I love watching my toddler play. He sees another kid with cool Matchbox cars or building Legos and he dives right in. He doesn’t hang back and watch or wait for an invitation; he smiles, says hi, picks up a car, and they immediately begin the most incredible race of all time.

Lot of kids his age are like this. They’re so innocent and joyful; they don’t exclude; they don’t judge. It’s simple; they see an opportunity to share the things they enjoy and don’t hesitate to make fun happen.

At some point, we seem to lose this. We feel like we need an invitation to join in with others. I know I felt that way before I went to my first Meetup. Will I be accepted? Or will I end up feeling like the last kid picked for the team? I see these same questions on the faces of most people attending their first Meetup.

Even though these questions and feelings seem real, more often than not, reality is just the opposite. At the end of the day we’re all just kids looking to share the things we love with someone. Only now, instead of race cars and legos, it’s Ruby, Clojure, or mentoring.

I walked into my first Girl Develop It meeting feeling unsure but I was immediately welcomed and left feeling totally inspired. Here is an incredible group of women taking time out of their busy schedules to help fellow women, and other marginalized groups, learn about development and the tech industry. Men are always warmly welcomed and encouraged to join in the fun too.

To say I feel fortunate would be an understatement. I walked into my first Girl Develop It event not knowing a single soul. Just like my son, I smiled and said “hi” and because of that simple willingness I’ve met incredible people and created great friendships.

Wanting to support the cause any way I could, it wasn’t long before I raised my hand to help as an organizer for the Ann Arbor chapter. The founders, Julie Cameron and Ronda Bergman, began teaching me how to plan and organize events, as well as find sponsorship.

With their support I am learning to be more than an enthusiastic participant. Today, as one of the four organizers I helped plan and coordinate our first annual fund raising event. At times, I worried about the success of the event—I’d never done anything like this before–but we ended up celebrating with almost 150 people and raising over $6000! Seeing the joy on everyone’s face made every minute of planning well worth it.

Girl Develop It is a truly special organization, with each chapter supporting the other by sharing materials, ideas, and resources. Because of GDI I’ve been able to stand beside women as they’ve transformed their careers and changed their lives. It’s certainly changing mine.

So don’t wait for an invitation. Don’t doubt you will be accepted. Find a local Meetup with people who share your interests and invite yourself to the party. Cuz we’re all just kids looking to build Legos with someone.

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