CodeMash 2024 – Learning, Giving Back, and the Art of Community

Did someone say “community”?! If there’s anything you need to know about it, serving the community is part of my core character. Whether I’m organizing events, facilitating gatherings, connecting others, or speaking, I’m finding ways that I can support my communities. It’s part of what keeps me going in this field – there are an amazing amount of people who really want to see our industries thrive and are willing to collaborate and support each other, even if we are competitors in the business world.

When I saw Mike Nelson was giving this talk, I knew I had to be there. I first met Mike on our way to CodePaLOUsa 2022, and you don’t realize how excited I get when I find IT pros at dev conferences. Someone I can talk PowerShell with… terminal/command line peeps… scripters… it hits me in all the feels. It also is an opportunity for me to connect them with our developer community. Having met Mike through the community and following his adventures from afar, I was thrilled to see this session on the list.

On top of it, I was excited to be joined by Tom Lawrence – another one of the people I know from a different IT community! I know of his reputation in the MSP community and met him through mutual friends. He runs an active YouTube channel that talks about computers, IT businesses, MSPs (managed service providers), open source, and tutorials.


Mike had many videos and pictures in his slides, including dogs. Dogs operate in communities known as packs. They’re wonderful creatures. Also… 2 random facts:

  • Dogs’ snout prints are unique.
  • Don’t tickle dogs – they resent tickling.


This was the first of the conference sessions that really engaged in conversations with the audience on things such as learning, understanding what we learn and how we learn, sharing with others, and what it means to be a community. There were many conversations that were had.

Mike told us a story about going to event and then when he got back to work, he had to name 5 things he learned. A few months later, he had to try to name 5 things he learned at that event – and was only able to mention 2 or 3. He was reminded of the other topics. A few months after that, he remembered the same 2 or 3. As the saying goes:

Knowledge is not what you learn, but rather what you cannot forget.

Words Mike was told over 30 years ago

On Learning and Teaching

As we grow in our careers in technology, we are constantly learning new things. Some of us can’t help ourselves – we want to share what we learn! Mike made some interesting points and shared some great quotes on teaching and learning.

Keep in mind that each of us learns differently. What someone may get the first time in a discussion, others may need multiple times of the concept being described. They may need explanations with more relatable examples. They may need diagrams or other visualizations to help translate the auditory descriptions. They may even need to “do the thing” – whatever that means for what they are learning. So the topic and the way it’s presented may work for some people but not for others.

During these conversations, Mike mentioned that we can help teach the younger group – high schoolers – about computer science through the Technology Education and Learning Support (TEALS) program. This is a great way for community members to give back to the community by teaching the next generation. This program focuses on underserved populations and helping them get access to computer science.

The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.

Mark Van Doren

We talked of the joys of teaching and seeing those “ah ha” moments. It’s something I live for both as an instructor/trainer and as a curriculum creator. When I get to experience those “ah ha” moments in the classroom or workshop area, I get excited at seeing people’s reactions and energy boosts with their new revelations. It’s such a wonderful thing!

The greatest teacher, failure is.


Another point in the teaching discussion is being able to create a safe space for failure. This is one of those things that I enjoy about my teaching environments – the outside world is messy, so my learning environments are allowed to be messy too. I like when things go wrong and when we can talk through them. Failure as a teaching moment and a learning moment is a good thing. It not only teaches people to embrace failure, but it also teaches them how to do it gracefully and skillfully.

What About Community?

Another thing we talked about in this talk was that community takes a group. It should never be about an individual. If there is an event with a single organizer and the success or failure sits on their shoulders, do they really have a community?

It made me think of another organizer friend of mine who is a solo organizer on their event, but they at least tried to recruit others to help. Yes, event organizing takes a lot of effort – feel free to ask me about those joys and pains. I’m an open book and will steer you clear of solo organizing. If a community event is meant to be, multiple people in the community are needed to make it happen.


What I liked the most about this talk is that Mike was smart about it – while it could have been a talk about his various activities in the community and everything he’s done related to the topic, it wasn’t just that. He did include his stories, but he also encouraged audience participation and sharing knowledge with each other. It’s as if he knows a thing or two about growing and supporting communities. 😁 I’m glad that it was so much more than a face-forward talk!

By sadukie

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