Following the invitation from the Google folks over in Nigeria I went on a journey to Nairobi, Kenya. The purpose of the Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) Community Summit was to bring together organisers of Google Developer Groups (GDGs) from various locations in the region to talk about their user groups, to share their experience, and to inspire each other with success stories.
As an organising delegate of the GDG Mauritius chapter I was really looking forward to meet other passionate user group leads and to learn from their struggles and successes. Our local GDG turned one year recently and we are still working on several ideas to be able to deliver any content based on Google technology in the best possible way.
Preparations and travelling
The past weeks I was desperately looking for my international health pass by the WHO. Mainly to check what type of vaccines I already did prior to moving to Mauritius; most importantly to get confirmation about my state of vaccination in regards to Yellow Fever - which I'm sure I already did.
Anyway, as the document was nowhere to be found we went to the national vaccination centre in Port Louis and I got another shot. Plus some preventive medication against Malaria.
The visa regulations for Kenya are visitor-friendly - both in regards to Mauritian nationality as well as German.
Thanks to a direct connection on Kenya Airways between Mauritius and Nairobi it only took four hours something to reach destination. The passport and visa handling as well as the security checks were done quickly.
By coincidence I already bumped into another GDG lead, Dodo from Congo, at the passport / visa counter at Jomo Kenyatta Intl. Airport. Of course, we teamed up and went to look for our arranged transfer service to the hotel. What a great start into the GDG Summit...
Women Techmakers Summit
For Thursday there were no detailed plans for GDG leads. Not knowing anyone in town I wasn't too eager to get out of the hotel. Much to my liking the day was scheduled for the #WTMSummit - a gathering of amazing women in technology in the SSA region.
The Women Techmakers is an initiative that is continually launching global scalable initiatives and piloting new programs to support and empower women in the industry.
Google's Women Techmakers program provides visibility, community, and resources for women in technology.
Although male GDG leads were not invited to attend the #WTMSummit, we were most welcome to hang around (thanks Aniedi!)...
Seeing so many women living their passion in technology was an inspiration for me to reflect on our past activities and to review the way how we address our regular meetings.
The most interesting take-away from the WTM Summit was that it does not have to be about technology all the time. The talk about Mindfulness by Dorothy Ooko brought a completely different touch to my understanding of user group meetings.
Also the stories and experiences from the other WTM ladies in regards to their activities was helpful to better understand certain constraints and gave me bunch of new ideas to work on.
On Friday morning I woke up according to my usual routine; meaning very early. Given that my roommate Braulio was still chasing Zzzzs I packed my equipment and settled down in the hotel lobby - waiting for breakfast time.
Speaking of breakfast... luckily I was not the only early bird and within shortest time we had a table full of GDG leads deep into networking talks about where we are from, how we handle events, what we do as daily jobs, etc. Overall a great warmup already for the #GDGSummit to come.
Gratefully my session proposal for the SSA Community Summit 2018 had been accepted - on Tuesday evening ;-) - and therefore I still had to add a few bits and bytes to my slidedeck; mainly some inspirational quotes and a few catchy images.
From Idea to Inspiring IT Communities
The talk was spinning around the creation of the MSCC based on an ambitious idea some years back, the up's and down's that we experienced to have a vital and inspiring eco-system of various user groups in Mauritius nowadays.
The slidedeck is not available publicly.
Following are the main bullet points I talked about, and I would like to invite you to get in touch with me in case you are interested to know more about the history and development of user groups in Mauritius.
Again, during the whole day all sessions were absolutely outstanding and full of life lessons learned by other GDG leads from all over Africa. Some very entertaining, others very amusing, and a few quite interactive.
Two important aspects shone through in almost every presentation:
Funding of events and how to deal with absent attendees.
Even I addressed the former during my talk. And thanks to building healthy relationships with various partners in Mauritius we are nowadays somehow secured in those matters. Nonetheless, we are still working on the no-show situation. Ideas and tips are most welcome!
Above are just a few impressions of the awesome experience during the #GDGSummit.
I made new friends from all over Africa and finally had a chance to meet some of the people that participate in our regular Hangouts on Air.
After a hard day's work... Party!
What happens in Nairobi, stays in Nairobi! ;-)
Okay, a few clicks from the evening. Without any doubt we had a great time and a well-deserved break from that long day. And it was a great opportunity to make (more) new friends and to start technological relationships across Africa.
GDG DevFest Nairobi 2018
Honestly I don't know where to start about the biggest Google tech conference in Sub-Saharan Africa. Perhaps it might be easiest to check out #DevFestNairobi on Twitter...
According to the event announcement on Meetup there had been 1,200 RSVPs and I was told by the organisers Roina Ochieng and Ngesa Marvin that there were another 300 RSVPs on waiting list! Those are numbers we can only dream about it Mauritius.
The agenda covered six parallel tracks on anything Google in Android, Web, IoT, AI, ML and Cloud technologies. One had to be very selective in regards to the choice of sessions...
Hopefully, I was able to wet your appetite to know more about DevFest. Check out the official website by Google. Perhaps there is already a DevFest planned near you or you might even consider to organise one yourself.
DevFests are community-led, developer events hosted by GDG chapters around the globe focused on community building and learning about Google’s technologies.
Due to flight schedule and transport arrangements I had to leave DevFest Nairobi a bit earlier than expected. But frankly I have to admit that given the previous days I was totally confident and loaded with tons of information.
Getting back to the hotel early I tried an Uber - thanks to Vivian for arranging it - and it was a pleasant experience. It would be innovative to get this kind of service in Mauritius, too. Not only is it affordable but also quite convenient to catch a ride on demand when and where you would need it. And tourists coming to Mauritius are most probably used to this kind of service.
A few impressions from Nairobi
Literally everything here in Kenya seems to be larger. There is so much space... it's kind of impressive and mind-boggling. Only taking Nairobi, a.k.a. the Green City in the Sun, into consideration there are approx. 3.1 to 6.5 million people living in an area of roughly 700 km2 - that is easily five times the population of Mauritius.
Coming out of the airport there are four to six lanes on the motorway - in one direction only...
Thanks and Thoughts
Finally, I would like to reach out to Aniedi Udo-Obong and Olaiwola Bolaji, our Google Developer Ecosystems Community Managers for Sub-Saharan Africa, to John Kimani, Developer Ecosystem at Google, and to Vivian Akinyi, Google Developer Ecosystem Community Manager SSA: THANK YOU!
A big Thank You to everyone else involved in the preparation and execution of the SSA Community Summit 2018 and DevFest Nairobi 2018. It was an outstanding experience for me and I had a wonderful time in Kenya - thanks to you.
What started with a simple "Expression of Interest" turned into an amazing adventure. Even now, after more than one week I am still awed by the experience and continue to review my notes, scan through the hundreds of pictures taken, and read the numerous posts on social media networks.
Being able to share this experience in Nairobi with our community members in Mauritius is wonderful, and I truly hope that this is going to inspire others. Live your passion in technology, show your interests and share your knowledge & experience at any stage in your career. No matter whether you are an adolescent or an old fox in the IT sector. We can learn from each other - anytime!