Why attend meetups and hackathons

Joseph Magiya
July 29, 2021
October 1, 2019

I was never keen to attend any meetups or hackathons like those people in chat groups who never speak but read all messages.

I’ve been a member of the major platforms and communities for data scientists for some time now. Kaggle, Ai Kenya, Zindi are some of the platforms I rely on to be in touch with other data enthusiasts. But, I was never keen to attend any meetups or hackathons. I was one of those people in chat groups who never say anything but read all the chats, view all the GIFs and laugh in my seat.

This was the case until Zindi partnered with Sendy Ltd.

Zindi is the first data science competition platform in Africa. Think of it like the ‘Kaggle of Africa’. I’m a Zindi fan because I get to meet other data scientists from Africa through the competitions. The challenges are focused on Africa which makes me feel that I’m contributing positively towards the continent.

Sendy is a business-to-business platform established in 2014, to enable businesses of all types and sizes to transport goods more efficiently. Logistics in Sub-Saharan Africa increases the cost of manufactured goods by up to 320% of the production cost! This is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard!

  • Being a consumer, this statement is very unsettling.
  • Being me, this makes me want to solve the problem.
  • Being a data scientist, this makes me ask why? How can I help in solving the problem? (Do you see why I love being a data scientist now?)

So we went to Kigali, Rwanda for the hackathon and my oh my! I was so surprised to see the number of data scientists in the room. What’s this I hear about data scientists being scarce? — Anyway, I’ll talk about this in a different blog.

I got to meet people from Zambia, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Rwanda (duh) and even Kenya! We shared plenty of stories about data, culture etc. What I loved the most was seeing things from other people’s perspective. It’s very easy to get lost inside your mind but once you step outside the box, you begin to see the same things in a different light.

This is motivation to all the data scientists who think hackathons and meetups are for experts, they really aren’t. Your time is better spent interacting with people in your field, experts will give you great advice and you can share your experience with the new guys. Don’t feel shy, people who join these communities are friendlier than you think.

At the end of the day, it’s good to build models, dashboards or anything on your laptop, but it’s a thousand times better to do all of that and flock with birds of the same feather.

This article is also published on Joseph's data science blog.

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Joseph Magiya