Originally from Brazil, Alex previously lived in Chile and now lives in Spain.
During his time living in Latin America in early 2016, Alex saw what he describes as a “knowledge gap”—seeing the way skills, content and expertise are shared in an open, friendly way at conferences in the US, Alex wanted to replicate that in Latin America.
To address this gap, Alex started planning meetups. “Our first meetup started in a Starbucks coffee shop, with just a few people around a table. Quickly, they transformed into gatherings with up to 70 people in a designated room. My goal was to create a space for data enthusiasts in Latin America to share knowledge with others.” Alex estimates he ran over 50 meetups with over 1,000 attendees in total, allowing people to connect over technology and meet a variety of vendors and people working in the space.
“It was a lovely experience to share my knowledge, get in touch with people, and train others! I saw the way the open source community works and how people engaged to share professional experiences, and that motivated me to do the same thing in Latin America.”
Using his contacts at a few universities and technology schools in Chile, he began to promote a space where data enthusiasts could connect, while also offering training opportunities for professionals and students to gain employment and therefore diminish the technical gap, starting with hands-on workshops showcasing the technology. But Alex likes a challenge, and wanted to do something bigger—a conference. His friend Max said, “Are you sure about that?” And Alex definitively answered “Yes!”
Exclusively using their contacts and networks, Alex and Max began to organize their first event. “That first event, we had 400 attendees at a one-day conference, combining hands-on labs with delivered content. The idea was to bring local people from local businesses and universities together to learn from that content. It was amazing! It was really hard work because we had no budget, but we achieved our goal—to bring knowledge and people together.”
With the revenue generated from that first conference, Alex and team donated to a local nonprofit supporting technology education for women and girls, and got to work planning their second event.
In partnership with Telefónica, the 2019 conference brought in 600 attendees, in addition to vendors such as Google and AWS. Alex and Max teamed up with Federico to launch a big data conference chapter in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with over 400 attendees. Even as the reach and input grew, the core mission of the events remained the same: to share knowledge and bring data enthusiasts together. “The people that attended these conferences started out with zero knowledge about data, and now they have not only data literacy but a network of peers. These attendees would never otherwise have the chance to hear from people in the industry about achievements, failures, and lessons learned,” he says.
“Their feedback was the fuel to motivate us to continue giving back more and more. These events are the biggest professional achievements in my career.”
Unfortunately, the pandemic put future conferences on pause (although they have since started again!), and during this time Alex moved to Spain. He started delivering more content on data to local universities. This culminated in an invitation from the School of Management in Madrid asking Alex to deliver data and open-source content and share professional experiences with an international audience of students.
“For some people, this helped them to realize that data is their passion, something they want to dedicate more time to as a professional specialty.”
Reflecting back, Alex notes that friendship was a key component to this work. “We found really good people to work with along the way. Because we had no financial resources, we had to be open, collaborative, and resourceful throughout the planning process.” At the events, friendship and networking was also a primary component. “These gatherings were an opportunity for attendees to meet reachable professionals, who are open to communication and willing to help.” Ultimately, improving access to employment and education in the data space, promoting friendship and connection and supporting diverse entry into the data industry is what Alex is passionate about.
Alex is now volunteering with Médicos del Mundo in Spain, thanks to an initiative to connect university alumni with NGOs to share their professional and specialist knowledge. “In our business, especially during the sales cycle, we are focussed on closing deals. But in this case, the impact is different—there’s no monetary return, but we connect with people with different skills, and I am learning more about the impact that these NGOs have. I’m currently part of a group of volunteers working with Médicos del Mundo, to prioritize their digital transformation over the next three years, making sure they can implement solutions that are impactful for them and the people they help, with the resources they have.”