Reflections on AfroTech 2019
WePay is committed to having a diverse and inclusive workplace. One demonstration of that commitment is our sponsorship of interested employees to attend the Afrotech conference.
Afrotech was created to celebrate black excellence in an industry where we are unrepresented and yet also drive innovation. The conference has been running for a few years now, and in this fourth year has grown 3x. This year the conference’s growth was accompanied by a move to the Oakland Convention Center. That meant 10,000 black technologists in Oakland, CA – the local outreach hub for Wakanda (you’ve seen the movie), a hot spot of culture for young professionals in the Bay, and a history-ich city amidst the seat of technical innovation that is Silicon Valley.
As a first time attendee, I was psyched to register for the weekend. I’d heard so much about the conference itself, as well as the brunches, happy hours, and the myriad of nightlife events surrounding it. My WePay colleagues who’d attended in past years were kind enough to provide some guidance to those of us who were attending as newbies – both to local WePayers and our JPMorgan & Chase team members who were visiting from the east coast. We all knew industry peers from other parts of the country, and were all poised to share personal insights and career resources. The excitement was tangible; we needed to know what conference experience to expect and how to optimize for the sessions and socializing.
The event itself was ripe full of experiences and accomplishments from other black techies. There were learning tracks which held scheduled sessions covering topics on Leadership, Entrepreneurship, and Engineering & Design so that I could better understand just what others are doing to bridge the gap in technology, including tips around design and implementation of ideas, building the next generation, and community outreach. In addition to that, 100+ partners had set up booths to demonstrate their business missions, technology and professional opportunities.
It was an amazing opportunity to celebrate the growth of a clearly underrepresented group in technology. It was also one that reinforced belonging for many of us. It fueled the energy of the attendants and the social aspects of the conference. In addition to expanding my network, I left with a greater sense of pride. The value of seeing such an expansive community of Black technologists was invigorating, and the conference was alive with connection and collaboration. There was representation from different industries, geographies, and functional areas. The level of talent, idea exchange, and relationship building would have been hard to find anywhere else.