This weekend we launched Hackathon Mentors at TechTogether Boston. Hackathon Mentors is an organization that exists to provide opportunities and resources for professionals to participate in hackathons as mentors. We believe there is an enormous benefit to be gained by hackers, hackathons, and mentors alike by facilitating this connection.
TechTogether is an organization dedicated to offering “free pathways for young adults to discover interdisciplinary areas of technology”. They are doing crucial research and building communities to create a gender-diverse future for technology. The work TechTogether does empowers gender-marginalized students and ensures a bright future for the technology industry.
Hacker culture is something special. There are few other opportunities where a person can band together with a group of strangers to push the limits of their minds and ability to stay awake in order to build something new and innovative. The mindset of hackers and the willingness for the community around them to help them reach their dreams is something that we believe should be available to everyone. For this reason, we’re also seeking to grow the hackathon culture and community in underserved areas.
Having personally come up in the hackathon world and owing many of skills, lifelong friends, and opportunities to this phenomenon, I wanted to create a way to get back and give back. To use my experience to empower the future generation of hackers and keep my own skills sharp through mentoring. In expressing this desire to other former hackathon hackers, I found I was not alone. Many others felt the way I did and that’s why we’re building this.
This weekend I met so many talented female hackers. All spending their weekend learning and building applications to benefit society or find a way to improve life for a specific group of people. It was inspiring to witness the participants fearlessly dive into new technologies and gain a working proficiency in difficult topics like natural language processing or computer vision. Not only did they understand it, but they found creative applications for this knowledge and successfully built prototypes in less than 3 days. A few examples of projects I saw are: an application to provide suggested annotations for medical journals, a notes aggregation app which used natural language processing to identify frequent words or phrases, assign them an importance, and compile them into a single cohesive document the entire class can reference, and an app to augment communication impairments with technology. These are just a few examples of the amazing work done by hackers in a weekend and the type of amazing inventions produced when given the opportunity and resources.
Seeing this and being able to help is a reward in itself. But, participating as a mentor brings a number of other benefits:
- Keeps skills sharp: I learned about a lot of new technologies, dusted off the cobwebs on technologies I used to know and was able to practice problem-solving and critical thinking skills in an environment where it mattered.
- Meet new people: I’ve met more amazing people this weekend, hackers, organizers, and mentors alike than I generally would in a given weekend. Hackathons attract smart and creative people.
- Walk away feeling inspired
We’re still early on in this project. For now, this is a passion we’re building in our spare time. Please look out for updates and opportunities to get involved. We’re excited to begin signing up mentors and connecting them with mentoring opportunities.