CMAD or Community Manager Appreciation Day was yesterday. I was very overwhelmed by all the positive and heartfelt messages community members sent my, Chelsea, Kdin, Steffie, and Cricket's way. I started thinking about how I could show appreciation for community managers who have affected my life, and one lesson I've learned from all of them was to pass along the knowledge and advice learned over the years.
Writing a disclaimer now that this is my own personal journey. Your own journey may greatly differ from mine, so please don't use my life as the be all and end all for yourself.
When I was much younger, there was a lot of emphasis placed on what I wanted to do after graduation. What did I want as a career? Where would I be in 5 years (I always hated that damn question)? What did I want to do with my life? Those are a few of the questions that were constantly in my face as I trudged through college. I wasn't a very academic person... To put some of this into perspective, I graduated high school in 2002. I started as an education major and lasted maybe a semester. I wasn't passionate about it, and I didn't see myself as a teacher, so I switched majors and kept my degree pretty general. I ended up graduating in 2007 with a Liberal Arts Degree focusing on English. That's a fancy way of saying I wrote a lot and I understood how to communicate with people.
But I still didn't know what I wanted to do for a living. Nothing I did really made me feel like I had a purpose. I had a few jobs as a admin assistant and a project coordinator, but I didn't feel fulfilled or that I was doing anything with my life. Then I thought about writing for video games. Did some research, tried to figure out the best ways to break into an industry I very much loved, but didn't know much about from the inside world. A friend of mine introduced me to Randy Greenback, an incredibly awesome game dev with 20 years of experience under his belt. He was very open to answering my questions and providing really good advice that I take to heart even today.
He told me that I already made the first big step, and that was asking the questions and wanting to learn. He also said networking with a bunch of folks in the industry was a great way to gather insight as far as what field I wanted to be in. Something really important to note right here is that I was pretty active in the RT community and I was figuring out ways to build a community presence in Vegas. After doing a little more research about the industry, I found out that community management was a thing. Classes for that didn't exist when I was in school. Social media was just starting to take off, and I had no real teacher or mentor to help me learn all of this stuff. So I thought about the best ways to learn and it pretty much came down to just doing it.
I created the RT Vegas Community Group, learned how to use Twitter, FB, Vine, and Twitch. I taught myself how to properly engage people, what worked, what didn't work and I studied how people interacted with each other and the respective outcomes. Before I knew it, I began creating relationships with people online and who I would meet years later in person. I also began volunteering my time for community/social projects. I became a moderator for RT, expanded the RT Vegas group, acted as a community manager for a small game dev group, and studied ways to grow my Twitch channel. It became my experience. All of these avenues provided different types of lessons learned, best practices, and ways to engage people. One thing that made me fully believe I wanted to be a CM was even though I got to see the best and worst of people, and sometimes the worst can get pretty bad, I still wanted to be in a position where I could help people for the better. Even on my worst days, what got me through is I could be a positive influence in someone's day and that gave me meaning and purpose.
Now, I'm a community manager. It took me 6-7 years to achieve that. And that's the point to my post. I didn't exactly follow a formula. I know many people want to learn how to become a CM, so I hope that this post gave some insight to your own journey. I don't know how much of this you can take with you, but know that I am open to helping and know that I am cheering for you. Whenever I meet someone who is interested in becoming a CM, my goal for the conversation is to eventually say "happy community appreciation day" to that person one day. That right there is one of the most fulfilling experiences I can personally have. I hope that this has been helpful. Go out and do great things future CMs!