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HackHer413: My Hackathon Experience

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Blakc helium balloons spelling "HACKHER"

HackHer413 is the first all-women and non-binary students' hackathon in western Massachusetts, and I had the opportunity to attend its innaugural event this past weekend. The goals are to inspire women interested in the tech industry, help build connections, and teach new skills to everyone involved. The completely free to attend event was held nonstop over the course of two days in UMass' beautiful Integrative Learning Center, due to the 24-hour nature of hackathons.

Let me start by saying that I am the definition of "novice" when it comes to anything related to coding, hacking, and the like, so I honestly never expected myself to attend an event like this. As IT minors, however, my friend Mia and I were intrigued. After hearing organizers speak at a Women in Business club meeting, we decided to check out this event. We chose not to participate in the actual hacking portion of the hackathon, due to our lack of experience in that aspect of the event. We were unable to attend for the full duration and felt that it was unfair to join a group knowing that we would not be able to fully participate the entire time, so instead we stayed for half of the first day. 

After checking in and getting a bag of free swag, including a portable charger and two $10 UMass Dining giftcards, we ate breakfast and connected with other beginner coders. Next, we were welcomed by the organizers and the keynote speaker during the Welcome Ceremony. Then, the hackathon officially began, and Mia and I headed for the sponsors' section, where we got to to network with bigshots like Google and Bloomberg. The networking event was our primary reason for attending, so we took our time!

Afterward, we checked out the de-stress room and had fun playing giant jenga before calling it a day. While we were unfortunately unable to attend any of the workshops available in the afternoon, there were tons of options for both beginners and more-experienced coders alike. Almost all seemed interesting.

While our time at HackHer413 was not the most conventional, and we were unable to stay for as long as we would have liked due to other commitments, I enjoyed my time and am excited to hopefully participate again next year. Whether you are tech-savvy or not, I highly recommend this event if you're interested in the world of computer science, technology, or even business. It's definitely worth it for the free stuff, new skills, and even maybe some new friends.

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