Forums to hone one’s craft

Some of the members of the “Lean In India” network

Some of the members of the “Lean In India” network  

The call of informal professional groups has never been so irresistible

Professional forums demand a level of commitment and sometimes require its members to make smart and quick adjustments in their schedules — for, that long-awaited mega meet-up may come up just when a project deadline looms on the horizon.

Therefore, many professionals either avoid or put off joining such forums despite being aware of the benefits they can bring to their careers.

However, in this digital age, it is difficult to be dismissive of these forums. For, these forums offer the best of two worlds — they will usually have regular meet-ups, and at the same time, offer avenues for more regular online interactions.

Last week, the Facebook pages of the Society of Women Engineers in India ran a campaign — #IntroduceAGirlToEngineering — inviting people to participate in it if they are an engineer.

They could talk about the biggest inspiration in their professional lives.

Lean In India, the official chapter of Lean In, a not-for-profit founded by Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg to empower women to realise their ambitions, is another example. One can either join any of the existing circles or start one., a platform to organise online groups that host in-person events, is among such growing professional communities. From a meet-up on psychometrics to one on entrepreneurship for those aged above 40, these circles are quite varied in their character and offerings.

Besides this, there are many sector-agnostic groups that help with mentorship, career transition or with general workplace-related issues.

The appealing features of these groups include their flexibility in terms of both structure and time.

A snapshot of a Cloud Computing and DevOps meet-up in Bengaluru.

A snapshot of a Cloud Computing and DevOps meet-up in Bengaluru.  




Hari Kiran and Ganesh Samarthyam first started a meet-up group, primarily to find a platform to share their insights into Java programming, which they had presented in their joint book. Slowly, this meet-up group was extended to discussing other subjects.

Today, the two run nine meet-up groups with over 40,000 members in Bengaluru. Later, they expanded the scope of these meet-up groups to organise conferences.

“Both the meet-up communities and developer-centric conferences serve as platforms for learning new technologies, networking with like-minded professionals and exchanging professional ideas,” says Samarthyam.

Localisation matters

The longevity and effectiveness of professional forums depend on how localised they are and how regularly they engage with their members.

Last year, the tagline for a conference organised by the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) was ‘meet locally, learn socially’.

These groups usually work with a sense of social consciousness. For example, among the many initiatives started by SWE in India is the support it extends to those pursuing careers in STEM , says Suchismita Sanyal, a member of SWE. “By affiliating with colleges, we are trying to bridge the gap in STEM education,” she says.

It is five years since Lean In was started in India, and it has so far reached out to more than 5,000 women through its network in 13 cities.

“We have achieved this level of engagement through our circles, which is a small group of women coming together to talk about issues at their workplaces,” says Rashmeet Kaur, co-founder of Lean In India. Along with Sanya Khurana, she started the circle with 10 members, and today Lean In India has 110 such circles.

These circles being small is what makes them attractive. Participants are confident of speaking in a circle and this confidence is carried over to the workplace, says Rashmeet.

Most of those running forums understand the necessity of being open to change.

Suchismita says feedback is taken seriously by SWE.

“A feedback we received from last year’s conference was that the panel discussion was not engaging enough. This year, for our yearly conference scheduled for April, the team has dropped the panel discussion from the agenda,” says Suchismita.

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 11:46:37 PM |

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