Last weekend I had the pleasure and privilege of participating in Hack the Gap, an annual two-day hackathon for women in the Twin Cities.
I wanted to particpate last year but was struggling with feeling incompetent, uninspired, and lonely. This year, armed with the weariness and confidence that comes with pushing through that ish for an additional 365 days, I screamed, “FUCK YOU, INSECURITIES,” and signed up.
The project I pitched was a LinkedIn-type of social network for women in tech in the Twin Cities. Three other amazing women—Rebecca Power, Naomi Reeves, and Jessica McCollum—saw potential in it and we teamed up to build Clicked, a safe space for techie women of all backgrounds to connect.
I came into the event barely knowing what a hackathon was. Confession: I had no idea it was even a competition until the organizers mentioned judging and prizes (oops). I just wanted to make a Cool Thing with some Cool People. I knew it would be difficult in terms of long days and probably not enough sleep but didn’t anticipate how emotionally trying—or rewarding—it would be.
On Saturday afternoon we met with a mentor who asked some simple questions I hadn’t even considered. What’s your schedule? Who’s doing what? At that point we were still trying to figure out what technologies we wanted to use. We had opted for WordPress because of its ease-of-use but were struggling to find a community plugin that would support what we were trying to it. There were some super frustrating moments thinking something was going well and then running into an issue and abandoning a few hours of research and work. A couple times I fantasized about not coming back the next day.
Despite that our team never fought or argued. We had a unified vision and never strayed from the overall purpose of Clicked. I felt very safe sharing ideas and giving honest feedback to my teammates. We were able to get to decent place by late Saturday night and when we came back on Sunday we really found our groove. We knocked out a ton of work in five hours and felt very proud of what we had accomplished.
It was inspiring to watch the other teams demo their projects on Sunday afternoon. Everyone had chosen to build a product that addressed a real problem: providing mental illness resources, telling current migration stories, connecting patients and clinical pharmacists, displaying data in a meaningful way, etcetera. The technologies utilized were varied as well. A few teams hacked hardware, others built web apps on a MEAN stack, some used Bootstrap and WordPress.
The Clicked demo went really well for us too, as Naomi did an amazing job articulating why it’s such a necessary tool in our community. We got some really great feedback from the judges, organizers, and fellow participants.
We ended up placing fourth, winning the Intel Code for Good prize!!!!
Overall Hack the Gap was an A+ experience. The space was collaborative, the participants were respectful, the sponsors were supportive. Clockwork hosted us and provided healthy, filling food three meals a day which kept us going when things got rough.
I feel so grateful that Hack the Gap was my first hackathon experience. Their committment to providing a safe space for women to build and explore is so selfless and loving and it really made me feel like I have 50+ other women rooting for me to succeed. We’ll still be dealing with the myriad of problems that come with being a woman in technology, but I hope everyone came away with a little less of that burden.
Lots of prizes were given away during the weekend and I won a year-long subscription to Frontend Masters! BRB gonna go to learn Angular, hardware hacking, and all the other cool stuff I saw this weekend 🤗