It only takes a spark to get a fire going, and soon all those around can warm up in its glowing. — Kurt Kaiser, Pass It On

I am convinced beyond reasonable doubt that technology will play (and is already playing) a vital role in the change of narratives across the African continent.

You need not look far to share in my conviction. Take a look at Andela’s mission of building the next generation of tech leaders and Udacity’s Google Africa Scholarship program. They’re designed to locate the most talented software developers in Nigeria and the whole of Africa.

I was really inspired by the works that the Google Developers are doing across Sub-Saharan Africa and the world through community building. So, using the Google Developers Groups (GDG), I applied earlier in the year to start a local GDG chapter in Warri, Nigeria.

Since I don’t live close to Lagos (the centre of the tech revolution that is sweeping the African continent) — I’m in Warri, a city in Delta State, in the South of Nigeria — it meant that I could only participate in meetups and tech events remotely (through Twitter, to be specific). Not the best of ways to build a network, if you are a remote worker like I am!

I needed to feel, touch, and meet the people who are in the industry in my area, and I wanted to help inspire those who are aspiring and wiling to embrace technology and become developers.

Who am I?

I am a front-end developer, technical writer, a volunteer editor for the freeCodeCamp Medium publication, and the Lead Organizer of Google Developers Group, GDG, Warri, Nigeria.

My journey into software development started in my teens. In 2003, I was introduced to QBASIC, the language for the introduction to programming course that I had to take as part of my requirements to obtain a diploma certificate in Data Processing. This was taught through the department of Computer Science at the University of Benin in Nigeria.

Uncle Frank, a lecturer in the CS department, started a software club in collaboration with some students led by Roland Ukor. We were taught Visual Basic 6.0, Cold Fusion, classic ASP, and then DOT NET (that had just been released by Microsoft).

In retrospect, that was my earliest encounter with group study and the tech community culture.

Why GDG and my vision for GDG Warri?

If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. — Isaac Newton

The Google Developers Groups are a local groups of developers (and aspiring developers) who are interested in Google technologies and APIs. A local GDG chapter can host meetups that suit their communities, like helping people learn how to code and become developers, hosting hackathons, and running codelabs.

The GDGs have been in the forefront of building tech communities across Sub Saharan Africa. GDGs are the largest developers community in Africa (See the directory). As I’m keen on building a community of developers in Warri from the ground-up, and want to bring the same excitement and empowerment that technology gives, starting a GDG chapter naturally fit in. I am confident that the community can stand on the shoulders of other GDG chapters and Google Developers Experts to see further.

Charles Freeborn introducing GDG Warri to the final year students of the Department of Computer Science, Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun, Nigeria

I am laser-focused, and my vision for starting a GDG chapter in Warri is encapsulated in:

  • Building a community of software developers by inspiring as many youths as I can to become software developers
  • This community of developers will, in the long run, gain valuable skills that will make them employable. It will also create innovative solutions for the society and help build start-ups.
  • The group will help change the narrative in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria through technology.

Run Up to the first 100 members on the GDG Warri meetup page

People need to be touched, seen, felt, and heard.

Charles Freeborn introducing GDG Warri to 150 plus students of the Department of Computer Science, Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun, Nigeria

I understood the role of social media in helping us to get members to our meetup page, but I also realized that I had to do some onsite campaigning. So I started at college campuses (targeting Computer Science undergrads) within Warri and the Delta State.

But getting into the colleges to spread the word about the new GDG chapter in Warri required some strategic planning. I needed some field workers and volunteers, which at the time, I didn’t have. I had to run solo to get the word out.

How did I do it?

On March 16, 2018, I was scheduled to speak at the forLoop meetup in Asaba, the Delta State capital, a three hours drive away from Warri. Since it was the first time I was ever going to give a tech talk, I made a post on a Facebook group inviting people to attend the meetup. A certain gentleman made a comment about coming. I replied that I would be wearing a shirt with the inscription “Riding on Grace,” and that if he attended, he should say hello to me.

Charles Freeborn speaking at forLoop Asaba, March 16, 2018, wearing “Riding On Grace”

You can only imagine how surprised and pleased I was when, after the meetup, a gentleman walked up to me and introduced himself as Ilekura Idowu. With a smile he said to me “You truly wore the riding on grace shirt.” Immediately, I remembered the Facebook conversation and was excited to have met this gentleman.

Idowu is a student of the Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun-Warri, Nigeria. He went on to play a vital part as a pioneer volunteer for the GDG Warri, and set up my first appointment to introduce GDG Warri to the final year Mathematics students at the university.

Charles Freeborn’s first time addressing the final Mathematics students of the Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun-Warri, Nigeria

I wasn’t going to take chances by pointing the students to the meetup URL. I wanted them to sign up on the spot, for those who were interested. Armed with my MIFI, I opened up the internet and walked the students through signing up for Meetup and becoming members on the GDG Warri, meetup page.

This visit led to the sign up of our first members of the GDG community and laid the foundation for me to meet the head of the department of Computer Science at the university. I made more presentations following that first one. We were on our way to 100 members for the GDG Warri meetup page.

Hosting the first meetup — a mobile site certification study jam

Community building is not and never will be a one-man show. I needed to get co-organizers and volunteers who were passionate about building a community of software developers.

Benjamin facilitating Module 2 of the mobile site certification study jam

Being passionate about female participation in tech, I reached out to Judith Njoku, a front-runner in the #100DaysOfCode community to be a co-organizer. She would share her tech story in our upcoming meetups.

For our first meetup, we hosted the Google mobile site certification study jam on April 14, 2018. The mobile site study jams are peer-led, facilitator based study sessions. Participants are meant to study the basic and advanced aspects of building mobile websites, and then get a certification upon passing the test.

Getting the facilitators for the study jam

Me, and some of the facilitators (L-R Charles Freeborn Eteure, Sam, Co-Organizer, GDG, Benin, Benjamin Ojorma, web developer and Kelvin Omereshone, front-end developer,

Our study jam was going to span three hours, covering four modules. We realized that it was going to be a strain on one person facilitating a study jam for so long. So we decided to get three facilitators, each taking one module, so we could have breaks in between the sessions and achieve maximum impact for the attendees.

Getting the attendees to learn to code at the meetup

Since we’re an evolving community, I had to get someone who could help inspire the attendees to get into coding. After the meetup, the fire had to spread! I also wanted to offer them a platform that they could use to kick-start their developer careers.

Who else could be more qualified to talk about learning to code than the shepherd of millions of people learning to code, Quincy Larson? He’s the founder of the freeCodeCamp, and I have had the opportunity of working with him for the past year — so it seemed like an easy choice.

Quincy joined us remotely to give a talk on why you should be a developer. He laid out some of the points he wrote in this article, please do learn to code. He wrapped up the talk with a Ask Me Anything (AMA) session.

Quincy Larson’s talk

Key Takeaways and Going Forward

A candle doesn’t lose its light by lighting another candle — James Keller

On the night of April 13, a day before the meetup, I was skeptical about the number of people that will turn up — after all, I’d never hosted a meetup before! Our meetup event page was set at 40 persons. We had the spots reserved already, but I was worried about people showing up.

That night, I went on my knees and said a prayer.

The worries were unnecessary, as we had 41 persons in attendance. I was truly overwhelmed by the turn out as seen on my tweet.

Communities are built by people who are passionate about making others better. Our community does not have a large number of developers yet, but we will inspire as many people as we can to embrace coding as the new literacy. It’s a tool for enriching their lives as developers, and for making the world a better place through innovative solutions.

And for the big win, we had people sign up on freeCodeCamp to learn to code. And so they begun the journey into becoming developers with us.

I want to specially thank Google in Africa, Google Developers, Aniedi Udo-Obong, and Olaiwola Bolaji for giving me the tremendous opportunity to create a developer community in Warri.

These are exciting times for the city of Warri and Delta state and I want to invite you to join the Google Developers Group, GDG Warri, on our meetup page.

Here are the photos from the meetup.

Reach out to me on charles[dot]eteure[at]gmail[dot]com

We will also be hosting the Google I/O Extended 2018 Warri, on June 2, 2018 at the PTI Conference Centre in Effurun-Warri, Nigeria. Check it out.

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