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Building relationships

2003/2004 was roughly the time period when I started to become interested in development as a career. My good friend Rick Sole and I used to talk about it all the time in architecture school. How do we break into this space? There are no formal paths, like law for instance, and so we felt like we had to create our own opportunities.

What I ended up doing was creating a list of every developer that I felt was doing cool and interesting work. I didn’t know enough about the industry at the time to assess other things and so that was really my only criteria. Do they care about design in their projects? I then started cold emailing and cold calling.

Not everyone got back to me, but many did and some agreed to meet with me. This was at a time when I had zero experience and I was frankly not very valuable as a hire. So I am incredibly grateful to all of the people who said yes and took the time to speak and meet with me.

As you go through your career, this curve eventually flips. You go from having no experience and begging people to meet with you to having experience (and other things you can offer people) and people now wanting to meet with you. Generally people want to meet when they think they can gain from you.

But the best way to build a relationship is to start when you don’t need anything. I will never forget the people that met with me when I had nothing to offer them. And you can bet that I will always have all the time in the world for them.

I’m not going to claim that I respond to every one of my cold emails. I definitely do not. But I respond to as many as I can and I try and pay it forward with some time. You could say it’s playing the long game, but it’s probably also the right thing to do.

How do you approach relationship building?

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