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Where do you go for community/support in the VR industry?

Hello, friend, and welcome back to Episode 16 of my 31 day challenge where I am answering your questions about creating a career or a business that you love!

In today's episode, I am answering a question from a very good friend of mine and one of my favourite people in the VR industry, Rachel Bracher, fellow VR creator and 360 extraordinaire. If you don't know Rachel, go check her out! She's working on an incredible documentary series at the moment called With the Wind and Stars about female pilots around the world. The question I'm going to be answering today is: Where do you go for support in the VR industry? So I’ll be diving into that.

If you've got a question, please reach out to me, ask me anything you want @alexmakesvr is the handle across all social medias. If you've got a longer question, you can send that to alexmakesvr@gmail.com, and if you want to be reminded daily when these episodes go live, then you can sign up for the newsletter I send out every day with a bit of a recap about what I talked about. You can sign up at alexmakesvr.com.

This is a full transcript of the podcast episode. Instead you can listen here:

So, where do you go to find support in the VR industry? The full question from Rachel was actually where do you go for community friendship and support in the VR industry? Especially right now, when everyone's so isolated. Firstly, thank you, Rachel, for asking this question, I think it's super important and fun to talk about because it's one of the things I love about this industry, it’s one of the reasons why I fell in love with this industry to begin with was when I first started 360, many moons ago. I remember being so blown away that I could reach out to the very, very few people that I could find on the internet that were talking about this; in Facebook groups; Reddit; thread forums. I think the only two people that were doing YouTube at the time were Kevin Coons and Alex Pierce. I've met Kevin several times now every time I've been over to America, and we've hung out. But what was so interesting back in those early days was that everyone was so open and welcoming and excited to talk about this technology. I could reach out to Kevin, who was one of the only people that I could find online talking about how to use/doing a review of the Kodak pixpro, which was one of the first cameras that I bought for myself. He would reply. The punchline of this is that this industry is still so new, so a lot of the discussion, forward momentum and support comes from being part of those groups that uplift people. The Facebook groups in particular were huge for me when I started- less so now, purely because I don't tend to go on Facebook anymore as it gives me quite bad anxiety to see the amount of notifications in the corner and I haven't quite worked out how to turn them all off- but specifically the women in the VR and AR group, which is all about uplifting women in this industry, was an absolute game changer.

I'm often asked what it's like to work in technology as a woman, and I can hand on heart say that so much of my experience has been shaped by the fact that I have been able to connect with so many incredible human beings, including such cool women doing amazing things all around the world. That's what's so exciting to me; we might not have ever met in real life, but we're having a dialogue, you’re listening to this and we’re friends. So many of you have been reaching out to me on Instagram and on Twitter and we're having these back and forths. That's not something that every industry has, it’s not a culture that exists in a lot of industries. I think it’s because everyone is so willing to share their experience. It's so new. We know in order to grow, we all need to help each other and band together to share our experience and our knowledge to lift the community up. So much of that is so important to us. So I sometimes have to remind myself of that and remind myself how grateful I am. Whilst I don't hang out in the Facebook groups as much anymore, they are huge, hugely important, and you can find some really cool people in those groups. Likewise on social media. If I really like what someone's doing, I'll definitely DM them. I know a lot of you do that to me and I love connecting with you, I love hearing your stories, I love hearing your follow up questions. I've gotten to know so many of you on quite a personal level. I feel like I could probably go anywhere in the world and be able to hit one of you up and say, ‘let's go for a beer! Let's have a chat!’ It's weird! I remember the first time I started speaking at events, people would come up to me and tell me their Instagram handle and explain that we’d talked so much online for so long, and so to meet them face to face is just so cool. So, so cool. So the Facebook groups, connecting with people on social media it’s important. Another big one is WhatsApp. I'm part of a few different WhatsApp groups, all for various different things. Some of them are just a tight knit group of us who have come up together in the last kind of few years, and we use that group as a support group of sorts. I've got other groups that are all about sharing links to new and interesting tech or AI related things that can help with people's projects. There are other groups that are purely just friendship groups, but with people I'm friends with from the VR industry. One of the biggest groups is the XR Superfriends Group, which was started by Renee, who runs Kaleidoscope VR- if you don't know who they are, check them out. They're brilliant. That platform is phenomenal, connecting pretty much the biggest and most interesting artists working on original VR projects. They've got an amazing scheme running at the moment where they’re giving monthly grants to various different people to work on projects to get them through this really difficult time with COVID. So check them out if you don't know about them- and it's literally connecting the global family of VR creators together. So that's huge; being able to keep a finger on the pulse of the industry; see what people are up to; see how people are dealing with it. But also more of a social aspect, especially during COVID. I know a lot of people are having VR meetups or meeting in alt-space or hanging out in Rec Room and playing games with each other. That's really cool.

I really love the meetups and the events, which obviously at the moment can't happen- I talked about how you distribute in one of my other episodes. Pulling everyone together and saying, ‘Why don't we all watch this XR thing and then have a get on a zoom and chat about it afterwards? Have a bit of a virtual cuppa?’ as we like to say here in England! Those might be really nice ideas. It's not something that I've necessarily done, but it could be especially if events and meetups are off the table. That could be a really great way to get support.

I do think that community, support and friendship is really at the heart of this industry. There have been times over the last four or five years I’ve been working in 360 that I’ve found it too difficult, wondering why I put myself through this, and probably would have quit if I hadn't had such an incredible support system around me. A group of people that were going through the same thing. Even doing this podcast, even you listening to this, alongside my previous series about a post COVID world for XR, getting to connect with like minded people keeps us all sane! It lets us know that there is a light at the end of that tunnel.

So those are kind of like a few ways of staying connected to the industry. Thank you, again, Rachel for this question because I do think finding your tribe is just a golden rule for life, really. It's taken me a long time to figure out in my personal life what kind of people I like to have around me, and what kind of people are actually there to support and uplift and be those cheerleaders, but also be your critics when you need them to be. That's so important. The amount of times I've had back and forth with people over WhatsApp where we're literally sending hours worth of voice notes back and forth, just to stay connected. Especially during COVID where it doesn't really matter whether you're down the road or on the other side of the world, but a lot of my close friends don't even necessarily live near me. So connecting in those ways is so important. At the heart of that it's finding people that are similar to you, that will challenge you but are ultimately going to support and uplift you. That's so, so important.

I hope this was helpful. Depending on which 360 camera you've got, there are different groups for those specific cameras, but are usually quite active and good to get involved in. For example, if you've got an Insta 360 camera, you can join the official Insta 360 group on Facebook. There’s thousands of people and they're all posting cool photos, videos and questions about things you can really get involved in. If you are a professional, you can join the 360 VR Professionals group. They’re a little more hard nosed that group, a little bit more of a tough crowd; way more focused on the technical side of production. They can sometimes be a bit savage on new people, so not necessarily where to go for support, but definitely to get involved with if you are very techie and have questions. People also post their work there, so that’s another good way to stay on top of what's happening. You can join the Women in VR and AR and Allies group. It's not just for women, it's a space to uplift and support female creators and people working in the industry, because men are a huge part of the puzzle piece to lift and amplify women's voices. So get involved in that! The WhatsApp groups are a little bit more difficult because I think you have to be invited, but definitely go check out the Kaleidoscope VR website to get connected because that in itself has a networking feature where you can get to know some of the people on there. And finally, a big one is to reach out to your favourite creators online. I can't over-emphasise how much it makes my day when someone messages me and says, ‘I listened to Episode Two and I implemented your email formula, and I've already got three client calls lined up. I was having no luck and now I've managed to land two new clients and now I can pay pay my rent. You're inspiring me.’ It means the world to me to hear those things. So, you know, pass that on. Reach out to people that you admire, go and tell them how much their content inspires you, because that will come back to you. I'm a big believer in if you put stuff out in the world, it will come back to you. So go be a light in someone else's life. Don't be a troll, no-one likes trolls. If you've got an opinion that is slightly different than someone else's, maybe keep it to yourself. There's a time and a place for challenging someone if their beliefs are racist, sexist or homophobic. But if you have a different opinion on someone else's work, you can keep that to yourself, because there's a human on the other side of that phone. I've been on the receiving end of a couple of those comments recently and it's not nice. I don't think the person on the other side thinks they are being rude or making a subtle dig, but it's not nice anyway. Be a light in someone's life. Uplift the community. It will come back to you. That's how you find those friendships that will transcend online when we get out of this thing.

If you've got a question, please reach out to me and ask it to me. @AlexmakesVR on all of the socials, you can ask me a question at alexmakesvr@gmail.com, and if you want to be reminded when these episodes go live every single day, you can sign up to the newsletter, Alexmakesvr.com.

Until then, be nice, be kind, and I'll speak to you tomorrow!

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