In-person (offline) tech community meetups have, for the longest time, been the major engagement platform for techies the world over. It wasn’t uncommon to see tech communities in your city or country convene on an evening or over the weekend to share their expertise, learn, and network with other techies.
In Africa, for example, the likes of ForLoop Africa, GDG chapters, Facebook’s Developer Circles, WiMLDS Nairobi, Swift Cairo, etc would often hold tech meetups in their chapters on a quarterly, monthly or weekly basis. Not to mention the global tech conferences that converged technologists from all continents for major unveilings, talks, updates, and announcements on diverse products and platforms.
All these have been disrupted with the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the world coming to a literal standstill, especially in regards to human interaction, organizing offline events and meetups have become untenable.
With the banning of social gatherings in a majority of locations world-wide, that monthly meetup at your favourite tech-hub or co-working space will no longer hold. That hackathon over a weekend that would have brought techies together to create solutions for a problem within their communities can no longer hold. That favourite tech conference you’ve been waiting to fly to and attend or speak at has perhaps been indefinitely postponed.
But does all these mean that we can no longer contribute to the growth of our communities? Or share with techies and learn from the experts? Not at all!
Here’s how you can continue to contribute:
Online Technical Workshops
With platforms such as Zoom now gaining even more popularity with the future of work shifting to remote, it’s now quite easy to converge techies for a 1-hr online hands-on technical session.
It’s also much easier to set-up, with minimal setup requirements as compared to offline meetups, and further makes it possible for those outside your region to also be able to participate( but of course keeping in mind some barriers such as power and Internet access in some areas). Even with such challenges, it’s easy to record the session and have it publicly available for those interested to watch later. Unfortunately, no more on-the-spot swag for those who are actively engaged, but this is definitely a manageable downside :)
At Andela, we kicked off regular technical workshops engaging the tech ecosystem online, first with this workshop on Using Data Analytics in Product Development, led by Tabitha Wanyoike, EiR at Africa’s Talking Labs, then this workshop on Writing Software that Scales by Default, led by Joseph Abokpoe, a Senior Software Engineer at Andela.
The Internet is probably one of the still-standing key connectors in the world today; bridging the physical gap between you and your family and friends, or colleagues, or team-mates. It’s also made it quite easy for technologists to still connect with global tech-thought leaders and continue learning from their expertise and experiences!
In partnership with Digital Ocean, Andela hosted Al Sene, the VP of Engineering at Digital Ocean, for our monthly Talks with Andela webinar series in April. Al shared key, practical, and insightful strategies on Growing and Winning as a Software Engineer Working Remotely. You can watch the webinar here.
Online Code Challenges
Remote work and engagement can also be fun! Code Challenges provide an engaging, competitive platform to get engineers to put their engineering expertise to the test! More so with fellow engineers across different locations! And what with the awesome prizes for the top contestants!
Platforms such as HackerRank, Codewars, TopCoder, just to mention a few, provide great set-ups for online code challenges. Tech communities can self-organize to engage engineers on a code challenge focused on specific programming languages or levels of expertise.
We have done 2 rounds of an online code challenge, dubbed “Crack the Code” in Kenya and Uganda, with 1000$ worth of prizes up for grabs for the top 3 contestants,, and have 2 more coming up; in Egypt then Nigeria and Ghana. Are you ready to flex your engineering prowess, with engineers in your country? Then watch out for this on Andela’s social media accounts via the hashtag #CrackTheCode.
Online Hackathons and Open Source Projects
A number of companies and tech communities have actively put out online hackathon challenges, calling on technologists to create solutions using technology to tackle challenges that have cropped up as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some of the hackathons include; covidathon, COVID-19 Challenge by MIT, COVID-19 Hackathon by WHO
Some of the Open Source Projects include; help-with-covid projects,
For the tech-community leads out there, let’s keep on convening impactful sessions for technologists through the various online activities. Growth doesn’t stop because of the pandemic. Learning doesn’t stop. Making an impact using technology doesn’t stop either. Let’s keep bridging the gap, let’s keep connecting, and up-skilling, because even during this tough pandemic period, we can still get something positive and uplifting from it, including in our tech careers.