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A guest blog post from Portland Startup Weekend organizer and past participant Shelby Miller about expectations for participants at the upcoming event.

So let me take a wild guess. You’ve heard about Portland Startup Weekend, but you’re not sure if you want to go. Reason why you don’t want to go include:

  • “I hear there is a really big tech focus.”
  • “I don’t think I’d really learn anything.”
  • “I’m just your average Joe, and I don’t have any skills to contribute.”

These were the exact same thoughts I had when I was first debating going, but I’m sure glad I went. I was 23 years old, 4 months out of college, struggling to find work, and unsure of my skill set. Today, five months after my first Startup Weekend, I can happily announce I not only learned a lot about myself and the skills I can contribute to the work environment, but I also made valuable connections that have become the foundation to my professional network and found my first employer through the event! So, with that being said, I’d like to dispel three major myths about Startup Weekend, and help you have the same success I did!

The first myth I’d like to dispel is that Startup Weekend is all about technology. In the past, Portland Startup Weekend has had team form around homemade salsa, cold-brew coffee, a shipping company that relies on bicyclists, and many other non-technical ideas. I can say confidently that not every idea is technology related. Even when the idea was technology related, there were plenty of opportunities for those with non-technical skills to contribute and help out. For instance, one group tried to build a new online dating platform. While coders were certainly needed, the team also needed marketers to understand the online dating industry. These marketers scoured the Internet for information about the industry and went out onto the streets to speak to their target market to find current pain points among in their competitions’ sites. All this valuable information help this team develop a way to make their users feel more comfortable meeting up with online matches in real life. These insights came from people in their group that were willing to do research and talk to people – two skills that don’t require a technical background.

The second myth I’d like to dispel is the idea that because you can’t see yourself contributing, you can’t see yourself learning anything. The skills you learn at Startup Weekend benefit you in a number of ways. For my first Startup Weekend, I chose to take a leadership role and led a team of marketers in developing survey questions, asking people on the streets for idea feedback, building content for our website, and developing a business plan. All of this hard work gave me insights into the many areas of business that I otherwise would not have been exposed to. I simply relied on the limited skill set and experiences from college. Despite my lack of experience, my team helped bring me realize my strengths. And, we were awarded “Best Business Opportunity” by the judges. This award not only gave us access to awesome prizes, but various follow-up engagements that expanded our professional networks. At the end of the weekend, I came away with an increased knowledge of how to start a business, new professional connections, resume worth experiences, and an award.

The third myth I’d like to dispel is the idea that your skills don’t transfer over to a startup environment. This simply is not true. Startup Weekend attendees are divided into three groups: “Hackers,” “Hipsters,” and “Hustlers.” “Hackers” are the technical people; the ones who write the code to build an app for the software infrastructure. The “Hipsters” are the design people; they layout how the app will look, how users will interact with the good or service, and generate creative content. The “Hustlers” are the business guys; they validate the idea, build the business plan, figure out how to monetize and market the good or service. Whether you work for a graphic design firm, write blogs for fun, work in a law firm, build databases, make your living as a barista, or paint in your free time, Startup Weekend is a great opportunity for you to apply your skills to new and innovative projects.

Startup Weekend is an awesome event that allows participants to refine their skills and connect with new people all in a creative and innovative environment. Startup Weekend also accommodates individuals of all skills, ages, backgrounds, and experiences. Teams flourish when they can take advantage of everything each member brings to the table. The next Startup Weekend is November 14th-16th, and tickets are on sale. It will be a blast, and I encourage you to attend and tell your friends about it!

Dave Weidner