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Flawless Hacks Recap

On April 16, 2016 over 100 women across the east coast and beyond gathered at RiseNY for the first ever iteration of Flawless Hacks.

The first participants began to arrive at 9 am, greeted with a Beyoncé cut out followed by a Flawless Hacks shirt sponsored by StartupThreads and a Shopify “Get Shit Done” bag filled with sponsor swag from companies such as Teachers Pay Teachers, Cockroach Labs, Facebook, Google, The New York Times, Delphix, Keyrus, StackOverflow and more.

Many of the participants were first time hackathon attendees, unsure of what to expect. As registration ended and opening presentations began, Kira and I wanted to be clear about the goal of Flawless Hacks right away: to create a supportive environment for women engineers who have been traditionally underrepresented at hackathons. We wanted to show that hackathons were spaces for learning and creating.

Alex Qin, a front-end engineer at Skillshare, and Tracy Chou, a software engineer at Pinterest, kicked off the event by sharing their experiences as women in tech. Alex’s talk “How Shaving My Head Made Me A Better Programmer” and Tracy’s “Tech Diversity 101” put into words what many of us have struggled to articulate, the state of being a woman in tech.

Alex Qin’s “How Shaving My Head Made Me a Better Programmer”
Tracy Chou’s “Tech Diversity 101”

At 11am, hacking and team formation began. Most teams began work on projects that they had no prior experience in, from visualizations with d3.js to iOS applications. We were fortunate enough to have mentors from companies such as Button, Dropbox, LinkedIn, 2U, and Outbrain to work with various teams.

We also had a series of amazing workshops. Lydia Krupp-Hunter, our mentor from Shopify, led an Introduction to Github workshop “Stop, Collaborate and GitHub.” We also had two workshops for web development and iOS development led by instructors from Make School: Alena Dagneau led a Introduction to HTML and CSS workshop (with Kittens!) and Scotty Shaw led an Introduction to Swift workshop. To top it off, we had an insightful tech talk from Jessica Yao, a Payments Experience engineer, on the evolution of the payments system at Airbnb.

Throughout, we had some great food from Madeline’s for breakfast (sponsored by Facebook), lunch (sponsored by PwC) and dinner with snacks provided by Kettle Brand and Soylent. In addition, Cockroach Labs graciously hosted a coffee and cookie break.

As the hackathon came to a close, we had participants share what they learned and built in the final hour. As everyone grabbed a cupcake and headed to the presentation room, a room filled with women engineers shared and listen to what each other had built. Feel free to check out the hacks that were presented on our hacks page!

Organizing Flawless Hacks was incredibly rewarding and humbling. It is amazing to see how much it has grown out of a conversation Kira and I had in January. We owe a great thanks to the sponsors, all the mentors who came out to help, our volunteers, and most importantly, the amazing participants who came out to RiseNY for a day of hacking, learning, and creativity.

We had so much fun at Flawless Hacks 2016! See you again in 2017! ❤

Photos taken by jhishan, Fadumo Osman, and Lili Finckel

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