DevCongress 2013: In the Beginning

Preparing for the first DevCongress developers’ conference had been long coming. We (Yaw, Elorm and I) started preparations about 5 months ago. The simple idea was to help equip Ghanaian developers with resources, network, etc. In effect, we just wanted to develop developers. In our opinion, Ghanaian developers could not match up to their comrades out there in Silicon Valley and maybe, Savannah Valley. Our simple task was to make this situation better. So the idea of DevCongress was born.

Sometimes, when we come up with brilliant ideas, we think people will just hop onto it. Of course, this is not the case, especially if they don’t believe in your vision. So in our 5-month pre-event preparations, we realized that most of the organizations we contacted were not so interested in the software developer community. In fact, this made us rethink, but it made the conviction stronger. Our request for sponsorship went 🙁 , almost to the point of despair. Event venues, speakers, logistical support, cash sponsorship, etc were almost impossible to find. It was then that we realized that finding sponsorship in Ghana is not that easy, especially for tech-related events.

So fast-forward 3 months, the event was drawing closer and not even the venue was set. Ok, so we had to be reasonable about our expectations. We didn’t have a clear line whether we wanted the event to be a grand opening or one with just a “humble beginning”. Eventually, we had to ask MEST for space and other forms of support. We felt quite uncomfortable but it was worth the ask. The support was tremendous. Everybody was on board, Managing Director Ekua Odoom, Operations Manager Richard Tanksley, Senior Faculty, Unni Krishnan, the fellows, our class mates. A lesson we learnt from there – always ask for help even if you feel uncomfortable.

Now that the venue was set, everything else was good to go. We actively began preparations on securing the speakers and other dignitories. For some of them, it would take time for them to respond. Others, they were not even sure they could make it. After a few back and forth calls and emails, we managed to secure a few slots. Then we began working on the website as soon as possible. This took quite a while, coming up with designs, basic features, how people can register, etc. Another lesson I learnt here was about agile development. It was a great experience learning from Yaw some programming tips, etc. I really enjoyed working on the design of the website, I’ll always remember that.

A week after our website came up, we started publicity. Since this was a low budget project, we just relied on organic social media sharing to do the trick, changing our profile pictures, Twitter bios, etc. We received support from Blogging Ghana when they interviewed us on a hangout, and posted an article about us on their blog. Since I’m more of the social media guy, I put in my best, setting up accounts on almost all of the major social networks. And if you think social media management is easy, you have to rethink that. It definitely wasn’t especially when people were not responding. Occasionally, I would mention some influential people in my tweets, use the #DevCongress hashtag, etc. just to make sure my message was well carried across.

Eventually, it was about two weeks to the event. Oh, and did I mention, across all the months, we rotated leadership each month. That was another learning curve. CEO is not an easy job, not at all. This is how DevCongress 2013 came about. I may not have been able to go in-depth.In my next post, I will talk about what really happened last Saturday, with images, etc.