First of all, I am not a coder, not a core one by any definition. Once upon a time I learned MySQL, worked about two weeks as a database admin, did a short Java and Android course and never typed another line of code again. Anyway, I am a proud member of GDG (Google Developer Group) Port Harcourt and on Friday, 18th November, 2016, we had the privilege to host the Google Developer Festival (DevFest) for Southern and Eastern Nigeria.
This post is not so much a review as a recant of my experiences and the lessons I learned being a part of the organizing team.
Becoming a GDG Port Harcourt member
Okay, to begin, how did I become a member of GDG Port Harcourt? It was sometime last year, in one of the very few instances when my former employer showed some mettle, he recommended me to a free UI/UX Masterclass being organized by the GDG Port Harcourt. It was during the two day program that I met Gino Osahon, Sharon Georgewill, Sokari Gillis-Harry, Joshua Joshua, Precious Chukundah, Daniel Ekpo, Godfrey Ayaosi, Ihunanyachi Thompson and a number of the really cool guys who make up the GDG PH. Naturally, my team performed excellently at the UX Masterclass event and I asked Gino if I could join in. It was that simple. I subscribed to the GDG International Facebook page, submitted my email address and phone number and got added to a Whatsapp group and then a mailing list.
Bam! I was a member.
Now let’s fast-forward a few months into the future, take out the afro hairdo and the boss with the lack of mettle, and we have #DevFest16.
This is Google’s Developer Festival, one of the many free events Google organizes annually, to teach people more about technology, especially Google technology, as well as encourage them to utilize Google products. Festivals usually have codelabs, hackathons, pitch sessions and panel sessions as part of the program and this year was going to be no exception. Except for one thing, this time around I was going to be part of the team. Somehow during the first meeting of the chapter lead and his team members, someone had suggested I would be likely to volunteer.
They were right.
LEADING THE RIGHT TEAM WILL ALWAYS GUARANTEE SUCCESS
One of the best things that can happen to you as a leader is to have the right people in your team. Whilst being a part of the sponsorship team, I was also tasked to handle the Online Media publicity team of the event. Considering the level of the event, it was probably going to be one of the toughest tasks I had ever carried out. I was excited to do it, already envisioning different campaign strategies to be used, content to be created and so much more, and this was before I even met the team I would be working with. Jerri Nnah and Dorothy Mepba of AdForumCo are two of the most talented media people I have ever had the pleasure of working with. At the risk of disappointing clients and my future employer, I have to admit, these guys and their team did so much work for this event, I was practically lazing about in the background. With minimal direction, they achieved so much, my supervisory role was illusory.
After trending online for 3 days straight, with hundreds of interactions coming off this event, it was no surprise when we exceeded our registration quota of (500 attendees) with over 532 people registered by the morning of the event, and then perhaps a thousand people who actually attended, some of them not even registering.
BE PREPARED, ALWAYS
This is one lesson, I should have noted from my days with the Boy’s Scout when my father would lug me into the backseat of his Volkswagen Beetle and drive me half-dressed to the parade ground on the grounds of the St. Paul’s church at Airport road in Benin City. Every single Saturday, whether I was dressed or not, once it was time, I was tossed into the car and he would drive off.
“Be prepared, Oare,” he would say.
A few months to the appointed date, we were prepped, and all teams assembled. We were going to take #DevFest16 like a monsoon wind (since saying storm is too mainstream), and then Google announced we should hold off on any kind of publicity et al., until they give approval. The wind went out our sails. Everything ground to a halt. Planning committee team members traveled from the state, some got married and pregnant (hehe, I kid), everyone went back to their usual duties, I put away my already printed “I set to KILL IT in the DevFest Planning Committee! YAAAY!” t-shirt. As expected, apathy set in and we all forgot about our duties.
Then, with barely 20 days to go to 18th November, Google gave the go-ahead. The scramble was the stuff of history movies (the kind where stuff blow up). First of all, the entire thing was happening in grainy black-and-white, none of our anticipated (money-laden) sponsors would sponsor the event, publicity was slow in kicking off, the website for registration and co was suddenly littered with bugs, the hall we planned to use was suddenly in danger of being booked on that day, and all the while the hours kept ticking away. We ought to have kept up with our planning, we ought to have stayed prepared. This is one lesson I would not forget.
MURPHY’S LAW WAS CAST IN STONE WITH THE BLOOD OF BINI WITCHES
Looking back now, the event was a definite success, all things considered. Participants and delegates from across Southern and Eastern Nigeria and beyond, all went back happy, and knowledge was imparted. However…
Everything that could go wrong did. The speakers came slightly late, the cords that had been bought were miraculously too big to fix in the jacks, the walkie-talkies did not work, data connectivity was slow, program schedule was a binsh to handle, PHCN and the PHED (Port Harcourt Electricity Distributor) kept taking power, the backup generator was slow to come on, the ACs were overworked, one of the projectors refused to work, participants brought along more laptops and devices than we had sockets for, name-tags for organizers had the wrong names on them, sometime after maybe 800 people had been served refreshments, the food finished, there was a typo on a poster no one noticed until event day, as well as sponsors whose logos were not included in the backdrop. The list goes on, but each of these mentioned contributed to causing a bit of mayhem at the event.
When planning events, it is wise to consider every kind of eventuality because a tiny grain of sand out of the way can expand a crack into a crevasse.
EVEN CLOSE-KNIT FAMILIES FIGHT, WHAT MATTERS IS WHEN THEY COME BACK TOGETHER
As was to be expected, we fought. Bitterly. Blood everywhere. Tempers were raised, egos were crushed, insults were tossed from one end to another, legs and heads were threatened with dire harm, organizers threatened to boycott the event and so on and so forth. But in the end, the GDG Port Harcourt came through like a family, albeit a shaky extended one, with too many wives and offshoots, but still a family. When it mattered the most, members had volunteers came through and put their very best to work for the success of the event. And this, not the planning or logistic magicks employed by Banjo, Joshua and Daniel, was responsible for whatever successes we recorded that day.
ONE, ONE, ONE…AND STICK TO ONE THING
There were many takeaways from the event, but one stuck to me more than most. Aniedi Udo-Obong, the Google Developer Groups Coordinator for Sub-Saharan Africa and Chief Host of the event, when taking his keynote address said (amongst other things); “Read one book, watch [and finish] one tutorial and join one community”. He aimed to advise beginner/amateur and expert devs who were considering too many options at the same time to concentrate on one and be a master of it. Stick to one.
It was brilliant advice and another one I would always remember. Stick to one thing, join one community. I am happy I joined GDG Port Harcourt and was a part of #DevFestSE16.
For more information on details of #DevFestSE16 and pictures, visit @sedevfest on Twitter, @devfestse on Instagram and most especially, http://www.facebook.com/devfestse. You can also follow GDG Port Harcourt on Twitter @GDGPHC and on http://www.facebook.com/gdgportharcourt
Website is http://www.devfestse.tech
- Murphy’s Law can be calculated to the furthest significant figure and you will still fall short. You have to also prepare for that. LOL. Inception-y.
- It is not coincidence that I have the same sweatshirt on first day I joined GDG Port Harcourt and well, the last. I just don’t have clothes. Buy for me please.
- That last disclaimer is not so much a disclaimer as a very thinly veiled cry for help. Epp mi, plis…
Peace. Follow me on Twitter @Stillweather