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#BookingHacks All Women Edition — My experience

A couple of months ago I found an advertisement from Booking.com for one of their Hack-a-Holiday events. I had been to a hackathon before — HackTrain — and during their selection process I remember being told how difficult it was for them to find women and designers to participate, as demographics for these events tend to be male- and developer-focused.

The event organised by Booking.com had something special about it: it was the 1st All Women Edition.

The event is open to anyone who identifies as a woman: UX, Front End, Back end, Mobile, Product Owners, Copywriters and Product Managers are welcome to join. — Booking.com

Booking.com Hackathon: All Women Edition https://workingatbooking.com/event/hack-holiday-women-edition/

Out of hundreds of candidates, 45 women from 20 different countries were selected to travel to Amsterdam for 3 days, forming Product teams to tackle the industry's challenges. Unlike some of the previous events, there were no fixed data sets or proposed challenges to choose from. We had the freedom to use our own creativity and business awareness to choose a challenge we saw fit, using Booking.com's API and whichever extra APIs we would like.

A Slack channel was setup about a week before the event in order to start networking and perhaps forming teams. In just a day or two, I was in a complete team (UX, PO, Copywriter, Front-End and 2 Back-End) which felt both good and bad — "I have a team, yay!" vs. "Who are these people and are we going to get along?".

I grew up in a culture in which sexism was the norm and girls often turned against one another instead of offering support. In 2012, I moved to the Netherlands and, more recently, in 2016, I made my way to London, UK. In these countries, I was happy to find groups and communities that seek to unite and empower women in the Tech industry, such as Ladies that UX (in Amsterdam and London), Women Techmakers, RailsGirls, WHFNP, Women in Games, among others.

Iffat Gill from Code to Change http://chunrichoupaal.org/

Before teams got together to start hacking and also at the end, we had inspiring talks by Iffat Gill from Code to Change, Maria Scerbikova, Product Owner at Booking.com, and also Janneke Niessen from InspiringFifty, who shared this inspiring video:

Although #BookingsHacks All Women Edition had 8 teams competing for the top prizes, I saw nothing but support throughout those days hacking away at Booking.com HQ. Our team was especially praised for good communication, positive relationship and synergy.

Team BlueWanderers! (And thanks to Marilyn Yee from Booking.com for the lovely pictures!)

By Day 2, you could see a Developer in our team helping a Developer from a different team, giving tips about how to fix an issue we were both facing. Teams were still competing but also enjoying a supportive environment, trying to have fun and making new friends along the way.

Team BlueWanderers presenting our project.

Day 3, Presentation time, and voting: Our team won 2nd place, celebrating as if we were 1st. We thrived under pressure, some sleep deprivation and time constraints. We were 6 strangers who quickly became friends and found it hard to say goodbye the next day.

Team BlueWanderers is #2! Left to right and bottom: Zara (Prod. Owner — Hong Kong), Akerke (Back End Dev — Kazakhstan), Marta (Front End Dev — Poland), Rhiannon (Copywriter — UK), Gabriela (UX Designer — Brazil/NL), Ania (Back End Dev — Poland).

At the "Goodbye Drinks", one of the #BookingHacks mentors made a comment about seeing teams happily chatting, no sign of jealousy, only camaraderie. And that's how we can thrive in environments that may seem or be hostile to us. We can unite and support one another — female, male or non-binary.

Together we stand, divided we fall.

Thank you Booking.com for organising this event! Thanks to all the mentors and all the amazing women I met there. ❤

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