I just got back from the 2013 SIGITE conference, and as usual I have tons of ideas for posts and not enough time or energy to write very much. But there is one thing that can’t be postponed, and that’s a discussion of timing. I’ve written a lot about the benefits of conference attendance, from gaining perspective on your own institution to the effects of being taken outside of your comfort zone. But this conference in particular brought home the connections between who you meet and when you meet them.
At the recent SIGITE I had two colleagues attending. I try to not spend too much time with colleagues when I’m at conferences, since conferences are partially about meeting new people, but I adore these colleagues too much to stay away for very long. So at the conference reception I followed one of them back to their table where I met someone who was sitting with them. As it turns out I’ve met this man before, possibly on multiple occasions at various conferences. For example, I can now distinctly remember going on an ITiCSE excursion with him this summer, but for whatever reason I didn’t remember him at the time of the reception. The four of us sat and chatted for a long time, and I had a completely enjoyable evening. The next night the four of us went out to dinner, and we all had a great time again. Then the last day of the conference my new friend and I were scheduled to talk during the same session. His talk was about an online programming class, and it suddenly dawned on me that he was the collaborator I’ve been trying to find for the past two months. One of my colleagues has an idea for a project having to do with online programming, and while I listened to his talk I realized that he was precisely the person we’ve been trying to find. Afterward I asked him if he’d be interested in the project, and he said he would. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do with the idea.
After I got back home I checked, and I have been at no fewer than four previous conferences with this man and met him at least once before. But it wasn’t until the timing was right that I finally connected with him as a collaborator. In one way it makes me wonder a bit if there are lots of other great people I’m missing due to my poor memory or bad timing. But it also gives me faith that with enough luck and good timing you can find the people you need.