Kim Maida emceeing ngAtlanta 2019

NgAtlanta has a very special place in my heart. In January 2018, I had just launched my upgrade course and was asking for help from the community to find ways to spread the word about it. My friend Sani Yusuf told me about a new conference taking place in Atlanta called ngAtlanta. He had an extra ticket and told me that it was mine if I could just get over there. Thrilled, I jumped on the opportunity, booked my flight, and arranged to stay with some old friends of mine in Atlanta.

Little did I know what an impact that conference would have on my career. I met many people who would come to support me and become friends throughout the year. I had talked to some of them on Twitter or had met them in passing at ng-conf, but there was something about a small, regional conference that made it easy to begin to build relationships.

Perhaps the most important person I met at ngAtlanta was Kim Maida, Community and Technical Content Manager here at Auth0. Kim not only helped me become a Google Developer Expert later in 2018 but is also the reason I joined Auth0! I later learned that ngAtlanta was a turning point in her career, too. It was the very beginning of her speaking career, a path that has led her around the world since then.

Kim and I returned to ngAtlanta this year as coworkers, but this time Kim was the emcee of the whole conference! Developer Evangelist Ado Kukic joined us. Ado and Kim taught a great one day workshop on Angular authentication. In the workshop, attendees learned all about Single Page Application security and best practices when implementing authentication in Angular. Auth0 also sponsored the food and AV for the workshop to keep the cost affordable.

Ado and Kim teaching the Auth0 workshop. [Source]

Ordinarily when I write about an Angular conference, such as AngularMix or AngularConnect, I focus on recapping the highlights or pointing out particularly important developments in the Angular ecosystem. I’m going to do something a bit different here because ngAtlanta claims to be a conference focused on diversity in technology. What does that really mean? We hear the phrase “diversity and inclusion” thrown around so much that it is starting to lose its meaning. Instead of doing a usual recap, let’s talk about the concrete and tangible ways ngAtlanta is changing tech through its focus on diversity.

NgAtlanta Is in the South

NgAtlanta is organized by Zackary Chapple and his wife Sunny Chapple in partnership with This Dot and Valor Software. Zack works for a company called Ultimate Software in Atlanta. Zack and Sunny do an amazing job bringing the global Angular community together to help boost the Atlanta tech community. There’s a lot of growth in tech in Atlanta, but sometimes it can be tough for companies to get the help they need to flourish. Regional conferences can be a huge help with that.

"Regional conferences like @NgAtlanta can make a huge difference for people who can't make it out to Silicon Valley."

I know how important conferences can be. My first tech conference was Fluent in 2016. I had moved from Gainesville, Florida only two years prior, so I was excited to get to go to San Francisco and meet some of my heroes. I’ll never forget having lunch with Kyle Simpson, the renowned JavaScript educator. After I got over being starstruck and awkwardly thanking him for all of his teaching resources, he gave me some great advice on getting started in speaking.

I had the opportunity to go to Fluent because I worked for a great company in Portland with the budget and interest to send me. It’s also a very short and inexpensive trip to San Francisco. Just a few years earlier, I would never have had that opportunity in Gainesville, Florida.

Zack and Sunny have helped bring national awareness to the Atlanta tech scene and create opportunities that never would have existed. I talked to several attendees who said that ngAtlanta was their first conference because it was so inexpensive to send them. For locals, no hotel and no airfare was a big win. These developers got to spend time talking to industry leaders like John Papa, Tracy Lee, Victor Savkin and Jeff Cross from Nrwl, and Brad Green and the Firebase team from Google. I personally got to see Firebase team members like Alex Okrushko (who also spoke on NgRx user experience) give a senior engineering student advice on interviewing and job-hunting. It was awesome!

With so much of tech happening on the west coast, even up and coming startups and companies with education budgets can’t send employees across the country to conferences all the time. I’ve met people from all over the world at ng-conf, but not everyone can go to that. Local conferences really matter and can make a big impact on someone’s career.

NgAtlanta Encourages First-Time Speakers

Another unique focus of NgAtlanta is its dedication to inviting first-time speakers. Some are brand new to speaking, some are new to speaking at conferences, and some are new to speaking at Angular conferences. This year, there were four first-time speakers and four speakers new to Angular conferences.

I had the opportunity to chat with Maham Boghani, one of the first time speakers. Maham was completely new to speaking but you would have never known it. She even had technical difficulties and she kept her calm. I really enjoyed talking with Maham and that wasn’t just because she’s a nice person (though she is). I found that she really embodied the feelings of first-time speakers. She said she was really nervous about speaking. She was so nervous, in fact, that she didn’t even give her talk to a local meetup before the conference.

Once she got up to speak, though, she saw how empathetic the audience was. People were cheering her on and rooting for her to succeed. This is the threshold that a lot of potential new speakers never cross. What many people don’t realize is that being nervous during public speaking engenders empathy and endears you to the audience. Nearly everyone is afraid of public speaking, so when you’re nervous it makes the audience relate to you. People love authenticity and they can smell phonies from a mile away. This was super clear with Maham: she was no phony.

There's one more quote from Maham that’s important to share. I asked her about her experience with the Angular community and she said that it was her first time at an Angular event. “Zack always talks about how great the Angular community is,” she said, “but I never really understood it until ngAtlanta.” I am thrilled to welcome Maham to the Angular community and really excited to see where she goes next.

Another new conference speaker who totally blew me away was Yvonne Allen. She gave an introductory talk on custom CLI schematics called The Schematic Rises that was clear, funny, and easy to understand. Having just written an article on this subject I know the perils of teaching this topic and I was truly impressed. I sat there thinking, “Wow, I wish I had thought to explain it that way!” I didn’t get a chance to speak to Yvonne at length, but she is a natural teacher and I hope she continues to share her unique perspective and knowledge.

Before we move on, I just want to point out that both Maham and Yvonne were invited to speak. That’s important. When you’ve never spoken at a conference, it’s really natural to think that you have no place there or that you’re not enough of an expert. That is not true, but it’s hard to see that yourself. Having someone invite you, believe in you, and give you an opportunity to get started in speaking can be life-changing. Maham and Yvonne were given an opportunity to shine and they more than rose to the occasion. NgAtlanta is proof that new perspectives and quality content are not mutually exclusive.

".@NgAtlanta is proof that new perspectives and quality content are not mutually exclusive."

NgAtlanta Welcomes Speakers and Attendees from All Walks

One of the things I love most about programming is how little it matters what you look like or where you come from. I love that programming doesn’t care whether you’re a single mom, a college graduate, or an army vet. I have a liberal arts degree and then worked in finance for five years before I became a “professional” software developer!

At the same time, everyone’s background gives them a unique perspective to share. A single mom might explain data structures differently than an army vet. That’s great! The more perspectives we get, the more everybody learns, and the more we can help other people learn to code. Everybody wins!

One way that ngAtlanta encourages this kind of diversity is by giving scholarships through the ngAtlanta Foundation (soon to be known as The Paved Road) and encouraging other Atlanta non-profits to do the same. The foundation gave away 95 scholarships. Out of those, 71 were still able to make it to the event. Eleven of the scholarships were full rides that included hotel and transporation. The foundation gave the scholarhips out through Technologists of Color, NextIT Girl, and Wilberforce University and to other local recipients.

I spoke to several scholarship recipients at the conference that were so excited to have gotten the opportunity to attend. Conferences open doors for people. You never know who you’re going to meet or what talk might inspire your next successful project.

Check out this video to hear the perspective of a recipient of a scholarship from The Next IT Girl:

The other way ngAtlanta encourages diversity is in its speaker lineup. At this year’s ngAtlanta, 65% of speakers identified as women in tech, 50% identified as people of color, and 30% of the talks were about something outside of Angular. The content was excellent! Here are just a few highlights (I wish I could cover them all):

  • Jecelyn Yeen, GDE and organizer of Angular Malaysia, gave a great talk on the state management library NGXS. Here are her slides.
  • Nicole Oliver from Seattle gave an amazing talk on TypeScript decorators. Nicole was also a first-time conference speaker and was a total natural. Here are her slides. She’ll also be speaking at ng-conf 2019!
  • Ashley Berman Hale gave her first talk to developers on SEO and totally crushed it:

These great people barely scratch the surface of all the amazing content at this conference from speakers all over the country and the world. I highly recommend watching all of the videos once they’re up and following all of the ngAtlanta speakers on Twitter. To make this easy for you, I’ve created a Twitter list you can subscribe to.

What’s Next

NgAtlanta proves you can run a conference with a wide range of perspectives without sacrificing quality. On the contrary, the content is improved by new and different takes on the same problems.

If you’re a conference or meetup organizer, take some lessons away from ngAtlanta. In particular, be sure to invite first-time speakers and people who haven’t had much of a platform. Make arrangements for scholarships for attendees who wouldn’t normally have the chance. Most importantly, get creative. You never know whose life you might change.

If you’re looking for another conference in Atlanta with similar values, check out REFACTR.TECH and follow them on Twitter for updates. Several friends from ngAtlanta will be there.

If you're a woman who's newer to tech, This Dot has a new apprentice program for you. The program is a solution in which companies utilizing consultants can hire female developers to do the work they were already going to pay for. The apprentice program covers all frameworks and libraries, not just Angular. To find out more, email hi@thisdot.co.

Finally, to bring ngAtlanta back year after year, please support it. Donate to the ngAtlanta Foundation or become a sponsor. You can also email Zack for more ideas on what he needs help with next year. NgAtlanta is a fantastic investment.

Let’s end with the best shirt at ngAtlanta, sported by Mark Anthony Russell aka The Bearded Tek (great name):

See you next year!

About Auth0

Auth0, the identity platform for application builders, provides thousands of customers in every market sector with the only identity solution they need for their web, mobile, IoT, and internal applications. Its extensible platform seamlessly authenticates and secures more than 2.5 billion logins per month, making it loved by developers and trusted by global enterprises. The company's U.S. headquarters in Bellevue, WA, and additional offices in Buenos Aires, London, Tokyo, and Sydney, support its global customers that are located in 70+ countries.

For more information, visit https://auth0.com or follow @auth0 on Twitter.