Programmer's playground

It is not secret that varsity may prepare us but hardly equips us enough to be ready to receive the rapid demand on delivery of the working world. It is important to take it upon oneself to be further educated and be informed about the skills relevant to your trade. Knowledge is not only an asset. It is fast becoming a skill across all industries.

“Knowledge has to be improved, challenged and increased constantly or it vanishes”- Peter Drucker

Attending meetups, hackathons and conferences etc. develops capabilities and might give rare insight to an areas of potential interest. There may be financial constraints to attending conferences but there are many organisations that assist students and young IT professionals to gain access to these events. Hackathons and meetups are usually free and provide a great platform for information exchange and learning.

The opportunities are overflowing however they are often missed because they are not adequately marketed. Often people are not aware of them or don’t have the means to access the required material. Attending these events is beneficial for networking, information transfer and skills building.

IT is and industry of many specialities with programming being one of the most in demand, and also requiring a lot of self-learning to familiarise oneself with the chosen platforms. The interest is growing not only in being able to use web services and applications but also understanding the logic and creation process of these items.

A survey I personally conducted indicates that many students are only aware of programming once they start their varsity education and very few are exposed to it at a high school level. The participants also emphasised the lack of promotion of these events with areas of improvement including more resources and more IT hubs for intense training.

Java and C# have come up as the most preferred languages. All participants are willing to learn new languages. This highlights the hunger for knowledge and a desire for boundless challenges. Many agree that the development environment in Gauteng is growing rapidly and more attention has been given to this area in comparison to past years. Even more stimulating is that that these individuals are not only eager to learn but also very keen to teach and participate in the spread of IT awareness.

Here is a wide range of attended events among the participants:

Microsoft Hackathon (Durban), CodeFest (Durban), RHOK, GAP ICT hackathon, TEDxPretoria, Tech4Africa hackathon and event, Cloud Colloquium, Ericsson, Microsoft YouthSpark Event, BlackBerry Jam Session, LevelUp event at Thoughtworks, Ericsson Hackathon, Innovation summit, Mobile development workshop by Nokia, Microsoft TechDays, Meetups at JoziHub, Android over tea and Microsoft BizSpark.

More consideration is given to certain geographical areas which may cause a barrier for those outside of these locations. There is always room for improvement and organisations are certainly working on their reach.

There are a couple of events that are upcoming and can be attended *DRUM ROLL*

Random Hacks of Kindness (RHOK)

This is a semi-annual event(Hackathon) that happens first weekend of June and December at its usual venue, UNISA main campus.

Developers, entrepreneurs, designers, social developers, analysts, tech evangelists, code monkeys, Hacktivists come together developing/hacking/solving socially relevant solutions facing the communities, humanity, business world and life in general.

Solution solvers present their work after 24 hours of hacking and winners are announced at the end, top 3. With prizes. Other prizes include "The best Hacker", as nominated by other team mates. Prizes are also given to the best Hackathon spirit, those who had actually survived the full 24hour of hacking.

Geekulcha is the reigning winner of the event. Tradition, the winning team organize the next event.

Great solutions have been coming through over the years, proposed by individuals, institutions, peace workers, social developers and companies.

Google Developer Groups Pretoria (GDG Pta)

This a community of developers as recognized by the Google relations office. Ran by senior technologists at the CSIR, one of the organizers is GDG champion in South Africa.

The three main organizers are proud nerds. GDGPta was formed as a Pretoria extension to GDG Johannesburg GDG Pretoria have hosted training in different institutions such as TUT, UNISA, mLabsa, to mention a few.

As part of the outreach to students, they have established what they call "Android Over Tea". Android over Tea (AoT) is a meeting held every 2 weeks by the Google Developer Groups members traditionally aimed at discussing android apps dev, projects, new technologies, help, new ideas. This has since extended to not only focus on android development but to other tech platforms.

They have hosted a Google Dev Fest mini conference in which our own Geekulcha geeks were exhibitors. The conference was mainly focused on the use of Google products and services. The plan is extend to universities have something like GDGUp.

Geekulcha hackathon

We will be hosting our very own hackathon where all students and young IT professionals are invited to attend. More information about this event will be given out closer to the time so keep a look out for that.

A big thank you to everyone who participated in this survey and for the great insight given towards this topic. Please see some of the comments from our geeks below:

“I think we all need to take part in such events as programmers so we can show case our skills and also learn from others. Who knows one might come up with an online voting system?” - Sandiso Sithole

“The land is fertile. With the right platform and support, we can grow solid space. For the development to flourish, a developer space/community has to be established and enforce co-creation” - Tiyani Nghonyama

“Life runs on code for us programmers, give us a place to play.”- Kutlwano Kemisho

“Besides the degree, these events can be a good place to network with professionals from a range of fields. Seize the opportunity to not only learn from your professors, but also your classmates and peers”- Chauke Kurisani

“Government programmes in South Africa acknowledge the importance of digital literacy and the power of e-learning as a force to improve the lives of its people. Their wide range of free courses and their powerful learning management system (LMS) will help everyone in South Africa to obtain the learning needed for the 21st century.” - Chauke Kurisani

For more information on any of the listed events feel free to tweet me @keitu_tsotetsi