ATL Tech Scene: DevFest Atlanta 2017

by Michelle Durham, Founder of The Creative Concierge

Google Developer Groups Developer Festival, better known as GDG DevFest is an “annual, one-day tech conference that delivers a diverse range of Google-related talks, workshops, and community.” These conferences are held worldwide reaching locations such as Romania, Melbourne, Switzerland, Hong Kong and for the first time this year, The Baltics. GDG currently has 546 chapters housed in 103 countries, and 2017 was the second year that the Atlanta chapter hosted a GDG DevFest, with direct sponsorship from Women Techmakers and Streetcat.Media.

Image by GDG DevFest Atlanta

#LiveFrom the Loudermilk Center in the heart of Atlanta, Georgia, the #VOICE that resonated most at #DevFestAtlanta2017 were those of the women who spoke for the Women Techmakers series of forums. Partially biased in the fact that this happened to be the track that I and other BTW Insider, Adrienne Brown, actively participated, does not discount the value gained! Amidst those observed were keynote speaker, Kesha Williams of Colors of Stem, and Community Lounge speakers Alicia Carr of PEVO, Jessica Anderson from Spelman Innovation Labs, Kristin Marsicano from Big Nerd Ranch, Angel Banks of Women Who Code Atlanta and last but not least, our very own Shanice Graham-Merrill, Atlanta Lead for Black Tech Women.

Each of these women touched on the importance of organizations like Women TechMakers and Black Tech Women in an industry like technology. These reasons, SUPPORT and INCLUSION! Support to withstand the stigmatism that women are not as smart or “technical” enough. Support from male colleagues to stand shoulder to shoulder with female counterparts and encourage them to be the best at what they do. And finally, Support in creating work environments that are conducive to women feeling that they are true contributors and members of the same team, not the competition.

Shanice Graham-Merrill and other Black Tech Women members

As lucrative as the technology industry is, women, especially Black women do not last long. During the Black Tech Women’s Community Lounge, Shanice Graham- Merrill put her certified BTW stamp on why women in technology need an outlet to bring their challenges as well as successes to others who can relate to their professional experiences. Black Tech Women provides that medium in which women can EMPOWER and RECHARGE one another to have long and fulfilling tech careers, such as that of Kesha Williams, who has over 25 years of in the tech game.


Outside of SUPPORT and INCLUSION, the resounding lesson learned was that women started the Tech Developers movement and have continuously played an intricate part in the technological advancements that we actively see today. During the ‘Women POWER in the Tech Community’ Lounge, Alicia Carr ensured we knew and understood that women were the initial coders, as it was deemed a mundane administrative task, fit only for women.

During her talk, Mrs. Carr reminded us that without women such as Ada Lovelace, who is widely recognized as the original computer programmer, and human computer, Edith Clarke, whom created and patented The Clark Calculator, a graphical device that solved equations used to send power through electrical transmissions lines longer than 250 meter, men may not have advanced technology at the exponential rate in which we see today. In other words, men alone may have gotten there, but women helped society get there at a much faster rate.


Kesha Williams flawlessly delivered the keynote for the day by providing a high level comparison of the Google Mini Assistant and the Amazon Alexa. In her personal and very professional opinion, Mrs. Williams, who has created Skills for Alexa and published an active Action for the Google Mini, guided us into the conclusion that the Google Mini proved to be a much ‘smarter device’ as it has the capabilities to derive more accurate answers since it is supported by the never ending knowledge base that is Google search.

During this presentation that dueled as a skills workshop, Williams walked us through the entire process of creating, testing, and publishing the Action that she created for the Google Mini called STEMA. STEMA provides knowledge about historical women in science, technology, engineering and math.

The GDG DevFest Atlanta 2017 was a great success. There were active participants in each of the 17 Talks, 4 Workshops, and 8 Sponsor Discussion Forums, highlighting Google Cloud, Machine Learning/AI and Android. There was such a diverse spectrum of participants, and everyone seemed to be eager to pick each other’s brain. NERDOM at its finest. Special recognition goes out to Maggie Kane and the Streetcat Media team for planning and executing such an awesome event.

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