Blog by Sithembile Ncube
Last month I had the opportunity to represent DCA Trust as a Miss.Africa Digital Ambassador speaking at the Women In Tech Series Africa Summit in Cape Town on the 18th and 19th March 2019. The continent has a vast tech scene that stretches across a wide range of demographics; from North Africa, West and Central Africa and Southern Africa. Travel across the continent can often hinder collaborations but fortunately hundreds of women in tech managed to make it here and for myself it was a short flight from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town to be a part of this vibrant congregation. Here’s my experience of the summit.
Cape Town was the perfect setting for this melting pot of technologists, innovators, entrepreneurs and business leads. Though in a far corner of the continent, Cape Town is universally known as the continents most productive technology centre, employing tens of thousands in the field and attracting businesses globally to set up shop on their shores.
I arrived on the 18th March and headed straight to the conference venue to join in on the intrigue. The first thing I was struck with by the event is that I’ve never been to a conference with such a large presence of women in technology. Of course, this was something to be expected coming to a WOMEN IN TECH AFRICA conference. Though in all my years working and studying in the field of technology, it was something remarkable to see in what is often known to be a male-dominated space.
One of the opening sessions delivered by Haidi Nossair, Marketing Director for Middle East, Turkey and Africa region of Dell, had the perfect air of confidence and deliberation that I feel many women in the building radiated. “Diversity is key, but we must not wait to be recognized”. The order of the day was to take up space, and taking up space is what we did. Talks, workshops and networking areas were comfortably packed with delegates making the most of this experience.
I immediately connected with some of the delegates who were all buzzing with energy and bright eyed about the prospects that the event held. A fellow Zambian, Sambwa Chipungu, attended the event with a keen interest in database technologies. She told me about the Hadoop workshop she had just attended and networking with Amazon developers. And this was 3 hours into the day! The two-day conference had a loaded schedule and unfortunately it wasn’t possible to attend all or even most of the sessions as there were often five sessions running concurrently in different halls. This allowed for a variety of experiences and though you may seem spoiled for choice with the variety, one has to be wise in honing in on the sessions you seek to benefit the most from.
Some other delegates I was able to connect with were Baratang Miya, Founder and CEO of GirlHype, an organisation in South Africa providing opportunities for young women to engage with technology. We shared our passion for seeing more opportunities for youth being given access to the digital world and also had an interesting conversation about cyber security and balancing access to information and how to protect youth from bad actors online. Baratang was a speaker and moderator during the event as well.
My opportunity as a speaker allowed me to be involved in the best way I could imagine by sharing experiences I’ve learned through a technical talk “Presenting Tech Principles To A Non-Tech Audience” [PDF]. My 25 minute talk was summarized with 6 points using skills I learned from structuring content for workshops for absolute beginners in technology. Key takeaways were understanding how to analyse your audience, refining your content to suit their needs and delivering your material in the most suitable way to your audience. I also spoke about how the work done by DCA Trust and the Miss.Africa Seed Fund Award allowed me to do more work with my own organisation in getting more women in STEM activities and digital literacy. Programs like the Miss.Africa Digital Program continue to allow more women to be empowered by technology and included in the digital space and I would highly encourage anyone with a passion for maintaining growth in this area to look into involvement in the Miss.Africa Digital Program or collaborate through the Miss.Africa Seed Fund Grant that supports women with initiatives aimed at promoting digital inclusion.
On the second day of the conference I had more time to attend various talks. It’s hard for me to pick favorites because I had something to takeaway from each session. But I would like to highlight a talk delivered by Sewagodimo Matlapeng on “Coding Trends To Take Advantage Of In 2019”. Sewadimo has a Youtube channel and blog called ‘Sunshine In My Code’ and her love for coding and sharing knowledge came across effortlessly in her session that quickly gave us an insight on a broad range of technology to look into that would suit the needs of anyone in the room.
Another personal favorite that I will find useful for my own career, is the talk given by Facebook program managers Bravishma Narayan and Shaheena Arshad-Trijillo on “Testing and Test Automation Strategies For 2019”.
Speaking of Facebook, the Networking and Expo hall was open throughout the conference with stands and representatives from organisations like Facebook, Amazon, Fenix Int and Dell. Not only was this a great place to learn more from the company representatives, but it was also a great place to meet and network between sessions and drop into the speaker’s corner to take part in some open meetups.
I don’t remember sitting down outside of the talks on the second day as there were so many interesting happening about the place that I was eager to take in before the event was over. An extra day wouldn’t have been enough for me to take in all that I would have loved to, but I say this with great pleasure and appreciation for the people that made this event happen and my attendance possible. Needless to say, this has stirred my passion to continue working in this space and allowing room for future generations of women to experience bigger and better things.
With those closing remarks I would like to leave a quote given to us by Asha Ranchhod, Head of Marketing at Google South Africa.
“Run towards the light. Know the power of choice. Set powerful & positive intentions. Champion other women embrace unique journey of a woman.”
About Women In Tech World Series
The Women in Tech World Series is a platform built to empower individuals and drive diversity and inclusion. They host the world’s largest event series dedicated to women in technology. This massive international, cutting-edge conference portfolio dedicated to diversity is organised by Maddox Events. Within 3 years of their last conferences, they have attracted speakers from the world’s most successful and most innovative companies empowering individuals and driving industry development within Technology, Finance, Construction and Law, Sport & Sales.