By Esma Mesihovic
UC Davis just finished organizing its first women-focused hackathon, Lovelace Hacks 2021. Launched by SacHacks and WiCS, it was a virtual event that spanned acrross three days starting from Apr. 23. It offered many different challenges, workshops and activities for competitors and students to engage in and learn from.
The teams assembled at a minimum of one person and a maximum of four people. Projects were required to be completed during the hacking period, starting sharply on Friday evening. Challenges included creating data science projects, solo hacks — even a project with the potential to make a social impact on others — and many more.
I felt that it wasn’t only about the hacking projects. The supplementary activities were also very accommodating and helpful in providing breaks for competitors within the hacking period. For starters, Sadia St. Lawrence, founder and CEO of WomenInData.org, joined the opening ceremony as the keynote speaker. Subsidiary activities included Discord gaming sessions, virtual booths and others.
I personally attended the Navigating a Tech Career as a Woman Speaker Panel. Female students and workers in the tech field from different backgrounds came together to give advice on how to stand up in a competitive environment, get jobs through networking, build meaningful connections and most importantly, stick to one’s passions in the tech career.
What stood out to me was an emphasis on improving communication skills. Tech degrees are valuable in the sight of employers, but there are also benefits from receiving exposure to other degrees, including the humanities. For instance, having a business degree could help a worker integrate different codes in a business plan.
From the many questions that were answered warmly and thoughtfully during the panel, one was about combating imposter syndrome, which I think is relevant to students in every major or field. The speakers discussed tips for it, such as having a good support network and accepting that there are always opportunities to grow.
It is easy to doubt ourselves and our accomplishments; no one is alone in experiencing a lack of self-confidence. Rather, it was advised to think of them as personal hurdles that are necessary to our growth and development, a perspective I revere and hope to implement.
Other questions that were answered included how to navigate a male-dominated workspace as a woman, how to find work or internship experience prior to graduating and how to maintain a work-life balance. They talked about pushing through difficult moments by reflecting on strengths and improving workmanship and communication skills.
For work experience, they mentioned that students can email and ask professors for support, use social media to foster relationships and of course, prepare to accept that rejection is a part of the process. As for maintaining work-life balance (considering that burnout is natural), the ideas that were thrown included finding other hobbies away from the computer, taking breaks, prioritizing health and investing in a good chair. I enjoyed listening to all the input from the panel speakers and the advice they gave was applicable to all students, even English majors like me.
Another panel I joined was the Women in Data at UC Davis. This club strives to provide awareness and education to students who want to pursue data studies, and aims to maintain an accessible learning zone. During the panel, members of the club introduced all the opportunities they provided to members: workshops, educational materials, community-building events and introductions to data. Knowing the opportunities that school organizations and clubs provide is super important, but I think it can easily be overlooked by students, especially under stress caused by schoolwork and stepping out of comfort zones.
The closing ceremony for the entire hackathon was held on Sunday evening. Congratulations to all the winners!
Joining the Lovelace hackathon in the middle of the pandemic during school time is a great feat. I applaud all the team members, speakers and student leaders for their contributions, and I look forward to seeing more events like this in the future.
Esma is an English major and Environmental Planning Minor located in Sacramento, California. When she isn’t writing or reading, she can be found chasing after her cat, Kiki.
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