AlterConf is a traveling conference series that provides safe opportunities for marginalized people and those who support them in the tech and gaming industries.
AlterConf Lagos was my first AlterConf, it took place at Workstation, Victoria Island and I had fun. I had arrived early at the venue of the conference despite the heavy downpour, because I was volunteering and I was also the official blogger for the event.
Due to the rain, people arrived late and I was beginning to doubt if I would be glad I attended the conference. However, by the time the conference was ending, the hall was fuller and I was really glad I attended the conference.
With AlterConf being a tech conference, I was surprised to see that there were not only techies in the conference but also non-techies: we had journalists, a legal practitioner, reporters, media and even a social worker. The participants in the conference ranged from students to Corp Members to practicing professionals.
AlterConf was not the regular kind of conference I had always attended. For one, it was open and engaging; also, the speakers were diverse: from students, to young professionals, to active techie career women, to the non techies and older professionals.
There was a standby sign-language interpreter and nannies in the child care section for those that brought their kids.
Ashe Dryden, the Founder of AlterConf was unavoidably absent, but the organizing team did a great job of making the conference a success and asides from the talks, networking and learning, there was great food (and yeah, I mean great food). Breakfast was a big doughnut, sausage and coffee while lunch was smokey Jollof rice with fish and chicken. Yeah, I did have a great time.
A major aim of AlterConf is to provide safe opportunities for marginalized people and those who support them in the tech and gaming industries and talks at the conference centered on marginalized issues and areas of tech in our community.
The first speaker’s speech was on Why Do Black Games Matter?
He explained that games are still pretty young (about 40years old) adding that the game industry is predominantly white with just 8.5% as black and most times they are depicted as gangsters which is mostly because the whites don’t know what it means to be black.
Hence the need for characters that we can relate with.
He explained that:
— The more relatable a character is, the easier it is to be like the character.
— In games, the role models you create don’t have to be real people. We need to create success stories for the younger generation to emulate.
— Games are a source of entertainment and just like any other means of entertainment, it can be abused. This means that it should be managed not eradicated (especially for kids).
Key Points from Adewale Yusuf Speech on Building a Successful Business in Nigeria.
Adewale Yusuf (CEO of Techpoint.ng) was a speaker at the conference and he shared with us some part of his life story and also tips for building a successful business in Nigeria.
He started by telling us how that few years ago, he was new in Lagos, living in a slum and working as a security guard but now he lives in the estate where he once worked as a security guard.
How to Build a Successful Business in Nigeria:
- The Future is Your Niche: Find your strength, stop struggling in a race that isn’t yours. Discover what you are passionate about and go for it.
- Team not Staff: Build a team not staff. Get people that are passionate about what you do to be on your team. Invest in them, train them and watch them produce results.
- Product over Branding: Branding will get people to come, but your product is what will make them stay. Branding can’t scale you. People can love or hate your brand, but they can’t fight the consistency of your product. First focus on your product, then you can build your brand.
Be a start-up: Start small –> scale –> iterate –> use data –> fail fast
- Don’t Ignore Media: It’s not about the idea as much as it is about the people. Build a community and do not ignore social media.
Key Points from Tale Alimi Speech on Leveraging Technology as a Woman without Losing My Style.
This was definitely one section I was really interested in, particularly because of the marginalization of females in the tech industry and Tale Alimi did a great job with her speech.
She started her speech by telling us that technology is her first love. She started her career as an Oracle DBA before moving to management and then starting her own business.
She shared with us tips on leveraging technology without losing our style.
- Clearly understand your message and how you would want to use technology as a vehicle.
- Have a unique identity that people can see and relate with.
- Have a conscious voice
- Choose what to share on social media. Always ask the question: “does it serve me? “, “does it serve my audience?”
- Do not let anyone stereotype you. Know who you are and don’t apologize for it.
Side note: Did I mention that we had young tech women in attendance at the conference and we weren’t looking nerdy *sorta*.
Special tips for women in tech:
— As a woman in tech, you’ll have to work harder, prove yourself and be the best at what you do.
— Use your gift as a woman well.
— Have values and do not compromise them.
— Know why you do what you do.
She emphasized the need to aim for continuous and never-ending improvement.
Mrs Banke Alawaye in her speech on Applying an Inclusive Lens to Tech mentioned three things that tech companies can do to make women more comfortable in the tech environment.
- They have to walk the talk: there’s need to consciously make the effort.
- They have to create an enabling environment: the workplaces have to be made conducive for females in tech. This can be achieved by enforcing zero tolerance, taking into consideration childcare, etc.
- Feed the pipelines: This can be achieved by having outreach programs targeted for females, encouraging mentorship, specific internship slot for women, or women specific scholarship/sponsorships
She also emphasized the need for women to prove themselves, be assertive, speak up in meetings and volunteer for work.
Other speakers spoke on The jack of all trade programmers; Why we should all be programmers; Wanted: Data Smart Journalists; Excelling as a student developer; Thinking offline first and the conference wrapped up with a short excellent speech delivered by Mrs Omotayo Omotosho, former Minister of Tourism.
And like the topics depict, issues were addressed and discussed; questions were asked and answers were profferred.
In summary, AlterConf Lagos was awesome, it was engaging, challenging and inspiring. It made me see technology not only from a coder’s angle and it made me appreciate technology more.
Many thanks to Ashe Dryden for this wonderful idea.