Behind the scenes of RenderATL 2020 with Founder: Justin E. Samuels

Meet Justin- Software Engineer and lead organizer of RenderATL 2020. Read about his journey into tech to how he is now organizing his first massive conference

Tell us about yourself (while currently on a flight)…

I don't really know how to describe myself at 30,000 feet, I guess you could say I'm an alien when I'm up this high over international waters. But while on the ground, many know me as Justin E. Samuels. I'm a software engineer by trade, but I tend to wear many hats such as mentor, CEO, SCRUM Master, and senior software engineer to name a few. I'm originally from the redheaded northeastern state of Connecticut, specifically the city of Bridgeport. Long gone though is my exaggerated hard Boston influenced accent, since I've lived in the southern United States since 2005. I'm a proud graduate of Mississippi State University (HAIL STATE, c/o 2015, Business), and an upcoming technology socialite within the Atlanta community.

I met you as ‘ThugDebugger’ on Twitter and I know you’re a hardcore Software Engineer. How did you get here? Tell us about your journey into tech.

So I truly began my journey as a software engineer before I even knew I was engineering. Back when you would DDoS your entire house's communication by being on the internet, I was making a hefty $5 per custom Myspace theme I was creating with CSS. To me it was just fun, so I didn't take it seriously. Fast-forward to college, I began my collegiate career as a chemistry major because I wanted to make the big bucks as a pharmacist. I eventually ended up switching my major > 10 times (at graduation I had 190 credits, you only need 120 for a bachelor's in the U.S.). The epiphany moment came when I was walking with my fraternity brothers (Phi Beta Sigma, Theta Iota, SPR11, 7) and I saw a poster in the College of Business that read "do you like tech. Like business. Well check out Business Information Systems (BIS)". The next day I did, and as they say, the rest is history. Being a BIS grad with the minor in Computer Science really gave me an equal distribution between both sides of the industry; allowing me to easily stay technological abreast, while keeping all business requirements in tact in regards to the bottom line. This allows me to do things like Render-Atlanta, where I understand business, and technology enough to execute successfully.

You’re now adding ‘Conference Organizer’ to your resume, as lead of the upcoming conference- renderATL. That’s amazing! Tell us more about renderATL, the purpose behind it, and your experience bringing a conference idea to life.

As we say down in Mississippi, it's "skressful bruh". Organizing an international conference has been one of the most challenging things I've ever had to do, but the most rewarding. I use to organize video game tournaments in college to make money, and have friends (I founded the video games club at Mississippi State University) and those were also stressful, but nothing near the magnitude of the amount of capital required to pull off something like Render-Atlanta. The purpose of the conference is dual in nature, whereas on one side I wanted to bring attention to the hidden talents of those React engineers whom reside in the southern United States that are often glanced over by the known tech firms, while also advocating for all underrepresented groups to have a seat at the table in tech. As a minority in tech living in the south, I often would have to fly long distances to various tech conferences to network, and learn the upcoming breakthrough. While at these events, I would often hear comments from attendees, and sponsors such as "we didn't know talented engineers like yourself existed in the south", or my favorite "why don't you just move to ". Knowing that Atlanta is THE cultural melting pot of the south, and on a rapid technology boom, I knew the time to begin something like Render-Atlanta was sooner rather than later.

What would you say are the easiest parts and hardest parts of organizing a conference?

So the easiest part of organizing a conference is saying that "I'm going to organize a conference". The hardest part is everything else that follows. This includes, but not limited to: event venue procurement, selecting speakers, setting conference policies (TOC n such), speaker transportation, selecting food (the hardest), show schedule, keeping cost low, getting sponsors, and more to name a few. I say beyond that though, the hardest thing is not overextending myself. I thrive on G$D (Getting $**t Done - notice the $, chase the bag 💰), and I'll happily take on a lot of work to get the euphoria of knowing I'm finishing another task that we have to do, or helping someone out, etc. So burnout is real, but I tend to mitigate that by doing what I call micro-burning. It's where I'll go as hard as possible for 5 weeks straight, then week 6 I ease up and relax to reclaim my sanity. Usually that's when you'll see me on IG/Twitter in some random part of the world just having fun. Then it's back to business, full-throttle!

You have a team of people beside you to help with tasks and organizing. How did you all come together and what’s that experience been like working together as a team for this project?

I hand picked, and got blessed when asking for help. So Mone't (my CFO) was the only person I directly messaged and said "I'm not doing this without you", because I worked with her before while serving our local Atlanta community. I knew she had a strong voice representing black women in a positive way, and I loved that; as well as having a background in finance (hence why she's my CFO). Zack, and Rick came about because I mentioned on Twitter "I'm starting a React conference in Atlanta. Anyone wana help No Cap" and they replied fairly quickly. We met at The Gathering Spot (host venue) and we talked. At this meeting, Mehul came because he was the other half of Peachtree Devs along with Rick. We were talking and I was going over potential names for the conference and I said "I have this lame idea for it. Render-Atlanta, or Render(ATL) for short because we are a React conference, and like the Render method in React I want to show what the view of the real Atlanta and what we got here to the world". Mehul blurted out "oh thats dope. Lets do it" and he joined the team at that time. Zack also joined because I knew 0% of anything about organizing a tech conference, but I did have experience organizing events for my frat, and video games club. Since he organizes NG-ATL and Node-ATL the second largest conference(s) of such in North America, I wanted to absorb his knowledge. Truly though the hardest part is conveying what needs to happen to my team, without overloading them. I have most of the plans in my head, and I try my best to convey it, but sometimes it'll be too early and we'll forget I brought it up until when it has to be done. So balancing that, and my expectations of others could be difficult at times, but we're getting the job done successfully.

What’s the biggest takeaway you want attendees to leave renderATL with?

It would make my heart swell if attendees were to leave with increased cultural awareness, and new insights into engineering. It's impossible to leave a 2 day conference with all the answers, but it can make you a more curious engineer which could lead to a breakthrough in your own skill-set. That's why I'm such a fan of debugging, because while you're debugging, you're carefully stepping into your code to find the issue which could take you to new places and concepts you've never seen before. At the same time, being in the culture mecca of the south, I want people to leave with a new outlook on what we have here, and how opening your beliefs and ideals to a new part of the country/world can enhance your views beyond your preconceived beliefs. That's how you begin to make us all more inclusive, by having people experience new ideas, cultures, and idioms they've never been exposed to (that's why I went to school in Mississippi on a whim, to gain new experiences). As an added bonus, I want people to leave full of our food! Have you seen how much food we're giving everyone May 4 - 6. It's so much, that people have called us, Menu(ATL) - lol.

Plug yourself!

So first let me say, follow my team Rick, Zack, Mone't, and Mehul on Twitter. This past week I was at a conference in Toronto, Canada called Black Professionals in Tech Network where they're dedicated to the cause of advancing black working technology professionals, so S/o to their organizer Lekan and his COO Lianne. In regards to Render-Atlanta, I truly hope everyone could make it because it's going to be INSANE. The unlimited food, speaker lineup, food truck day, after party till 1am, did I mention the food; is going to be on a scale never before seen within the tech industry (or conferences in general). Everything we're doing is with the intent that it'll be For The Culture, so you can imagine how Atlanta authentic it will be. Also a big shout out to the team at The Gathering Spot(host venue), that's been gracious to assisting our efforts since day 1, along with their CEO and Co-founders Ryan Wilson & TK Petersen; and our event planner Samantha.

If folks would like to get more of a glimpse into my life, follow me on Instagram & Twitter at (you guessed it) ThugDebugger, as well as my Facebook & LinkedIn is under Justin E. Samuels.

I'll be at AfroTech 2019, be sure to look for me to get a Render-Atlanta pin for your lanyard, and STICKER!!!! 

Coming to AfroTech? Join our slack group by clicking here!

Inspirational Influencers: Chloe Taylor

Meet Chloe, Founder of a STEM education consulting company, empowering women and people of color through technology and inspiring technologists of tomorrow.

My name is Chloe Taylor and I am originally from Pittsburgh, PA but have been living in NYC for over 10 years. I founded a STEM education consulting company that specializes in hands-on, engaging tech activities for young learners. I am super passionate about empowering women and people of color through the use of technology. I choose to focus on elementary and middle school education in an effort to spark interest in technology for long term learning. In addition, I have been a Girls Who Code program facilitator for 4 years, and love being able to teach girls about computer science and help boost their confidence in school. 

You’re a Carnegie Mellon graduate and also attended graduate school. That’s awesome! Can you tell us about your educational years and how they shaped what you do today?

Carnegie Mellon played a really integral role in my STEM journey and also helped to shape my work ethic. I attended a pre-college program called Summer Academy for Mathematics and Science (SAMS) during my high school summer breaks and eventually enrolled as an undergraduate student. That program was my first exposure to robotics, computer science and advanced mathematics. I got really terrible grades in my classes! I had no clue what I was doing. I literally would just copy lines of code from the boy sitting next to me. That summer experience was very valuable and shapes my work today. Carnegie Mellon is a very rigorous school and my friends and I really struggled to make it through our respective programs. The expectations were high and excuses were rarely tolerated. I went on to get a Master’s Degree in Education from another university, and it was a breeze! Anything is easier than CMU!

Your business, Chloe Taylor Technology, is so cool, inspiring and successful! Tell us all about it and what inspired you to pursue it.

I absolutely love what I do! I started my career in NYC as an elementary school teacher. I’m fascinated by how human beings explore, experiment, and learn. After a few years in the classroom though, I was exhausted! Being a teacher is without a doubt one of the toughest jobs in the world, and I realized the part I loved the most was creating curriculum and designing projects. I wanted to be more innovative and flexible in my career and I knew that many schools were lacking in STEM education. I decided to focus specifically on creating STEM curriculum with impact that was interactive and culturally responsive for schools and organizations in New York City. In a school setting, I typically work with teachers to help them understand why technology is vital in their student’s educational experience. Then, I find opportunities in their existing units of study to introduce technology. Recently, I designed a Tinkercad tutorial for a first grade study of India. Students examined the Taj Mahal and identified basic shapes and patterns to make a replica. We 3D printed the model and it became a great way to further their knowledge of the topic. I had no clue what the Taj Mahal looked like in a 360 degree view, so I learned something new as well! As my business grows, I have plans to open an educational space in NYC for children to learn and experiment with tech. In addition to my work in schools, I collaborate with brands to produce content and events for kids. I have done several brand partnerships, including a creative coding video for BrainPOP and marketing for Sphero Robots among several others.  

What do you love about working for yourself and what advice can you offer to future entrepreneurs about the journey of starting your business? 

I started my first business in 2013. It was a summer camp for elementary school children and it was a ton of work. It wasn’t glamorous at all. I wore a big red staff t-shirt every day and had to do almost every role in the business in the early years, including mopping the floor or cleaning the bathrooms from time to time. I remember feeling embarrassed when people I knew would see me working. Looking back though, I learned a valuable lesson. The only way to succeed in business is to stay committed and to push through the really difficult times. I did what had to be done, period. I think many of us have unrealistic fantasies about what it is like to be an entrepreneur. It’s not always sexy. The people who succeed stay committed and consistent, even when you have to mop the floor. My business partners and I were able to scale and I made enough money to leave my full time job, and eventually start my current company. Things are a bit easier now but I know I made it this far because I humbled myself and did the work. 

I love the freedom and flexibility of working for myself. Though I still wake up in the middle of the night sometimes and think, “Oh my god, am I going to make it?”. What matters most to me is that I took the risk. When I left my teaching job, my boss pulled me to the side and said, “If it doesn’t work out, you can always come back.” I needed to hear that, and it motivated me to really go for it. Not taking the chance would have been more painful than failing, so I jumped.

I saw that you were chosen for a campaign with HP. Congratulations! What was your reaction when you found out you were chosen? What was your experience like filming content?

Thank you! I have been an entrepreneur for 6 years but just started my social media accounts and online presence last year. It has been wonderful to connect with people all over the world digitally and it allows for cool opportunities to find me. I was really shocked to get an offer to be sponsored by HP for their #Rulebreakers campaign, and I’m still not sure how exactly how they found me, but I am grateful. When I met their team, they told me that they loved my journey from teacher to entrepreneur, and they spent a lot of time making sure that all my content was authentic to my life. I was camera shy for much of my life, but now I enjoy sharing my story and hope to inspire others. 

How can technology positively impact the lives of women and people of color? How do you encourage more people to get into it?

It is very important to me that we are empowered through the knowledge and use of technology. I meet women every day that have business ideas or ideas for new apps, but have absolutely no idea where to start. It kills me to know that so many good ideas have not yet come to life! There are many resources online and alternative education opportunities and it is imperative that we take advantage of them. We can’t afford to be intimidated out of our dreams.

I love following #Blacktechpipeline and reading stories from people who broke into tech careers, especially when they are career changers. But we can’t diversify the industry alone. Tech is notoriously homogenous and unfortunately a lot of the efforts to diversify are solely performative in my opinion. Workplaces can be hostile and retention and promotion rates suffer. I feel somewhat hopeless about the race and gender gap in tech at times but I am grateful to have a mentor that has taken actionable steps to support women and people of color. Brian O’Kelley (founder of AppNexus) has been my mentor for several years, and was an early supporter of the Girls Who Code program, which I have seen positively transform the lives of so many girls across the country. He encouraged me to become involved and has supported me as I have grown my business with his time, encouragement and network. He puts in the effort to connect me with people I would not have met on my own and gives me valuable advice to help me succeed. I want other white allies to know that having a direct impact is possible, I have felt it. But it is so much deeper than putting photos of us on the diversity page of your website. We need you in this fight and it is time to step up. 

How do you hope to change or contribute to the technology industry?

When I was still a teacher, one of my students came to me and said “ I like what you are teaching a lot. When I grow up, I’m going to build a big robot, and I’ll come back to school and show all the kids how I built it. Maybe one day they will build one too.” When he said those words I felt a chill go down my spine. I hope my legacy is a ripple effect, and that kids for years to come can feel the magic of technology. I want little black girls in the future to think, “Of course I can be an engineer, why wouldn’t I?” 

We loved getting to know you today! Where can people continue to follow you and learn more?

You can find me @chloetaylortech on social media and you can read more about my business on www.chloetaylortech.com.

My website: www.chloetaylortech.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chloetaylortech/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/chloetaylortech

Get a glimpse of Chloe’s story below!

Inspirational Influencers: April Speight

From working in men's luxury fashion to becoming a Senior Program Manager at Microsoft while owning her own business, Vogue & Code- meet April!

My name is April and I am a Sr. Program Manager at Microsoft. I’m from DC but moved to California a little over a year ago. I used to work in luxury fashion however I’ve been in tech now for 6 years. The majority of my roles have consisted of project management or system analyst roles.

I create content to help people learn Python. I also think everything from the 80s is the best. 

What does a typical work day look like for you?

Since I work fully remote, I have a significant amount of flexibility in my day. It’s taken me a while to get to this point in my career so I definitely do not take it for granted.

I wake up and head downstairs to Equinox for either a class or a quick run. I then return to my home and eat a light breakfast.

After that, I start my workday. I have meetings sometimes throughout the day but for the most part, a lot of what I do is strategy and planning for the rollout of upcoming features.

If I didn’t get a chance to go to the gym first thing in the morning, then I’ll drop by for a class mid day. As the afternoon starts to roll around, I take a break just to chill out and get my mind together. I found that I cannot sit and work for 8 hours straight at a time. It just doesn’t happen that way for me.

So I tend to switch gears by early afternoon, and begin to work on personal ventures. However, as the evening begins, I start back up with whatever I was working on for my workday.

I then spend some time with my other half, and once he is settled in for the night, I work until it’s time for me to go to sleep.

Honestly, when you work a 9-to-5 and also own your own company, you work 24/7. So I definitely do not take moments where I have nothing to do for granted. They come far and few in between.

What got you into technology? What were you doing before you got to where you are now? What was that transition like?

I had a very particular lifestyle that I wanted to maintain, and I knew for a fact that working in tech would help me get there. I spent five years in luxury fashion as a menswear stylist and merchandiser. One day I realized that I wouldn’t be able to reach my fullest financial and professional potential by staying in that world full time.

Fortunately, I had a certificate that I earned in undergrad in business project management. I just hadn’t realize at the time that most project management roles were in tech. However, I soon found out as I began job searching that most project management roles were in IT.

Transitioning into tech wasn’t the worst thing in the world, rather it had its challenges. But I think that’s normal when transitioning into any industry. I was fortunate enough to have a manager give me a chance.

Prior and upon hire, I was very intentional on what my goals were. I was sure to express that out loud with my manager. And honestly, I was able to do all that I had intended because I was upfront about what my goals were. She made sure that my time with the organization provided me the means to reach the professional goals I had set for myself. 

What advice would you give to Black women who want to build their own brand and start a company from the ground up?

Before you launch any products, be sure that you know your audience. Don’t feel obligated to be something that everyone else wants you or expects you to be. It’s so much easier to build a brand when you’re firm in what you believe in as well as who your audience is.

You’ll receive feedback along the way. In my opinion, feedback that does not come from my particular niche or audience doesn’t hold much weight to the business decisions that I make. However, if your audience actually does have something to say about your business, be sure to actually listen and not be defensive. At the end of the day, they are the ones that place money into your pocket.

Also, do not let your race or ethnic background be a reason for why you feel that you can’t do something. There is ALWAYS a way. Sure, you might have to jump through a few hoops. But at the end of the day, nothing is impossible. Build your brand or business by any means necessary.

Twitter is a life changing platform for many people. Has Twitter changed your life? If so, how? What advice would you give to those who want to use Twitter’s platform for opportunity?

Honestly, Twitter and just putting in a lot of grunt work behind the scenes has changed my life. If you’re looking to use Twitter for opportunity, the best advice that I could give to you is to always remember that image is everything. There is no rule on what image should look like, rather just be mindful of how you put yourself out there. If you so choose to put yourself out there in one manner online, then be sure to follow through in real life as well.

Trust me, it will get exhausting trying to keep up with multiple personalities. I’ve seen it happen to people.  That’s why I love just sticking to being authentic. Don’t worry about trying to fit in with what everyone else thinks is cool. Just be yourself! When brands and companies reach out to you with opportunities, they’re doing it under the assumption that you’re not going to personality switch on them. 

Where can people find you?

I’m mostly on Twitter @vogueandcode. You can find my tutorials and how to content on my website: www.vogueandcode.com. In addition you could also watch my videos on my YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/c/vogueandcode.

Inspirational Influencers: Akintunde Sultan

An inspiration indeed! A read on Sultan's journey into tech, #Laptops4Developers campaign, and his advice on breaking into the industry.

My name is Sultan, Akintunde Sultan, well I always have to tell people Sultan isn’t a nickname or a title. I’m Nigerian, lived in Lagos state for a very long period of my life before going for my degree in Obafemi Awolowo University. When I was in my year 2 going to 3, I wanted to change my major from Geography to Computer Science for the exact reason I still don’t know till today; I mean you can have a degree in Geography and still be a software developer, so it wasn’t about the course. Let’s just say the reality of me studying Geography dawned on me late. I never completed the degree program then, so I had to start all over in another University, and now, in Computer Science. And, yes, I got that degree. While I was in the University, I was the President of the “National Association of Computer Science Students” in my school and also the Director of software for all institutions in Southwest, Nigeria [ about 54 Schools]. I’m also a facilitator for ConsonanceClub, the second fastest growing tech community in Nigeria.

How did you get into coding? What were you doing prior?

I never started my journey into tech hoping to be a developer, I just wanted to make things work. I started out writing my first line of code on a Nokia java phone. I had access to a free hosting service called wapka.mobi which I used in building a website where users can download opera mini and other low sized applications. In no time, I upgraded to adding a free .tk service and upgraded to building websites where users can register and reply to threads. Yes, still on a mobile phone and had to code online only.

I started wrongly, going full stack from the onset, never learned HTML, to me then, HTML was just something you go and check to know how to make your headings or paragraph, and, sometimes tables too.

I never had any full guidance, was not aware of the proper way to learn and for a while, I didn’t know I was supposed to code with laptops. 

How has Twitter influenced you as a developer/in your career? What type of content motivates you?

I have been a twitter user since 2012,I left, came back and got suspended for reasons I still do not know. I created another twitter account in late 2016. This time, things were different. I had learned about web development and Digital marketing. I had worked as a freelance and also contributed to several projects. So coming back to twitter, I came in as a tech guy, advocating for youths like myself and taking on people to mentor.

January 2019, I bought some Udemy courses and shared out to folks in Nigeria who said they wanted to learn but couldn’t afford to pay for these courses. After sharing a few, I got support from other tech folks to do more, and from sharing the 4 – 5 courses, I ended up giving out more than 100paid courses.

I’m 95% percent interested in tech topics majorly, I make sure most tweets that show up on my TL are tech-related. 

Tell us all about your campaign #Laptops4Developers. What inspired you to start it? What’s your mission? How has it been going and how can we help?

#Laptops4Developers is one of those projects that just pop up while talking to friends, While I was a volunteer at TechQuest Camp, a nonprofit coding organization that introduces Kids to STEM. A friend Sarah Nmachi spoke to me about raising funds to start her .NET training on twitter. She told me the problems she faced while raising the fund and how lots of people doubted the credibility because she was a Nigerian. Today, she’s an amazing developer.

So I started it all with a tweet. The aim was to raise a million naira ( $2700)  to buy laptops for 10 people. It was supposed to be that simple until I got over a thousand people showing interest all within 48hours of making the tweet. So, I called a team of friends and we had a conversation, how best to do this and what should the result be. Even though for the first week of starting the campaign, we didn’t receive any donation, we kept making the plans.

Then we took the time to analyze the problems in the growth of tech newbies in Africa.  

No good laptop, Lack of mentorship, no course outline to follow, cost of internet access and bad electricity. So I concluded, I was going to build a system that provides all these, handle security and insurance for the resources, and at the end provide jobs for the trained developers.

So yes, the MISSION is to support underprivileged youths who are into tech but are stuck in the beginner stage due to lack of resources ( Laptops, course, mentorship and a comfortable learning space ).

The program has been going well, we’ve met the current Gofundme target and we’ve gotten all laptops needed, thanks to isams.com in the UK for the support.

The DevCareer team also got an invite and met with the current CEO of GitHub, Nat Friedman when he paid a visit to Nigeria, he advised us and also encouraged us to use the Github educational platform. 

We received thousands of applications to the program and we’ve been able to sort based on various criteria also aptitude and coding tests to select candidates. Candidates who pass the coding test are then invited to a physical interview.

We have an amazing selection model, thanks to the various minds that advised me on this, but the program is not a one-time cohort, so we will continue to need more support, in form of Laptop donations, Fund donations, Course sponsorship and mentorship for qualified candidates.

I have found passion in this and DevCareer would continue to build up more developers in Africa. I dropped an offer to handle the B2C of an amazing hosting company here in Nigeria and also quit two of my jobs just to be able to see this through.

Now we have a structure and a lot of facilitators and I’ll probably go into Developer Relations (Avocado) with a suitable company soon. 

We intend to keep running more cohorts while making sure to increase the numbers.   

Here’s a Gofundme link for DevCareer and anyone who wish to donate directly can get in touch with us too via sponsors@devcareer.io: here

Out of the thousands that showed interest, here’s a link to pictures of candidates in different states in Nigeria:

Oyo state : here

Lagos: here

Abuja: here

Your campaign seems to be so successful and positive. It’s very inspiring! What advice would you give to those raising money for a cause? 

The campaign was successful, thanks to the developer community on Twitter.  None of these would have been possible without the support from #TechTwitter and #BlackTechTwitter.  For someone who doesn’t show his face online, (oh yes, I haven’t publicized a picture with my face for over 5 years now on social media). At first, people doubted the campaign, but this started to clear when I made sure to publicly announce each donation and document it.

For anyone trying to raise funding for a cause, especially on social media, it’s always best if it’s within your scope; what people know you for. Also if it’s a publicly funded project, then make sure to carry the public along on the project.

I would also advise not to have a pre-written copy and paste text while approaching individuals to donate, people can see when it’s a prewritten text.

Also, target people who will find interest in the program, people who will see the advantage of the success of the program.

Breaking into tech can be quite difficult for different reasons. What trials and tribulations did you run into trying to break into the industry? What advice would you give to someone looking to break in?

One of the major problems I faced on my journey is the lack of a curriculum while learning, well ,this can be solved if there is a mentor to guide you. 

The major problems most newbies would face are:

Deciding what aspect to learn: Would you want to be a Frontend developer? If so, what would you major in? Angular or React? Would you want to be an app developer? Android major or IOS? 

All these are things I think beginners should discuss with their mentors before jumping full time into a tech field.  

KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO LEARN, AND WHAT THE PREREQUISITES ARE.

Where can people find you and continue supporting you?

Twitter (@hackSultan): here

DevCareer on Twitter (@dev_careers): here

LinkedIn (Hack Sultan): here

DevCareer on LinkedIn (dev careers): here

DevCareer website: here (We created a profile page where developers can register and have a mini CV online with the DevCareer handle)

My DevCareer page: here

Scotch: here

Dev.to: here

Inspirational Influencers: Jameel Gibbs

He builds smart homes- meet Jameel Gibbs

What’s up BTP! My name is Jameel & I’m from Suitland, PG County Maryland. I’m an electrician by trade, but I specialize in residential & commercial (smart) automation. I like to sum it up as taking different components in the home (Lighting, HVAC, Shading, Music & more) and making them work together to deliver an experience customized for the end user.

When you wake up in the morning, if you want your lights to gradually come on, shades to open, your favorite podcast to play and heat to get pushed to the bathroom for your shower- we can easily do that. All you have to do is wake up! I love it because it allows me to create without limitations, which is all any artist or creator really wants to do. 

I’m kind of obsessed with work right now but in my free time, I like to travel and experience new things, foods and people. Every time I travel, I come back with different perspectives on life and it always helps the creative process. 

What was your journey into building smart homes? When did you learn that this was a career path and what steps did you take to get into it?

My journey started around 2011 when I was stuck at a job where I had already peaked. I was sitting in my cubicle researching trades because I knew I loved working with my hands. By this time, I had already begun mounting TV’s & setting up sound systems (as a side hustle), but I wanted more. I wanted to develop more skills in the area I was passionate about. The electrical field stood out for many reasons. At the time, electricians were the highest paid & offered more than one option that I could specialize in. I wouldn’t be “stuck” with one thing. During the 3rd year of my electrical apprenticeship, I worked for a control company. There, I was exposed to building automation. Due to the size of commercial buildings, intelligent control for lighting, HVAC, & other components is a must. I realized implementing this type of control in a residential environment would provide just as much value to the average homeowner. Once I graduated my apprenticeship, I researched vendors & found one that aligned with the vision I had for my company.

Did you make any mistakes, big or small, along the way? If so, and you don’t mind sharing, what were they and how did you go about bouncing back and learning from them?

Of course I’ve made mistakes. Anyone who says they haven’t, they’re lying! LOL For me, one of the biggest things I had to learn the hard way was how to effectively bid jobs. Learning to group labor, overhead costs, material, travel, & other expenses into each job & deliver a quote that was not only fair to my client (but to me as well) is something I spent a lot of time perfecting & has been key in growing my business. 

At what point did you realize you were going to be successful in this line of work? 

I believe in alignment. Meaning - your path is already predetermined. It’s up to you to identify, harness, & develop your God-given talents, to realign with your purpose. Therefore, I knew I would be successful once I was in alignment with what I was supposed to be doing. This trade really came to me easy, even in school I would ace tests without studying, while some of my classmates would struggle (going through an electrical apprenticeship is NOT easy at all, I don't want to give that impression). I did side work throughout my whole 5 years in the apprenticeship and every time I would call out of work, I’d get a call for a job, never failed. I think after about the 20th time that happened (I called out a lot lol) I knew I was on the right track.

As a CEO, no matter what line of work you’re in, there is a commonality amongst those who run their own businesses. Define what being a CEO means to you. Also, what advice do you have for those looking to pursue their own passion full time?

To me, being a CEO means taking on the responsibility for building & maintaining a successful company (including the well-being of your employees and people you partner with). 

Your passion alone might not always be your moneymaker. For example, my passion is helping people. Helping people does not always make money. However, by combining my passion with natural skill, I’ve created a lucrative business.

My advice would be: 

1- Truly identify your passion because this is what drives you.

2- Identify your skill set (this is what will make you money)  not what you want to do, but the things that come natural. 

3- From here, you can begin to connect the dots & create a lane that fits you exclusively.

So identify your passion yes, but then be honest about its ability to be monetized. If it’s not there don’t force it, make money with your skills and feed your passion in your free time. 

Your Twitter following has grown so quickly over the last few months. Very impressive! What content do your followers enjoy the most? Do you have any tips for those looking to build up an organic following such as yourself?

My followers really enjoy daily motivation, whether it comes in the form of a quote, a passage from a book or me out working in the field. Many are also entrepreneurs, so this helps kickstart their day. Since I’m still in the process of building my own business, it makes my content relatable. I think timing also contributed to my following rising so quickly. Nipsey Hussle’s death shed a light on a lifestyle that wasn’t in the forefront. A lifestyle that included entrepreneurship, ownership, self-discipline, knowledge of self, and spirituality. Once he passed, people began looking for others with a similar mindset. I think that contributed to my following growing the way it did. 

If you want to grow your following, be authentic! Be visible! There are literally people who record themselves eating CRAB LEGS & they have a huge following. Find your lane & don’t do what someone else is doing just because you see them getting engagement.

*Pariss chiming in here to say that I’m one of the contributors to views and subscribers of those who, “…record themselves eating CRAB LEGS…” Mukbangs are dope! K, let’s get back.*

We love knowing what our influencers read and listen to. Can you list some of your favorite books/podcasts.

My top 5 books are:

1- Three Magic Words

2- Power of Awareness

3- Mastery 

4- From N*ggas to Gods (Pt 1 & 2)

5- IWA (A Warrior’s Character) 

My favorite podcasts are:

1- Gary Vee’s Audio Experience 

2- Entrepreneurs on Fire 

3- Bigger Pockets Podcast 

4- Working With Podcast 

5- Smart Passive Income 

Where can people get in touch with you/read more about you and your business?

Check out my website at www.SmartHomeSolutionsDMV.com

Reach my via email at info@smarthomesolutionsdmv.com.

You can follow my personal Twitter & Instagram at @JameelHassan_

My business Instagram & Facebook is @SmartHomesSolutionsDMV

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