by leah on January 5, 2014
On December 7, I organized a hackathon for women with significant help from Kat Townsend, Jen Higgins, Shannon Turner, Sarah Rigdon, Rebecca Williams, Shauna Dillavou, Ousmane Mariko (who designed our logo), and Code for DC brigade captains Matt Bailey and Justin Grimes.
TLDR: It went better than we could have hoped, over 100 women attended, and you can learn more about it in the summary wrap-up blog post on the new Code for DC blog, the Storify coverage of the best social media from the event, or the organization website at techladyhackathon.org. There will be more, so sign up for my monthly newsletter.
Instead of summarizing again, I’d like to add a few interesting thoughts:
First, almost half of the women checked a box while registering to indicate that they wanted to volunteer to help. (!!!) In organizing this, I had incredible help and advice from almost everyone I asked, especially a lot of awesome, busy women. So awesome.
I kept expecting to hear about problems or complaints about the overfull classes, but nobody complained. A few days before the hackathon, we lost several of our instructors. The day of the event, the hackpad that we used for people to sign up for the over-full courses crashed. As problems arose, we just rolled with them. Women jumped in to help or just made it work.
I kept hearing again and again about how much more comfortable women felt in the classes participating and asking questions. I thought and hoped that might happen, so it meant a lot to me that it worked.
That last point is incredibly important to me. My first inspiration to organize the hackathon came from a python class that Shannon Turner gave in Jen Higgins’s living room back in September to me and three other women. I felt comfortable asking questions in the class when I was lost and when I noticed something interesting. The other women asked interesting questions that helped me, too. At one point I looked around and realized I was just incredibly happy to be learning tech with a lot of supportive, smart women. I wanted to recreate that for more women.
A few things to change next time
- More class options: The main goal of most of the training this time was to just offer incredibly basic introductions to what the code is used for and some of terminology. There are a lot of reasons for this, which I will save for another blog. But next time, I want to offer some classes that let women get their hands dirty.
- More hacking: I want to encourage more free-floating between classes and hacking. One way that I had planned to do this (but didn’t) was to post signs on the tables where hackers were working to briefly explain what they were working on and the skills they could use. I hope that makes it easier to approach a table next time. I am also considering how to re-work the schedule to make it easier to check out a hackathon project without missing training. Hmm…
- Child care: This is a tough one for a lot of different legal and logistical reasons, but I want to offer some kind of childcare next time.
- There is more, but those are the big ones this time. Post your feedback in the comments below or on this form. Include not just feedback if you attended, but what you’d like to see next time, whether or not you attended.
I’m tentatively planning the next one for June. Want to get the updates? Sign up for my monthly newsletter about awesome tech training, women in tech opportunities, and DC tech events. And go to the next Code for DC meetup!! It’s one of the best ways to learn and meet more awesome tech people.