Monday, April 13, 2009

Matt Genovese of Door64 Talks about His News Site and the Upcoming Tech Fair

Matt Genovese of Door64 Talks about His News Site and the Upcoming Tech Fair

Where are you from originally?

I grew up on a farm in Owego, NY, just outside of Binghamton. We had chickens, cats, a dog, and wide-open spaces for hiking all over God's country.

What university did you go to?

I attended the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Rochester, NY and received my B.S. in Computer Engineering. Here in Austin I received my M.S. in Electrical Engineering from UT-Austin.

What brought you to Austin?

After graduation from RIT, my newlywed wife Jennifer and I moved to Austin so I could begin work at Motorola as an engineer. We arrived in December 1997 in a city and state where we knew absolutely no one. Talk about a fresh start.

What is the idea behind Door64?

It is vital for engineers and technologists to actively focus on building their own network of industry peers as a part of managing one's own career. My observations have been that the typical engineer's circle of influence consists of (a) their current business colleagues, and (b) those colleagues who have since left the company. Because 60-70% of jobs are found through one's own network, it stands to reason that establishing a larger network of colleagues equates to more career possibilities should the need arise. By the way, this is also a tremendous benefit for companies, as their employees effectively become recruiters, helping to find qualified engineering talent through networking.

I started door64 to address the deficiency in professional networking as part of career management. My goal is, and always will be to enable our technology professionals to network with their local industry colleagues, and help every person to realize all that's available in our local technology scene.

What need does it fulfill?

I have been attempting to fill many holes. Here's a few:

1. I saw the need for a local technology calendar - one in which anyone could learn about all the niche tech groups in Central Texas, all the conferences, seminars, and lunch-and-learns, and find all the opportunities to network around town. The door64 calendar has become just that for Central Texas, and I'm excited when community members post events for everyone to see. I want local technology and networking groups to thrive, and the door64 calendar is there to do just that.

2. The discussions on door64 have been growing, which has been the breeding ground for online networking. Local tech professionals are communicating about our job market, how to work with recruiters, questions about consulting, discussing recent articles, and the like. The beauty here is the ability to meet in person. I focus door64 on Central Texas so professionals who meet and communicate online can also meet for coffee. Of course, our company-sponsored door64 networking happy hours have also contributed to the face-to-face aspect of networking. I love those events, and seeing others realize the benefits of meeting in person.

3. I said once that Austin's relationship with San Antonio is much like the United States' relationship with Canada: we know they're there, but we don't know too much else. San Antonio has a thriving tech industry, and yet different in many ways than Austin's. That's a good thing. There exists expertise in each of our cities that the other doesn't possess, and that presents great opportunities for collaboration. door64 has members from both Austin and San Antonio, and I have observed people collaborating because of it.

What exactly does Door64 do?

Well, that's a good question. doesn't "do" anything. The site is just a framework; it wouldn't work unless there was an active community supporting it. In the early days of door64, I spoke with everyone who suggested "let's meet for coffee" in an attempt to communicate the vision I have for our local tech professionals. For those who caught the vision, they evangelized, and helped the community grow to the over 4000 members we have now. I'm just one guy; it takes the community to make good things happen.

And for the record, I don't really like coffee.

Who is it for?

Though door64 is free to join, I keep membership restricted to those who work in high-tech, generally meaning professionals in the semiconductor, hardware, software, and IT industries. It is Central Texas focused, though I don't prevent those from out of town from joining the site. The high-tech focus means that tech professionals have a better chance of finding their own kind, versus someone trying to sell them a house or insurance. I have vetted all 4000+ members of door64 to accomplish this. It's a lot of work, but I believe in the value it provides to the community.

What was the most challenging aspect of starting up Door64?

Many people might not realize this, but what door64 is today is version 2.0. Version 1.0 was my first attempt in 2006, and it failed miserably. I spent all my time on the website, making everything look just right. At the end of the day, people didn't care. After taking a break in 2007, I realized my problem was spending too little time building a community. The challenge for door64 v2.0 was properly communicating the vision to my "customers", and in turn growing the community of people with that common vision.

What is the next step for you and Door64?

I'm always telling people "door64 isn't there yet."; there's much to do. Right now, I'm just rolling out a means for local tech companies to have a more formal community presence on door64. In addition, I am investigating ways to engage our members online such that they can easily meet (and network) with their industry colleagues.

And finally, I'm always trying to find new ways to reach out to our local tech professionals, to communicate that vision, provide a service, and get them plugged in. When the community grows and people engage, everybody wins. To this end, the next community event is the door64 Tech Fair on April 30th here in Austin. We're expecting up to 35 local tech companies to participate, and we're holding talks about entrepreneurship, consulting, and marketing yourself in this job climate. A panel discussion will follow about the Engineer of 2020, and then the 3rd annual Austin Brain Party that night. This is a shot of career adrenaline for every local tech professional, and it's all free to attend.

Attendee’s details + RSVP:

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?

For those branching into entrepreneurship, my only guidance is to find your passion. Find what drives you, and do that. It's not about finding that "one killer idea" that will make you millions. Once you follow what you're passionate about, the great ideas will flow like water. And it shouldn't be about making millions anyway; you should be trying to get something done that you care about. People who realize your vision will follow without cajoling; it's pull versus push.

For entrepreneurs, my guidance is always network: make new contacts, refresh your existing ones, and see how you can help them. My assertion is this: the better you are at networking, the better you will be at creating communities; businesses (especially today) flourish when they correctly engage.

Best regards,
Hall T.

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