My ‘First Birthday’ at Croydon Tech City

By - Monday 10th February, 2014

Shaniqua Benjamin reflects on the use of networking and Croydon Tech City’s first birthday

Image by Fluid4Sight, used with permission.

“Network, network, network!” emphasised Croydon Tech City’s co-founder Nigel Dias at their 2014 launch. In fact, it was networking that resulted in me being at Matthews Yard for the first time.

I have been attending an employability programme that is put on by the charity, Lives Not Knives. This programme allowed me to interact with Monique Reberio and Randy Mukadi, a young man aspiring to work in the media industry, who let me know about the event and also gave me support in a new environment. This then gave me the pleasure of meeting David Lee, the creator of the Smart Dresser app, and Anil Vaghela, director of Anilytics Limited.

On the 23rd of January, I found myself in a packed Matthews Yard surrounded by a variety of young and older men and women. The regular returnees and numerous newcomers – myself included – spent time networking, socialising and hearing about the exciting happenings in Croydon, as we celebrated Croydon Tech City’s first birthday.

Being immersed in the tech world was a totally new experience for me – I am an individual who is more attracted to the arts – unlike the many individuals who are part of CTC’s community. As the word spreads, the size of the community is constantly increasing, which is validation that this initiative is working.

I think even I was taken aback by how popular the event was – although I was fortunate enough to get a seat at the front of the action, several people were forced to stand at the back and around the sides once the presentations had begun. Nevertheless, everyone was in high spirits as head of relationships, Sarah Luxford, warmly sparked off proceedings by wishing Croydon Tech City a very happy birthday, sealed with a round of applause.

I love that at the heart of CTC is their passion to reshape Croydon’s future and change the reputation of a borough that is seen as deadbeat and criminal

I was interested to learn more about CTC, as I listened to founder Jonny Rose look back on the past twelve months and Dias look forward to the next twelve months of their ‘start-up’. Where I come from means a lot to me, so I love that at the heart of CTC is their passion to reshape Croydon’s future and change the reputation of a borough that is seen as deadbeat and criminal.

What really stood out to me is that CTC would like to help in education, as Dias believes that you “can’t underestimate tech skills”. Coding has become an important skill to possess, so they are aiming to initiate Code Club into every single Croydon primary school by 2015, which is a club that I wish was around when I went to school as I am definitely not tech savvy.

It was inspiring to hear Simon Bird’s story of his rise to success. From starting a web development company with three other individuals in a small South Croydon office, Bird’s company, the DotDigital Group, has grown into a global organisation with eight employees based in New York City, as they aim to sell tech products to the lucrative US market.

I was also fortunate enough to be present to hear the council speak for the first time at a CTC event. CTC were not working with the council this time last year and in Rose’s eyes, this makes the council “cool”, because it means that they “get tech” and he was proud to see that.

Image by Fluid4Sight, used with permission.

Matthew McMillan, business investment advisor for Croydon Council, delivered an energetic presentation on the “wider generation story” from 2013 to 2018. I was enlightened as McMillan highlighted the numerous developments taking place in Croydon and I learnt that Croydon is the fastest growing tech and media employment cluster in London.

McMillan also showed a picture of Rose in place of the famous colonel’s face, which is the logo for KFC. Rose thought that the picture was “awesome” – he enthused, “I love KFC, all I do is eat KFC. I’m very pro KFC”.

This reminded me of a personal branding exercise that I had carried out earlier with Lives Not Knives, about how we would brand ourselves to make us stand out to employers. I was Da Vinci, because I show care, work hard and have a creative flair, which is what goes into a piece of classic art. And now when I think of Jonny Rose, that striking image pops into my head and I will remember that he is “pro KFC”.

I am even prouder to call Croydon my home and I see myself visiting Croydon Tech City again

Croydon Tech City is helping to make Croydon cool again – New Era Internet’s business development manager, Iain Davies, described it as “geek chic” and Thiel Fellowship recipient, Andrew Brackin, referred to it as a “good base for the eco-system”. It is an initiative that continues to rejuvenate and regenerate an area that is in desperate need of a boost.

Now that CTC has reached its first birthday, Dias remains constantly “excited by opportunity” and Rose is “attracted to growing the community bigger and better”, ideally by branching out to Brighton and East London to expand it even further.

Attending CTC’s 2014 launch in Matthews Yard was slightly out of my comfort zone. Nevertheless, it was an interesting experience that expanded my knowledge on my home town and allowed me to “network, network, network” in a warm environment that was the tech world.

Things can only continue to get better for Croydon, as Croydon Tech City carries on its bid to become the ‘Silicon Valley of South London’ I can say that after my first tech event, I am even prouder to call Croydon my home and I see myself visiting Croydon Tech City again.

The next #Croydon #TechCity event takes place on Thursday 20th February. To attend, please sign up as ‘attending’ here or  to confirm your attendance.

Shaniqua Benjamin

Shaniqua Benjamin

Shaniqua is a writer and poet, born and raised in Thornton Heath, which she is proud to call her home. She has used her passion for making a difference to found a platform, Young People Insight, which empowers the voices of young people and encourages community engagement. When she’s not writing or trying to cause change, she loves reading, scrapbooking, watching films and listening to music.

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