours the bold.

If you’re ever in Berlin and want to meet, drop me an email. I’ll be expecting it. :)


  1. Though I’m not blogging about most of them…

  2. Patrick’s writings have fundamentally changed the way I see our industry and what I’m optimizing for in life.