Effective Networking (Know Everyone)

by Darius Kazemi on December 5, 2005

in networking

Note: This is part of a series of articles called Effective Networking in the Games Industry. I’m writing these articles in no particular order, so I’m sorry if this seems scattered. I promise I will collect it all and put it on my permanent webspace for future reference.

Today I’m going to share with you a story that had a massive impact on my life. Just before going off to college, I read a book called Hardball, by Chris Matthews (it is related to the TV show in name only, as far as I can tell). This book, while explicitly about politics, is implicitly about people, and how to deal with them. I’d highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn how to convince people that they want the same thing that you do. But the real gem I wanted to share with you a is story I picked up from this book.

Back in the 1930s, there was a hotel in Washington, D.C. where all the congressional assistants lived. This was a big building full of men in their 20s, so it basically served as a sort of dormitory. Lyndon Baines Johnson had just arrived to take up residence there. His first night, he

took four showers. Four times he walked towel-draped to the communal bathroom down along the hall. Four times he turned on the water and lathered up. The next morning he got up early to brush his teeth five times, with five-minute intervals in between.

The young man from Texas had a mission. There were seventy-five other congressional secretaries living in the building. He wanted to meet as many of them as fast as possible.

The strategy worked. Within three months of arriving in Washington, the newcomer got himself elected Speaker of the “Little Congress,” the organization of all House staff assistants.

In this, his Washington debut, Johnson was displaying his basic political method. He was proving that getting ahead is just a matter of getting to know people. In fact, it is the exact same thing. [From Hardball, by Chris Matthews; emphasis mine]

Anyone who knows me personally can take a guess at how profoundly this one story has shaped my life. In college, I used to take three hours to eat my lunch or dinner in the cafeteria. This is because the cafeteria was open for a three-hour window, and in that time I could have dinner with five different groups of people. I made a lot of diverse friends that way.

In fact, this one story is the crux of my whole series on networking: know everyone, try to understand everyone, and you will get ahead.


Craig Perko December 5, 2005 at 5:06 pm

It’s crucial to understand that each person you are on friendly terms with expands your capabilities.

But there’s still a sense of “drive” missing. So far, your articles have been technically excellent, but I don’t see one which convinces someone in their heart, rather than their head.

Leading by example is good, but only if you have people following you. I wonder if you can write an essay which will convince people to change their whole outlook on life – all for networking.

That would be the best article you could write. Something which would make a reader standing at a bus stop say, “all these people standing here with me are opportunities – both for me and them.”

Darius Kazemi December 5, 2005 at 5:18 pm

Excellent point, Craig. I was hoping to hit on this in my articles about making friends. But I think you’re right. I should frame my whole series like you so eloquently stated.

Patrick Dugan December 5, 2005 at 6:53 pm

Another way to describe the benifits of networking, especially in the field of interaction design, is that interacting with anyone, even if they turn out to be functionally useless, has aesthetic benifits in that it broadens, however incrementally, one’s concept of interaction.

Bill December 6, 2005 at 5:59 am

I think Craig makes a good point, but I also see the wisdom of your approach. I have a friend (no really, it’s _not_ me…) who is brilliant (see, I told you it’s not me) but who is intimidated by networking. She is really great one on one and in small groups, but she gets nervous when in a large social situation. If you had started your articles with the “change your outlook on life approach” that Craig has suggested, she might not have read your articles. She could have concluded that she’s not that person, and walked away.

One of the things that Richard Bartle and Jessica Hammer have separately expounded upon is that games give us a way to reimagine the world, to reimagine ourselves. Personally, I’ve found that being aware of play has made it possible to be playful in other areas of my life. For example, you should see the shoes I’m wearing.

So I don’t know if one article or one series of articles will help someone re-evaluate her outlook on life. It could be a catalyst for someone, and so please keep writing! And if virtual worlds and play help us reimagine what we might be, what kinds of catalysts help people to bridge that gap? What makes them pick up on a passage from a book, or to see their choice of footwear as a chance to play?

Just late night thoughts that might not even make sense. Feel free to edit as you see fit – I trust you, D.

SE December 20, 2005 at 2:17 am

your article is inspiring. But, what if, you’re a really really shy person. How do you get up the nerve to talk to somebody? And how would you hold a conversation if you have trouble with saying sentences/have stuttering, any of that kind of thing when you’re not very confident?

That’s the thing that’s been been detrimental to me from the start.

Katharine Memole February 16, 2011 at 10:41 pm

I know my 2 cents come many years after you asked but here goes.

Make brief eye contact and smile directly at your target. Think about loving the world, or other people or a song that inspires you when you smile at people to be sure you project “joy” rather than creepy. If your target is inclined to be friendly they may well take control at that point and start a conversation. I make conversation with shy people who smile at me and look friendly all the time. Things like stuttering, awkwardness are all fine as long as you look friendly and receptive and appear to be listening. If eye contact is too intense for you nodding your head at points you agree with and briefly looking up interestedly works well for encouraging someone who is speaking to you. If you can keep yourself from feeling overwhelmed by avoiding those things that make you feel most awkward you will have more brainpower left to listen to what you are told, remember, and perhaps even venture a question or comment.

Darius Kazemi February 17, 2011 at 8:43 am

That’s very good advice, Katharine! Hey everyone reading this: listen to her :)

Darius Kazemi December 20, 2005 at 2:20 am

SE: It’s now on my to-do list to write an article addressing those very concerns! I’d give you some advice here, but I really need to think about this one.

Cameron November 10, 2010 at 4:57 am

I just found your awesome blog in a link from another newly discovered blog and I was wondering if you ever got a chance to write the article you were talking to SE about. That would be a great help for me as well.

Darius Kazemi November 10, 2010 at 8:40 am

I never actually did. Still kind of working on it…

Epic Wizard April 1, 2010 at 8:19 pm

I think the most profound suggestion so far has been the idea of taking notes on people. I’m great with faces but I can’t remember names.

Also, somewhere between High School and College I became ridiculously social. I think what happened was that in High School I networked through my friends from the bus (Darius will understand this since he went to my High School) and they suggested things I should do and through this I extended my social network and group of friends. When I got to college I knew very few people and quickly realized that those people who were from my High School had already settled into their own social groups (honors people get here a week earlier as Freshman, they were, I wasn’t) so I started talking and eating with people because I wanted the company. If I didn’t know someone in the dining hall my Freshman year I found a person or two and asked if I could sit with them. The most important discovery I’ve ever made socially is that outside of a professional context introductions are pretty much always awkward, or at least as awkward as you make them. If you just walk right up with a smile on your face and politely ask to sit with someone then they’re likely to say yes.

At this point I’m probably on friendly terms with over 100 people on campus. I know I bug some of them at times but for a lot of them I’m working on that. Some people though, I’m always going to annoy but I don’t worry to much about them, I try to learn from the experiences but if they have some fundamental problem with me then I don’t sweat it.

Hmm… this comment post appears to have gotten far longer than I intended and I’ve lost the point I was trying to make… <..> >.<

I blame the illness I'm currently sporting.

I guess the point is that if you realize that meeting new people is awkward for everyone it becomes less awkward for you.

Is there anything I'm missing in my approach here Darius? Or any places, just based on this, that you can suggest refinement?

Darius Kazemi April 1, 2010 at 9:35 pm

Looks like you’re doing pretty well! I used to eat three-hour dinners at the dining hall freshman year in order to sit with as many different social groups as possible. Granted, I gained a lot of weight, but I met a lot of people too!

And hey, another TJ person. Rock.

Epic Wizard April 1, 2010 at 9:55 pm

My coat also gets a lot of comments and I’ve been told that I’m the most famous person among the RIT HVZ crew at this point because of my coat. It also gets a ton of comments around campus. I need to get a good pic of me in it so I can start using that as a profile pic. The dragon on my Facebook profile is fine and good for the most part but at this point I do need to start thinking about really serious networking and having my face on my profile would help.

(speaking of which, check your facebook for friend requests)

We actually met in person a few years ago when you gave that presentation at TJ on the games industry. You told us about starting out as a QA at Turbine and your start-up. You’re one of the reasons I am where I am right now (sitting in RIT’s Game Design lab doing work XD ) so thanks. I’m currently working my way through your series of articles after one of the grads here mentioned you and pointed me at this. It’s great stuff and I’m learning a lot.

Darius Kazemi April 1, 2010 at 10:42 pm

Ah, I didn’t know who you were but I can tell from the dragon picture now.

Anyway, you get the rare privilege of being on both my “TJ” and “Industry” lists. Congrats.

Epic Wizard April 1, 2010 at 11:34 pm

Thank you, I am rather honored =)

Yasmin Binks March 20, 2011 at 3:00 pm

I agree with Craig, the girl he described is just like me, I need to change my whole outlook on things, and learn how to network successfully. I am only 19, but I am working my way into the industry and I’ve always known having contacts is vital, to get anywhere.

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