Heck Yeah, Hackathons!

In September, I went to my first hackathon.

I’ve been racking my brain since then trying to figure out how I’m going to write up a post that adequately describes how amazing the weekend was. I went into the event very nervous and doubting myself, but I came out proud and inspired to keep going. And I have been!

The first ever Diversity Hackathon hosted by Women Who Code Austin.

Women Who Code is a non-profit dedicated to inspiring and encouraging (anyone who identifies as) women to pursue and excel in careers in technology.

The event started on Friday with a Happy Hour hosted at Atlassian. Dozens of people of varying backgrounds showed up- women, men, designers, coders, business folks, even complete tech newbies. We ate, drank, socialized, and listened to some amazing project pitches.Before the end of the night, I was actually asked to join a project as a front end developer!

Happy Hour

Happy Hour at Atlassian

We spent the next 30 hours immersed in code

The actual Hackathon was held at Captial Factory in the Omni building downtown. Captial Factory is a co-working space that is extremely popular here in Austin.

Doors to Capital Factory opened at 8AM, and, after some (delicious) breakfast tacos, we got straight to work. Our team, formed during Friday’s Happy Hour, set out to create a web app that would provide free and legal resources for marginalized tenants in the state of Texas.

Tracy, Trish, Sara, & Holly

Tracy, Trish, Sara, & Holly

LegalPal Team

LegalPal Team

LegalPal is born. Check it out!

LegalPal is the brainchild of our team leader, Sam, a student at UT. He coded our backend in Django (seemingly effortlessly, might I add). He also helped me install it on my machine and helped me learn how to use it with my HTML files.

Kenworthy and Victoria were absolutely brilliant working on UX research and UI design. Watching them work really made me want to improve in that area.

We also had help from Loyce, another UT student, and several other volunteers at the event (including a lawyer who helped steer us in the right direction).

I got to put my own front end skills to use, using HTML, CSS, and Bootstrap to code. Being the only front end coder on our team was intimidating at the start for the entire weekend. It was scary to put my skills to the test like that, when majority of my projects in the past have been from tutorials or CodePen equivalents of doodles.

A big thing that helped me out during the weekend was getting more acquainted with using the documentation. Back when I was in undergrad, I was always told “check the documentation” so it’s not exactly a new concept for me. But it always seemed like a bunch of scary words that I’d never understand because I just wasn’t smart enough to get it.  But I didn’t have time to get frustrated, so I had no choice but to zone in, focus, and do the best I could to get it. And I did!

Even as time was running out and I was starting feel like I would never finish, I figured it out, pushed it to GitHub and took a huge sigh of relief.

Our team won for Best Socially Innovative for LegalPal!

Holly + LegalPal team

Not only was it awesome to win something, but most of us were hackathon newbies and we won for such a great reason. Prizes were a mini remote control drone from Go Daddy and some cash.

The entire weekend was a blast, and gave me a boost of confidence and motivation. I’ve been hard at work since then completing challenges at Free Code Camp, including my first Basic Front End project, a Portfolio Webpage. I actually can’t wait to get to the harder challenges and crush them! 🙂

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