by Charles Freeborn

What happened when 170+ software developers attended the largest DevFest in Warri, Nigeria

The GDG Warri made history by hosting the largest Google developers festival in the city.

Some members of the GDG Warri community in a group photo with Aniedi Udo-Obong Developer Ecosystem, Sub-Saharan Africa, Google after #DevFest18 #DevFestWarri

On October 6, 2018, 176 software developers and aspiring developers, tech enthusiasts, students, entrepreneurs and startup founders attended the GDG Warri Nigeria maiden Developer’s Festival — #DevFest18 . This will go down in history as the largest gathering of developers in the city for a tech conference.

When the story is told about the tech revolution that swept across the city of Warri, Delta State, South of Nigeria, the GDG Warri community will be mentioned as one of the tech communities that helped change the narrative across the Niger Delta region through technology. For it was certainly a historic moment as over 170 developers gathered that Saturday to attend #DevFestWarri.

Cross section of GDG Warri #DevFest18 attendees

DevFests — the mother of multiple tech tracks

DevFests are community-led, developer events hosted by GDG chapters around the globe focused on community building and learning about Google’s technologies. — DevFest Official website

Most meetups usually revolve around a particular tech track like Web development (or a study jam like the Flutter study jam), and focus on, for example, JavaScript.

But for DevFests, one of the goals is to cover a wide range of tech areas with the shared belief that when developers come together to exchange ideas, amazing things can happen.

Run up to the maiden DevFest Warri: Team, Support, Attendance

For a GDG chapter which began earlier this year, we had to stretch ourselves to host our first (and what would become the largest) developer event in the city.

These are the 3 key factors that helped us achieve our goals for the event.

Team

As a community manager/builder for the GDG Warri, I realized that at the early stages of our developer community, we must create room for people to contribute their time, resources and expertise through volunteering to host amazing events. I had the honor of having some individuals volunteer to ensure that #DevFestWarri turn out right and was successful.

The volunteer team helped make sure that we had an amazing event by designing flyers, conducting onsite campaigns across tertiary institutions, creating a social media push, and arranging the venue.

Charles Freeborn, acknowledging and introducing some members of the volunteering team for #DevFestWarri to Aniedi Udo-Obong

Support (Partners)

Hosting a developer festival of this magnitude is an undertaking, but we were able to support FREE entry! We also provided food, swag, and made sure that everyone who attended had an amazing time.

Special thanks to our sponsors — Google Developers, Microsoft Cloud Advocates, GitLab

And this was possible thanks to the support our sponsors gave us.

We are most thankful to Google Developers, Microsoft Cloud Advocates, Sarah Drasner, GitLab, JetBrains, GatsbyJS, and Skysenx Hub, Warri, Nigeria.

How we got people to come (social media, onsite campaign, invitations)

So what if you do all the planning and people don’t turn up for the event? To achieve the goal of recording a massive turnout of developers for #DevFestWarri, within the city and beyond, we had to take a more holistic campaign strategy. We undertook a massive campaign across social media, email lists, and onsite campaigns (at tertiary institutions and coding schools) using flyers.

Official flyer for the #DevFest campaign

The Sessions — lessons learnt and the road ahead

As the lead organizer for the GDG Warri, I had the honor of giving the opening keynote and welcoming these developers to #DevFestWarri.

Charles Freeborn, lead GDG Warri, gives the opening keynote for #DevFest18 #DevFestWarri

Sessions for #DevFestWarri were meant to be all-inclusive. We had quite the line-up of speakers who addressed multiple areas in tech.

Quincy Larson, the founder of freeCodeCamp, spoke about technical writing. He joined us remotely and discussed how to create compelling content around software development.

Quincy Larson speaking on technical writing and creating compelling content around software development

Sharing from his experience on writing and editing technical articles, Quincy highlighted 3 key points to writing great content around software development. They are:

  • Substance
  • Packaging
  • Publicizing

For web development, we had two sessions. Firstly, Matthew Igho, software developer at Andela Nigeria gave a talk on Progressive Web Apps (PWAs). And Simona Cotin, cloud developer advocate at Microsoft, joined us remotely to speak on Building Scalable APIs using GraphQL and Serverless.

Left — Mathew Igho speaking on PWAs. Right — Simona Cotin speaking on Building Scalable APIs using GraphQL and Serverless

Peace Ojemeh gave a talk on UI/UX design, while Theodora Isola of Touchabl Pictures, spoke on diversity and inclusion in technology. She stressed the need for diversity in startups/tech organizations, as it leads to building products that reach across boundaries and also creates an environment where everyone is comfortable working as a team.

Odumah Benjamin, Founder and Web developer, EluComputing spoke on his journey into tech.

Olayinka Peter Oluwafemi, Software developer and community manager at the Google Cloud Developer Community, Ado Ekiti, spoke on Exploring Machine Learning With Google Vision API.

And finally, we were honored to have Aniedi Udo-Obong, program manager for the developer ecosystem at Google, join us to give the closing remarks. He shared the journey/evolution of the GDG program — the goals, vision and the impact of the program over the course of the 11 years of its existence.

Aniedi Udo-Obong, Developer Ecosystem, Google giving the closing keynote for #DevFest18 #DevFestWarri

My favorite part of the event — female attendees and speakers

One of the goals for #DevFest18 was to have 35% of the attendees be women.

And in line with this goal, we set out to ensure that we had a balanced line-up of women speakers — for example, our anchor/program director for the event was a lady (and the co-lead for the GDG Warri). And we had four women speakers.

Martha Freeborn, Women in Tech Maker, co-lead, GDG Warri, anchors #DevFestWarri

A record attendance of 30% women turned out to be one of the high-point of the events — our meetups prior to DevFest had recorded a low turn out of women attendees.

You should join us at the GDG-Warri — Here’s why

The GDG is undoubtedly the largest developer community in Sub-Saharan Africa. I am most grateful that I am not only part of the global community of developers but also leading one of the most vibrant and energetic developer community in Nigeria — the GDG Warri.

Just to put things in context: the GDG Warri held its first meetup on April 14, 2018, and we were 41 people in attendance (with fewer than five women).

And as at October 6, 2018 when we held DevFest 2018 Warri, we have grown to an active membership strength of 500 plus (currently 529 on our official meetup page), with an average attendance of 70 people per meetup. We’re also seeing more women participate —and now we have a female co-leading the GDG Warri community.

Some members of the community had the opportunity to part-take in the Google-Udacity Africa scholarship — with a few obtaining the Udacity Nanodegree scholarship, while others are currently enrolled in the ongoing Google Pluralsight 10000 developer scholarship.

All these things happened in a space of 8 months — you can read about how we reached 100 members here. Most importantly, we’ve had members of the community — who have never spoken at meetups — share/handle codelabs, facilitate meetups, and give their first tech talks at our events. These were roles I used to play at the early stages of our chapter’s evolution.

If you are within the city of Warri, and you are a developer (or tech enthusiast), then you should join us by using this link.

And yes, we have some amazing plans for 2019, for the developer community in Warri — I will reveal those plans in the coming weeks.

Here is the official photo album for the event.

You can reach out to me by sending a mail to charles[dot]eteure[at]gmail[dot]com. Thank you for reading!