Geekend 2018, the self-proclaimed conference for "Savannah's hackers, hustlers, designers and makers," is Feb. 2-3 at The Guild Hall.

Savannah's annual Geekend offers an excellent opportunity to connect with other tech leaders in the area. It's also a chance for those new to the tech sector to explore and seek out an entrance into the field.

"Geekend 2018 is laser-focused on talented local and regional people building companies, products and experiences," said CodeBase CEO Aleshia Howell, co-chair of the Geekend geek and executive team. CodeBase is an iPhone development shop in Savannah.

This year's lineup includes keynote speaker Jesse Cole, owner of the Savannah Bananas, Philip Brown of PERC Coffee, and Brian Canada, creator of the Southern folklore-inspired Bugs 'N' Boo Hags video game.

"We've added an exciting video game track," Howell said, "and will bring back old favorites like Friday's Pitch Circus competition and Saturday's public showcase of cool augmented and virtual reality software."

A tech hub

Savannah has continued to grow as an unexpected tech hub over the past several years.

"As the usual suspect tech hubs like San Francisco, Seattle, Austin and Denver become more populous and the quality of life declines, tech professionals and companies who can work anywhere with an internet connection are increasingly choosing to call cities like Savannah home," Howell said.

She added that availability of local software development training programs also engages the community of developers, meaning the growth is ever-expanding.

There are a lot of opportunities for people to join the tech sector here in Savannah. According to Howell, local options include OpenSavannah, which is Savannah's Code for America Brigade, and techSAV, a local organization dedicated to education, building skills and connecting people. It offers a range of networking activities, from weekend workshops through RailsBridge to the Refresh lecture series.

"Geekend would be a fantastic place for anyone to immerse themselves and meet the people making the magic happen," she said.

Up to speed

Howell thinks the future of tech will be more mainstream and that every company needs to become a tech company.

"Even if your business isn't tech," she said, "if you own a retail store or local service company, for example, your customers will increasingly want to be able to book online or have a great experience when they order from your website. You need to be up to speed in the tech sphere if you don't want to be left in the dust."

Howell said recent developments such as cryptocurrency have "the potential to change the global economy."

"And it is important for everyone to understand how it works and how it could impact our daily lives once it becomes more mainstream. Our panel of cryptocurrency enthusiasts will explain how it works and the underlying blockchain technology that makes it possible. But its potential isn't limited to the broad, sweeping global economy; people are creating tokens with the goal of transforming and nurturing their communities."

Tavonia Evans, Atlanta-based founder of Guap Coin, will be at Geekend to talk about how the new cryptocurrency will reward supporters of African-American owned businesses and urban institutions.

Getting started

One advantage to an ever-changing tech system is the entry-level changes periodically. Howell said there are several entry-level ways people can get involved if they want to work in the tech sector.

"Immerse yourself and talk to people in tech to learn about the opportunities," she said. Many of the jobs in the tech industry do not require coding skills.

"Geekend offers content for communicators and marketing professionals who are increasingly needed in tech as the market becomes more competitive," Howell said. "For those who want to learn how to code, there are many great, free resources online where you can learn. Harvard's Introduction to Computer Science course CS50 is available on edX.com completely free of charge. Likewise, Stanford's course, Developing iOS 11 Apps with Swift, is available free via iTunes U. Both of these are not for the faint of heart.

"If you're looking for a more basic introduction, check out Swift Playgrounds [available on iPad] or hop on your computer and play with Hour of Code or Scratch."

Geekend offers a truly unique experience in Savannah to become involved in the tech sector.

"It's the best opportunity to meet the people in Savannah's tech and innovation community and learn about these exciting companies and technologies in one place," said Howell.

IF YOU GO

What: Geekend 2018

When: Feb 2-3

Where: The Guild Hall, 615 Montgomery S.

Cost: $30-$325

Info: geek-end.com, eventbrite.com