One Idea, Several People: The magic that helped me plan my first tech meet up.

Hi there, I’m Annabelle, and I work as the Talent Operations Associate at Andela Nigeria. The Talent team develops the strategies that bring in Andela’s awesome software developers. We manage diversity metrics and support tech communities through distributed learning. These and more make us a world class people sourcing unit.

A few months ago, we opened up applications for the Southern and Eastern States of Nigeria. Our focus was Calabar, Cross Rivers State, so we began to build partnerships there. Hundreds of people applied and so the journey began. We had a handful of applicants who qualified to attend our face-to-face interviews.

(For more info on our recruitment process visit andela.com/join).

We began to deliberate on the matter of online interviews versus an in-person trip to Calabar with a panel of interviewers. Then I had a light bulb moment.

“Let’s go to calabar for in-person interviews, and let’s host a tech meetup!” This would give us the chance to understand the needs of the tech ecosystem which would help us understand how we could support.

Small issue… I’d never organized a tech meetup.

The best I had done was support with organisation and logistics. This time, I would have to plan it from start to finish. Questions began to bubble up in my head: Who should we invite? Who should speak? What topics should we discuss? Where will it hold? I don’t even know anywhere in Calabar! The list was without end.

I told my team my idea and everyone was in support. So the planning began.

I decided to approach this step by step.

Planning

I drew up a plan using a Project Charter template from a Project Management Course I’m currently taking on Udemy. After tweaking the charter a bit, my plan looked beautiful! My Line Manager approved it and execution time began.

Location

Earlier in the year, a colleague had mentioned the rates at Transcorp Hotel Calabar, so I checked their website and rang them up to make enquiries. I had decided we would host the meet up in the same hotel we stayed at, to eliminate transportation costs.

The rates at Transcorp Hotel seemed fair so I decided they would be our Calabar home.

Project Team

I’m learning more and more that collaboration is the key to success in life. For this project, I needed a team. I invited five people to join the Calabar trip and sought support from several other colleagues. It’s amazing that not one part of the event programme was my idea. Don’t believe me? Let me tell you how.

Here’s how the five people got invited:

  • My colleague, Ezinne suggested that we have a member of our People & Culture (P&C) team with us, since we would be conducting interviews. We asked our colleague who handles recruitment for the P&C team, but she would be unavailable on the weekend of the event, so we asked the next available person. That was how Kate Igori came on board. She also acted as emcee for the day (last minute, because I totally forgot we’d need one!) So we killed two birds with one stone. Note to all future meetup planners, don’t forget the emcee.
  • Femi Senjobi had jokingly mentioned to me that he wanted to join the Calabar trip whenever it happened. Other people had said the same thing but for some reason he was the only one who stuck.
  • Rotimi Okungbaye was a no-brainer as he is Andela Nigeria’s CEO, Photography & Social Media.
  • As we always strive for diverse representation, I needed a female developer who was already a trained interviewer to go with us and Temitope Fowotade was the first person that came to mind. For those who attended the meet up or followed on twitter, did you notice how her story fit perfectly into Femi’s session on “Making a Career Shift to Tech”?
  • My colleague, Chimdi Aneke was to go with us as the keynote speaker. His role — set the tone and get everyone in the right frame of mind to engage and have an amazing learning experience. Unfortunately, he had to attend to something urgent at the last minute. Chimdi had secured Hanson Johnson’s presence at the event so when this last minute change came up, we asked Hanson if he could step in as the main speaker, on the topic of The South-South Tech Ecosystem. Hanson Johnson is a Country Mentor, Google Developer Groups, Nigeria and the Founder, Start Innovation Hub (the first and largest tech hub in Uyo). If you attended the meet up, you would agree the Hanson’s session was needed and the day wouldn’t have been complete without his contribution.
Meet the ah-mazing team! These guys rock!

The team alongside Mohini Ufeli and Folayemi Agusto planned the event programme on a Google Hangouts call and we were good to go (distributed teams FTW!).

Guest List

We invited 70 applicants from the South-South region, as well as our Android Learning Community in Calabar. We also invited Google Developer Group members from Uyo and Calabar, referred to us by Hanson. Each invited guest had to RSVP to aid our planning. Despite the fact that we had invited over 100 people, I kept asking myself, “what if people don’t show up?” What if we flop? What if our money is wasted? What will I say when we get back to Lagos? Thankfully my fears were disproved.

The room was packed and the level of engagement was off the charts!

A participant firing me with questions during the QnA session

I can’t end this without acknowledging that we got support from several teams at Andela, without whom the event would not have been successful. I would like to give a mighty shout out to the Travel, Events & Guest Relations and Lagos Finance Teams for helping us make this event a success!

For me the point is, it all started with a simple thought. I had the option to ignore that thought and go with what felt safe, or I could attempt this thing I’d never done before. The whole process felt like building the plane while flying. But at the end of the day, it was absolutely worth it.

The feedback we received from participants after the event was so heartwarming that I’ve literally had butterflies in my tummy. Everything in me has been tugging at my heart saying, “Look girl, you did it!” Thinking about it, it’s exactly what I resolved to do in my previous post which says, “Woman, damn the consequences: Just Do It!”. I can’t but feel a sense of fulfilment after all this.

One participant’s comment after the event. This had me grinning from ear to ear.

Do you have a brilliant idea but don’t know how to begin executing it? Break the idea into pieces and attack it step by step. Talk it out with people and watch it evolve into something powerful. Don’t worry, you got this!

We ended the day with a boat ride to Twins Island.

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