A builder’s journey to fintech_devcon 2021

Hi, my name is Chijioke Ejimuda 👋

I’m a builder who won last year’s scholarship to fintech_devcon. If you want the short version of my experience, here it is: The conference was unbelievable. I heard from expert industry leaders, beloved developers, and inspiring new voices. I gained a renewed understanding of what was possible in the fintech space and how my developer skills could be translated. fintech_devcon was the best conference I’ve been to before. No sales pitches. No demos. Just amazing content and caring humans coming together to share knowledge and build.

Read on if you want to learn how curiosity drove a guy with energy and power assets structured finance modeling experience to discover a whole new world and end up at the first-ever fintech developer conference.

As the CTO of hybriData (an engineering and tech consultancy), I’ve held various roles, from frontend and backend work to data engineering, data science, and product leadership. But at my core, I’m a developer, curious about the bigger picture. I like to understand the financial side of things and uncover how to translate financial value into the things I’m building.

Throughout my career, I’ve spent years helping energy and power infrastructure firms build data-driven financial models. These efforts guided upper management in successfully securing funds from financial institutions and M&A due diligence situations. I’ve transitioned from initial excel financial modeling to leveraging python, open source big data frameworks to process the data, AI/ML, NLP, deep learning, and statistical modeling to generate rich insights from risk-adjusted forecasts.

But that’s as far as I went—providing deep financial analysis which advised owners and investors on whether to invest or not in an energy and power infrastructure. Sure, I was doing finance-related work, but I didn’t realize there was something more out there. Soon enough, I discovered the world of fintech.

How I found the fintech developer community 🤓

Using python to build data-driven financial models, I felt I was already doing fintech since “tech” was used to build the models. However, being someone curious, I wondered if there were developers out there doing something interesting in the fintech space or if new open source libraries existed that could enhance our current financial modeling workflow. Maybe something that I could incorporate into our consulting business.

So, I searched for fintech open source, and Moov’s libraries were the top result. I couldn’t believe what I had uncovered.

Being a dev for so many years, the closest I came to fintech was making Stripe API calls. Yet here was an entirely new world of engineers, developers, product builders, and founders collaborating on open source tech that under the hood was being used by some of the newest fintechs in the market.

I was blown away by the amount of activity across the 40 repos.

I poked around, and it didn’t take long for me to join the public Slack group. In chat, everyone discussed their contributions to the open source projects, shared knowledge, and openly discussed the challenges they were facing. Clearly, this community built a safe place they could call their own.

It didn’t matter if you worked at a big tech, a startup, or were a solopreneur getting a proof of concept off the ground. Everyone in Moov’s fintech community is there to learn, grow, and better understand the financial landscape. I witnessed dev leads from some of the world’s best-known consumer apps answering questions and founders hopping on calls to chat through problems.

I was hooked. Discovering the fintech space was the spark I needed to fulfill my curiosity and unlock new ideas.

I finally won something 🏆

Shortly after joining the Slack group, fintech_devcon was announced. It was billed as the flagship conference for fintech developers and a first of its kind. The speaker lineup looked terrific, and I desperately wanted to attend. The Moov team also offered a scholarship (and they’re offering the #JustDewitt scholarship for 2022).

I didn’t think I’d win the random lottery system, but I knew this conference was the premier place to be if you’re a builder in fintech. So I said, what the heck, and applied.

I was ecstatic when I learned I’d been chosen as one of the scholarship winners. I couldn’t wait to network, hear the brilliant talks, and participate in the hands-on workshops. It was only a few weeks ago when I discovered this new community, and now I was going to meet these people in real life.

The experience at fintech_devcon 🎉

The fintech_devcon conference was mindblowing. The people, content, and location were incredible. I networked with all sorts of attendees—developers, data engineers, technical product managers, startup founders, product designers, and even members of the C-Suite from industry associations like The Clearing House.

The presenters were just as approachable, and I had numerous one-on-one conversations.

It was exciting to not only hear from Tom Adams (Engineering Lead at Cash App), Ryan Sandler (Co-Founder & CEO at Truework), Zach Brunke (Co-Founder & CEO at HMBradley), and so many other incredible speakers but to hang out with them and have meaningful conversations. Credentials didn’t matter. Everyone was down-to-earth, welcoming, and wanted to hear about what you were building or see how they could help.

Attending fintech_devcon helped me connect the dots to everything I’d worked on for many years.

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The conference had a perfect mix of sessions. In workshops, I got to open up my terminal and get to work, building actual projects while getting real-time help from the experts. I also got to listen to groups of fintech legends in panels and hear tangible ways to solve problems in roadblock talks. And, of course, the keynotes were taking the main stage, inspiring us all with their lessons learned, deep insights, and forward-thinking analysis of the future.

While it’s difficult to pick a favorite, here are the sessions that stuck with me the most:

What to expect in fintech’s next 10 years: In the opening keynote, Angela Strange, General Partner at a16z, explained why every company will be a fintech company and how building open source primitives is the next evolution of financial services. This session brilliantly set the tone for the rest of the conference. It unlocked my thinking and has pushed hybriData to evolve our service offering. So much so that we’re expanding beyond consulting and building a fintech product.

   

Slaying fintech dragons for fun and profit: Ohad Samet, Co-founder & CEO at TrueAccord, dove into a dreadful area of fintech: debt collection. It was inspiring to hear how Ohad puts people and relationships at the forefront of their technology. As someone from an underserved and underrepresented community, I know how painful these experiences can be.

   

Card payments 101: This talk was from Pritee Tembhekar, Head of Product at Lithic. She demystified the card networks by breaking down the types of cards issued and the best types per situation. For not knowing much about this area of fintech, I felt like I went from novice to proficient within 45 minutes (thanks, Pritee!). I now understand how the underlying mechanism of cards work and what it takes to incorporate them into a product offering.

Final thoughts 👍

Every talk at fintech_devcon focuses on education. Sessions were intimate (450+ attended in 2021) and full of like-minded people. I was inspired and challenged. I networked. I made friends. I listened, learned, and completed projects.

But above and beyond the packed two days, I felt a real sense of belonging. This is what a community is supposed to be. The energy was raw, and I knew that something special was happening.

It was clear that developers, the people at the conference, were there to change the world.

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If you’re on the fence about attending, let my experience be the nudge you need—go and get your ticket! The speakers for 2022 look fantastic, and the agenda is incredible.

The Mile-High City isn’t your typical conference location. But then again, it fits our fintech developer community. It’s a place we can be ourselves and call our own. From foodies to arts and culture enthusiasts and outdoor adventure junkies, Denver is a unique spot that you must experience.

I’ll be attending fintech_devcon 2022, and I hope to see you there.

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