Every day makers embark on some of the biggest challenges in technology, in pursuit of building a product that helps other people, whether it be through code, or not. Over the last year, we have seen incredible growth in the maker community, fueled by prolific makers sharing their stories of financial independence, and building great products, as well as companies who want to make a difference.
This community of makers is global, from the United Kingdom and all the way to Iran. Makers work in many different industries — sales, developer tools, and even health.
The maker community depends on each other to create the perfect environment for collaboration, ideation, and innovation. Makers develop strong friendships with people from different backgrounds which both unifies us and helps us better understand the intricacies of being a maker.
Diversity and inclusiveness
A maker from Puerto Rico shared some insights with me regarding their experience as a maker. Prior to this interaction, I had never talked with someone from Puerto Rico, and had virtually no information apart from what I had seen in documentaries, I had never gained a grasp of the culture over in the island. We have been frequently in contact over the last few months, and as our friendship has developed, I learned new things I would not have known if it was not for the maker community.
One of the things that may surprise you is the diversity of the maker landscape, and how it is critical to forming friendships. Most makers are from non-traditional backgrounds in some form, whether they have dropped out of high school, or transitioned from a non-tech job into a technology-based career. In addition, makers represent a wide variety of cultures, from people of color to members of the LGBT+ community — who all make unique contributions to the maker community.
This diversity amongst makers allows for thoughtful discussions, and for makers to learn more from each other’s experiences. This environment is perfect for forming friendships with people who do not generally have a strong voice and strengthens the bonds we have with each other. Being exposed to different cultures is a great way to enhance our understanding of the tech community as a whole and allow the maker ecosystem more inclusive.
Makers are immersed amongst people who can provide actionable support based on the intricacies of their community, for example, their location or ethnicity, allowing for a whole new dynamic of conversation to be developed. By forging connections with people in more diverse backgrounds, you gain a firmer insight into how others approach making. Makers are normally very open regarding how you can improve your product to accommodate for people of different backgrounds so you can build a more accessible product.
In addition to social conversations, the maker community opens up a new network to source opinions. There is always a place for new opinions in your life. Surrounding yourself with people of diverse backgrounds can help facilitate more meaningful conversations, and help you embody a more representative aspect to your product. The maker community does exactly that, and by providing you with an objective viewpoint, makers can have a profound impact on your way of thinking which becomes a critical component of how you treat other makers.
Collaboration and shared interests
The foundation of most of our relationships has been based on our shared interests and consistent pursuit of knowledge. Makers have to learn in order to keep building powerful technology that is still viable. They have to rely on the knowledge of other people who can guide them to success in a particular subject matter, especially where they have no prior experience. That’s why the community is such a key factor in making because shipping products as a maker require expertise in many different subject matters.
This sense of community has also been critical in supporting the experimental nature of most makers. I don’t think there is any limit to the experimentation of other makers and is actually a major unifying characteristic between us. Makers are always shipping something ambitious or helping another maker do something out of the box. In fact, I believe that one of the best aspects of the maker community is the ability to collaborate on pioneering topics in tech with like-minded people. Exposure to wealthy depositories of information learned through experimentation and the infinite wisdom of other makers means that we can cultivate more meaningful relationships, especially with the more inspirational makers in the community.
I have seen that a large number of relationships with makers actually end up manifesting in the way of a mentee-mentor connection. The value of mentorship is often underestimated, but in the maker community, it is at the heart of how we have scaled so quickly. Most people feel that you can learn something from a maker every time you are with them due to the significant experience they have in a wide range of areas. This vast range of expertise and network of insights is exactly what empowers makers to delve deeper into topics they may not be so familiar with, as they can easily find someone to guide them through the learning process.
These friendships are actually based on the “Pay it Forward” mindset which has helped inspire other makers to learn more and spend more time focusing on the journey of a maker rather than the end product. The value of the friendships you develop is often overlooked because they become intertwined with your regular life because you can receive support from most makers by just sending a message. Even the more popular makers implement the pay it forward mindset into their daily life because they understand that without the support they have encountered, then they would not be where they are today.
Friendships based on peer learning and mentorship is also a great way to develop interpersonal skills, which is another key aspect of the maker journey. Strong interpersonal skills can be considered the foundation of stronger and more efficient relationships in the future, which makers can help you practice. Communication and teamwork are frequently used amongst makers, especially when you are working together on a collaborative project, and represent the fact that you can extract more value from your friendships than just product support.
I have noticed that most of the relationships developed in the maker community are thanks to a strong bond of trust that grows as information is shared. Trust is the key to any strong friendship, and it seems that trust is actually born subconsciously amongst makers. The reason for such a such a strong bond being formed is that we are always surrounded by confidential information and makers understand the importance of keeping this information private. In practice, this means that makers feel more open to sharing the intimate details of their life and products, so therefore more constructive and open conversations can be held.
In practice, the maker community is a great environment to find co-founders, work partners, and anything else. A few days ago I decided to start introducing makers to people who could help them with their projects, and I was astounded by how much support people were willing to offer. Dozens of people offered their help in design, technology, and science, and even those who could not help at that moment provided introductions to other people who were available. I started to realize the participatory value most makers express, and gained an insight into why it matters so much.
I like the fact that most makers work online and are involved in a variety of different communities. Working online gives you a broader perspective of the impact you actually have on others, and makes it easy to keep in contact with the makers who you are mentoring or who is mentoring you. This means you can provide advice at the times convenient for you, and whenever you see an opportunity, as opposed to being constrained to time slots and being in the correct location. With that being said, often times these friendships can manifest themselves through in-person connections which allows a more personalized aspect to be involved in your relationships.
Product review and development
Another thing I have discovered is that makers actually prefer to work in public and frequently publish progress updates of the small details of their work, in pursuit of product feedback. The level of transparency that I have seen in makers has helped makers create a whole new take on the product development process, but more importantly, opened up a forum wherein many people can openly contribute to products in a simple yet impactful way.
Most people who work in public can see a stronger relationship being developed between makers based on aligned interests and truly attests to the helpful nature of everyone in the ecosystem. Working in public has also made way for more interesting discussions to evolve and prosper which other makers can refer to and reflect on, creating an everlasting impact on other makers. This method of working also makes it easier to collaborate on thoughts as there are dozens of other people contributing at the same time, making way for new relationships to develop with people who have suffered the same issues as you have experienced.
Looking at other people’s progress can also help fellow makers better understand their mindset when completing a particular task. By having the contributions of others to work from, makers can gain further context into specific issues and have access to an immediate forum of potential resolutions to any issues that may arise. The early feedback fellow makers can offer will also be critical to shaping the rest of your roadmap and identifying potential opportunities in the future. No matter what you are working on, there’s someone else out there who will be working on the same thing.
One key component of having a public record of your startups’ progress also creates a greater sense of empathy among makers and founders, which gives makers peace of mind when developing a product because they know that they are not going at it alone. This is especially applicable to first time makers who are not yet aware of the stages of building a product and are looking for some validation in the issues they are experiencing. Emotional connections like this are not often found in other startup communities and are normally the interactions that you will remember the most.
Perhaps one of the most important advantages of the increased empathy exposure is that it helps give birth to new innovations in the maker community, powered by the unified work of all makers. The most prevalent example of this was dispelling the myth of requiring venture capital to start a business, as it was makers working together who developed the mantra that you don’t need to start a tech startup to become a unicorn, but rather to achieve financial independence. I think this is actually one of the main reasons people join the maker community. Because they want to make a difference in the way things are normally done in tech.
If you invest time in building friendships with fellow makers, you will notice that they will become ambassadors for both you and your work. Aside from providing personalized advice, makers will often be able to introduce you to prospective customers and also advisors who can help shape the future of your company. Fellow makers also feel a sense of commitment to your work and thus will develop a great sense brand loyalty which means that they will be more likely to do anything they can to help you succeed.
Most makers have actually started at the same point, they are new to making and are in need of support. The time makers invest in helping other makers is directly correlated with their success, and is the reason why we see that most of the most prolific makers have actually started at the bottom and worked their way up through community interaction and engagement. One of the main reasons that makers will write high quality content to empower the maker ecosystem to work harder, is because they feel they need to repay the community for the support they have given. And if they don’t, then they will not succeed as a maker.
Accountability and continuous support
Building a product is a continuous experience, rather than a one-time event. Makers are always looking to iterate on their products so they can adapt to markets and explore new opportunities. Forming relationships with productive makers means that you have someone who will follow your progress closely and therefore can provide you with more insightful advice. They can point you in the right direction based on the extensive knowledge they have of you and your product, and therefore become a critical part of your product development process.
The voyage you go on with other makers does not end after a single interaction. If this was the case, then many of the most revolutionary changes in technology would not have happened. I have ran into the same makers dozens of times as I build new projects because they are all so invested in the success of others that they are willing to provide support whenever you need it. Especially when you fall out of touch with makers, it seems that they are always ready to get back together and reconnect. These are the kind of relationships I felt were not as present in the startup industry.
As you continue to iterate on your products, cultivate new relationships, and grow professionally, your fellow makers will always be on-hand to give you advice or a fresh perspective on a topic. You should always try to tap into your network of makers who are available to help because they can bring a new take on your product, thus allowing you to combat potential issues in the future. This is especially important when you pivot or start to work on a new project as having people who you can immediately contact for assistance can make it easier to get stuff done faster.
Another thing that I frequently mention is the accountability that comes with the friendships you acquire when working with other makers. If you are working on something, try to get as many makers involved as possible, because they will consistently check in with you to ensure you are making strong progress. Having strong accountability partners means that you and your partner can share any best practices you have learned about, creating the ideal forum for learning. In addition, keeping other people accountable can also put your experience as a maker into perspective and show how the barriers you are facing are not unique.
As President Abraham Lincoln said, he was a success because he had a friend who believed in him and he didn’t have the heart to let him down. The added pressure that your peers put on you to succeed is why friendships in the maker community stick for so long and become an important aspect of your life. The principle of accountability is powerful, and it actually applies to every aspect of life. The fear of letting someone down can be just the motivation you need to continue building your product. Finally don’t worry, because your friends will be there to provide all of the counsel you need throughout your journey as a maker.
No progress is ever made in business without building a friendship with someone who will help you stay on track. The more you push other makers to succeed, the more they will push you to thrive, causing great things to happen.
Peer motivation and growth
Friendships in the maker community are normally developed around the motivation we provide to each other. Working as a maker is about more than building products, and actually becomes a journey that we embark on. One thing that all makers have in common is that they are all will have issues that they need to overcome, whether they be product-related, or logistical.
When you are building a product as a maker you feel more vulnerable to what can be very common aspects of product development. This feeling is normally derived from the fact that working independently, as most makers do, puts a significant amount of pressure on them to perform. In addition, financial management can be a major issue for makers as most of them are working from no or limited revenue, which can constrain some key aspects of their life.
The network of support which makers take pride in is one of the main reasons we have witnessed such rapid growth. Other makers in the community are always available to lend a helping hand and provide best practices on how to stay motivated and focused on your product. When a maker offers their support, a newfound relationship is instantly developed that normally lasts for a long time, as they have been able to provide you with the emotional support you needed to keep going.
Another thing I have witnessed is that makers seem to inherit a sense of collective responsibility in terms of the success of other products. During product launches or major announcements, you are normally exposed to a whole new range of makers who are ready to provide you with comprehensive feedback, and who feel they have a stake in your success. Even if your product ends up failing, you will still retain the connections you have cultivated and benefit from the wisdom they have imparted on you throughout the duration of your product’s lifetime.
I would like to stress the fact that whenever you notice another maker is in need of assistance, you should try to provide impartial advice and support in any way possible. If you cannot help someone, introduce them to an expert who may be able to help. In addition to helping you cultivate stronger connections with makers, makers normally notice a sense of happiness that comes from helping, which can make it easier for you to provide advice in the future. You will also become more embedded in the maker community as you offer advice and support, and become a key point of contact for many people who are seeking advice on professional growth and would like to hear your insights.
The way to develop the best connections is to find people who can help motivate you, and provide any personal and emotional support you can when they need it, because friendships are a two-way street, and require effort on both halves to succeed.
Friendships are at the heart of makers
So why do I spend so much time thinking about the maker community? The vast majority of my friendships have been developed through my participation in the maker community. I have been introduced to people in areas like machine learning, neuroscience, and medicine, which have broadened my knowledge and helped me develop a new perspective of not only business but life as a whole.
We take it for granted most of the time, however, friendships are the cornerstone of our community. You can see why connections are a major part of what keeps us building awesome products. The value that we experience from our relationships calls for us to become more active and provide support whenever we are available. Watching our connections grow professionally helps make it clear just how much of an impact friendship has on makers, and the products they are building and making. As President John Adams taught us, to be good, and to do good, is all we have to do.
We extract more value from a community if you feel like you have built a real relationship with the people in the community — and that we can depend on them to provide us with the advice we need to succeed.
When people ask me “Why is the maker community so important to you?”, I think it can be attributed to a variety of things. Our relationships are founded on the principles of shared responsibility and investment in others, the feedback other makers can provide, alongside the opportunities for personal and professional growth that makers can offer you. These components are exactly what make me proud to be part of the maker community, and why I strive to be as supportive as possible towards others.