This weekend I attended SheHacksATX + SheDesignsATX, an all-female hackathon in Austin, Texas. (Well, mostly-female anyway. A few brave men did come to hang out with us.) SheHacksATX is a little bit different than most hackathons because here designers and developers were teamed up with local women entrepreneurs to help them spruce up their website, develop a new feature, or improve their branding strategy.
Friday evening was our first chance to get to know everyone. Instead of the usual awkward pitch scenario the entrepreneurs scattered throughout the space we had available (we were hosted at AC4D, which is a super-cool design coworking space in East Austin) and the rest of us walked around and visited with each one of them for a few minutes to learn about their company and what they had in mind for the weekend. Being in the smaller group setting allowed us to pick the entrepreneurs’ brains and really learn about what they’re hoping to accomplish. I was really inspired by the passion that each of them had for what they’re doing and how they want to improve people’s lives. It really got me excited and ready to take on new challenges!
I was teamed up with Joyce, owner of Huckleberry, a skin care product subscription service, with Louise and Brooke from the front-end team at USAA. We spent 12 hours Saturday working with Joyce to improve her website’s mobile experience which was left a wreck by a design agency she hired a year ago. We spent a good part of the day ragging on the previous developers and the rest hammering on her site and improving the mobile experience. It was insanely fun getting to work with these girls! We meshed so well it was like we had been working together for years.
Sunday was reveal day. There were no winners or prizes, but everyone was so excited to present what they accomplished for the day. Almost everyone did some amazing stuff in just the 12 short hours we had and those that didn’t have anything to show still had some great experiences to share. The time flew by way to fast; I so wish I could do it again this weekend.
There were a ton of things that I loved about this hackathon, but here are just a few that really stood out to me in comparison to other hackathons I’ve been to in the past:
- Focus on the front end. Often we I do a hackathon I’m in it to stretch myself and learn something new. However, it just so happened that for the past few weeks at work I’ve been doing a lot of that, so this time it felt good to jump in heads-first with something I was already comfortable with, rather than struggle for the first few hours just installing Ruby or Node or some other framework I’ve never used before.
- Empathy for women’s issues. Because the tech world is dominated by men I feel that there are fewer innovations happening for women-specific issues. It was refreshing to learn about and participate in the creation of technology focused on women’s needs.
- Not getting hit on! Seriously. This probably seems pretty obvious in hindsight, but it was a whole lot easier debugging issues and getting shit done when I’m not being hit on.
- The overwhelmingly positive attitude of the weekend. This part seems unique to an all-female hackathon. Everyone seemed extremely positive and upbeat. Even the groups who failed to get much done stood up during the presentations and shared their experiences in such good spirit and solidarity.
- Chance to help out a local entrepreneur. It felt so good to know that there’s such a great support group for women entrepreneurs here in Austin – especially since one day I hope to join them!
- Got to work with some awesome ladies! Enough said on this one.
All-in-all I had an amazing weekend learning about some of the great woman-led startups in Austin and getting to help one of them out. I even got some awesome free facial scrubs and masks (thanks Joyce)! I would highly recommend this event for any lady (or male ally) developers and designers in Austin.
Also, check out these awesome businesses who participated this weekend:
- Huckleberry – skin care products with an optional monthly subscription
- Storyhouse – custom family stories in video, book, or art form
- Voice of Hair – a social site to help women find hairstylists and share their own hair
- Velma Magazine – a local Austin magazine focused on women in tech
- Ready to Groove – a period- and fertility-tracking smartphone app
- Urban Patchwork – community planning for urban food-producing plants
- Key to the Streets – community-driven urban planning app
- Music with Miss Ariel – an affordable music experience for young children
- GirlsGuild – creative apprenticeships for girls
- Peace through Pie – a modern peace movement centered around pie socials