Software Development

‘It was super electric and I’m still amped and exhausted and full of feelings’

The new co-organizers of Tech Lady Hackathon reflect on how the event went down.

When Joy M. WhittKate Rabinowitz and Jessica Garson agreed to take on organizing this year’s edition of Tech Lady Hackathon, it was no small task. They were taking on organizing the first of this popular hackathon series since its founder, Leah Bannon, moved to the West Coast.
But the three felt strongly that Tech Lady needed to persevere, so they teamed up and put together 2016’s edition of the event, held Oct. 22 at iStrategyLabs in Shaw.
So how’d it go?
Well, to judge by Twitter, everyone had a great time. We called Whitt, Rabinowitz and Garson to talk about how the day went from an organizers perspective.
From the moment D.C. CTO Archana Vemulapalli gave the kickoff speech, Garson said, “so many people were so excited.” And for her, given that Tech Lady Hackathons of years passed were big milestones in her growth as a developer, moments when she felt truly supported in the journey, it was wonderful to see so many other women having that same experience.

For Rabinowitz, the day was, quite simply, “incredible.”
“It was super electric and I’m still amped and exhausted and full of feelings,” she said.
In our conversation she highlighted the community surrounding the event as a specific contributor to those feelings — newbies at their first hackathons (about half the crowd) left excited and more established devs left revitalized.
And this feeling of community permeated all parts of the day — from those that went as planned to those that, inevitably, did not. “As with every event there are things that don’t go as planned…” Rabinowitz said. Case in point: She found out at 4 a.m. the morning of the hackathon that the teacher for the intro to HTML and CSS workshop would not be able to attend. And, this being a pretty fundamental workshop, she was sent looking for a replacement with only hours to spare. Ultimately, Rabinowitz said, this could not have gone better — DCFemTech and DC Tech Meetup co-organizer Jessica Bell immediately stepped in to take on the responsibility.
Garson recounted another story of how one speaker was missing, but that actually enabled an impromptu and organic discussion about how to organize community events — a highlight of her day, as it turned out.


So what now? “We want people to not only feel this way once a year,” Garson said.
Indeed, Rabinowitz added, the team is trying to figure out how to make Tech Lady more than a one day, once a year experience. That’s still in the works. In the mean time, all the participants of Tech Lady are lucky to live in a city with a sizable amount of resources for female developers and women in tech more broadly — think Women Who Code DC, Girl Develop It or DC PyLadies. According to Whitt, over 100 new people have joined Hear Me Code since the hackathon.

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