LadyHacks – my first ever Hackathon – took place March 1-2, and was an inaugural event; the first ever all women’s hackathon in Philadelphia! The brain child of both Girl Develop It and Geek Girl Dinners, LadyHacks needed a bit of prep work – a pre-Hackathon Hackathon as it were – which I happily participated in.
Initially, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was supposed to do or how I could help. Admittedly, I also had reservations – weren’t [Hackathons] for really tech savvy people who had spent years in the field!? During the pre-Hackathon Hackathon in mid-February, I contributed my own experience as a WordPress developer and quickly became the lead. Josetta Rosa and Kelsey acted as the designers, while Tristin Hightower managed the content – though ultimately, Josetta and I took full control [of the LadyHacks site].
Very soon after, the actual Hackathon took place at WHYY, with delicious catering for all types: vegan, gluten-free, vegetarian. The event focused on collaboration and learning: there was no prize to be won, no challenge at the end and no time limit. Interestingly, as the hackathon progressed, I slowly morphed into a mentoring role while realizing the depth of my own knowledge.
You see, I hadn’t considered myself to be the most experienced person, and had been mostly unaware of other’s expertise. Many knew Drupal, but not the technical side of WordPress. Others had no frame of reference for how to take an idea from scratch and turn it into something [using WordPress]. As I wandered about the room, I stopped and helped the teams who needed it, realizing how useful my own skills were.
Then, sort of haphazardly, I joined a six person team – STEMeverywhere – as their developer, and we focused on providing online resources for teachers and students for STEM education. The work we put into it was phenomenal: we created a Facebook & twitter profile and a website. It turned into something that you could actually use.
When LadyHacks came to a close, everyone had finished with a website – thanks to the ever present mentors. LadyHacks had definitely broken some internal barriers for me; I got my feet wet, came to understand what [a Hackathon] was as well as breaking down my internal narrative about the types of people who participated. But what also made it special was that it was an environment made specifically by and for women.
Thanks to LadyHacks, I knew I could do it; I could attend another Hackathon because I had already experienced it. I was ready!
As an aside: The STEMeverywhere was picked for the finals at the EduTechHackathon sponsored by AT&T at Temple University! There was a prize of 5K, and although we didn’t win, we DID place in the finals!
If your in the Philadelphia I recommend joining the following Meetup groups:
Photo credit Gloria Bell