Pictured: Jonan Manzi
Jonan Manzi, a computer science student, attended AFROTECH Conference, an annual gathering for Black tech innovators, with fellow computer science students Michael Aryeetey and Elsabeth Assaye. Here, Manzi talks about the experience and how attending the conference gave him a new perspective on networking and making professional connections.
The AFROTECH conference, held in Austin, Texas, from November 1 through 5, stands as a transformative experience, a convergence of dreams and opportunities within the dynamic world of technology. It was the best stage possible that would redefine my understanding of networking, professional connections, and the pursuit of career opportunities. In the days leading up to the conference, companies and recruiters had already started to reach out about interviewing for open positions. This was through résumé submissions on the conference’s website. If a recruiter thought a candidate was a possible match for the position, they reached out. I had over eight companies reach out about interviews and meeting for coffee chats and dinner events.
From day one to day three of the conference, there was a career fair, panel discussions about the latest in the tech industry, and dinner events hosted by companies to give students and attendees a chance to network with their prospective employees. The companies at the career fair were Google, Apple, Bloomberg, LinkedIn, Meta, Morgan Stanley, Tesla, Roblox, and Red Hat, to name a few.
What set AFROTECH apart was the emphasis on meaningful connections. Several companies extended invitations to networking dinners, offering a unique opportunity to engage with prospective employees on a more personal level. We attended dinners hosted by Apple, Duolingo, and others These gatherings facilitated candid conversations, the opportunity to ask detailed questions, and an invaluable glimpse into the cultures of these leading companies.
From left: Michael Aryeetey, Elsabeth Assaye, and Jonan Manzi attended AFROTECH Conference, where they gained on a new perspective on networking, making professional connections, and pursuing career opportunities.
Balancing the allure of networking with the pragmatic need for interviews, AFROTECH was a phenomenal place for connecting with peers and seasoned professionals and navigating the corridors of potential job opportunities. The challenge was real, but so was the support. With interviews lined up and networking opportunities abundant, the conference provided a holistic platform for both immediate career prospects and long-term professional growth. In addition to the corporate interactions, AFROTECH offered workshops that delved into how artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to foster inclusivity and the power of relationships in the tech industry. These sessions added a layer of depth to the conference, highlighting the importance of diversity and innovation in shaping the future of technology.
One of the sessions I attended was called “Harnessing Inclusivity for Responsible AI,” presented by leaders from Meta and Morgan Stanley. The discussion revolved around how AI can be used to take into consideration all aspects of backgrounds and race. For example, recognizing an accent, using pictures to explain complex concepts, and using storytelling to engage people. AI has the power to do all this while incorporating culture, religion, upbringing, and more.
As I reflect on this transformative journey, AFROTECH Austin has exceeded all expectations. The connections made, the insights gained, and the doors that opened are testaments to the thriving ecosystem within the tech industry. While my journey is still unfolding, I am filled with gratitude for the experiences and opportunities AFROTECH has brought into my path. The next steps in my career journey hold promise and excitement. With interviews on the horizon, a network of inspiring individuals, and a newfound appreciation for inclusive innovation, AFROTECH Austin has proven to be a pivotal chapter in my professional adventure, shaping the narrative of what’s possible in the ever-evolving landscape of the tech industry.
I want to express my appreciation to the College of Engineering and Computing Sciences and Senior Director of Career Success and Experiential Education Amy Bravo, M.A., for enabling me to attend this conference and be able to apply what I have learned through their events and classes.