🎉 AfroTech's Magic: Mixing Tech, Free Drinks, and Unbeatable Vibes!

Listen Reader, attending AfroTech had me on a natural high, but grading 80-100 papers for my class is a buzz kill. I’ll share more about my life as Professor Peters later (sneak peek: teaching at two schools, two subjects, and get 0 chill).

Right now, I want to take a sec to reminisce about several sunny Austin days at AfroTech. The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced AfroTech is THE conference for high-end tech networking, free drinks, and all things Black. And that’s not just from this one 2023 conference, I know AfroTech from back in the day.

How Did We Get Here? Then vs. Now

When I spoke at AfroTech seven years ago, I worked at Facebook (one day, I’ll start saying Meta) as a product manager. AfroTech was a small conference back then, and I was unofficially the “we need a speaker for black people” person at Facebook who was asked to be on a panel. At that time, I was building my career in tech (aka working 60 hours, flying every two weeks, crushing it, etc), and entrepreneurship was a distant thought, brewing. Then, fast forward, they interviewed me during the Wealth Noir days.

2023 Damien is very different from 2016 Damien. I approach conferences differently. Today, I have a much deeper respect for networking and will spend time and money (the tickets were expensive AF) just to deepen relationships.

Seven years ago, I didn’t think investing time and money into building (and rebuilding) relationships was worth it. But now, I understand why conferences like AfroTech are extremely valuable. The conference is a whole vibe. I did the electric slide (from the sidelines), attended networking happy hours with free drinks hosted by top tech companies like Apple and Google, and heard great talks by disruptive venture capitalists and founders. Plus, I caught up with old friends who still live on the West Coast. Folks I haven’t seen in years.

This time was also memorable because I attended the conference with a team member. Our chief of staff is relatively new to tech. It was nice exposing her to more of the tech “nerd” side of me and how it impacts the company. Attending conferences like Afro Tech reminded me that I am living the life I designed, where I have the freedom and flexibility to attend a conference for several days… because it is my work. I love it when I can mesh my personal goals of networking, building a business, and connecting with others on real estate and real estate investing.

2 Conferences for the Culture, But Why Did InvestFest Have to Be This Way? 🤦🏾‍♂️

I may have mentioned in an earlier newsletter that I attended InvestFest at the end of the summer. It's a new “fest” that takes place in Atlanta, Georgia, and it’s focused on money and investing. It is run by EYL, a team I love and respect deeply. This year was my first year attending, and while I love what they are doing and the people it’s impacting… it was a mess. It took two hours to check in and forever to get some food, and sessions didn’t start on time.

AfroTech restored my faith in conferences by up-and-coming black media companies. EYL made an appearance at a talk, which was amazing and ironically helped me understand their own event better. It is a festival, and not a conference, by design. It was partially I who had unrealistic expectations.

In comparison, AfroTech had an amazing career fair. All the companies were there.

For a second, I thought about quitting and going back to tech!

The traditional work life is oftentimes alluring because the truth is, it takes a lot of rental units to equal one Google/Facebook/Uber paycheck and stock grant. A lot! And when I say all the companies were there, I mean ALL of them. In addition to every major bank, tech company, and electric car company… they had Pokemon out there recruiting for black engineers.

Pokemon!

It’s a conference that really brought everyone out. Pokemon is special to me as it’s my son’s favorite, and their company swag (some cards and a toy) saved me from buying my son a random airport gift on the way home. As their biggest fan, they made me a hero when I got home.

I LOVE happy hours with free alcohol, smaller crowds, and opportunities to network in a small group. I mastered corporate happy hours at MIT, and this was with my black-in-tech people. The team and I worked on getting invites and hopping between events until the night ended. I usually don’t attend talks at conferences, but I regretted it after the one I did catch. EYL and Mac Ventures (a black-owned VC firm) renewed my love of private investing, building wealth, and building our company.

Listen Reader, I could talk about AfroTech all day. It was amazing. For 2024, I’m definitely planning out my sessions, networking opportunities, and goals. They won’t catch me slipping next year.

Last Thoughts: Should I move to Austin? 💭

Returning to Austin brought back some nostalgic memories. I interned in Austin, Texas, in 2002 and 2003 at IBM. I considered moving back to the city after grad school, and I have a lot of fond memories of Texas.

Being there again brought up thoughts of moving to Austin. Austin is definitely a city that has blown up. The Mrs. said we aren’t going back to Spain, but maybe we can get a winter home in the ATX. 🤔

-Damien “I'm buying my 2024 ticket now” Peters

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