Hacking 4 Diversity

I had the opportunity this past Sunday to participate as a judge in the second annual Hack4Diversity organized by the good folks at CODE2040 (co-sponsored by the Kapor Center and Pandora).  The stated goals of the hackathon were to “bring together the Bay Area tech community with the next generation of diverse innovators, generate and execute on creative ideas to close the gap for underrepresented minorities in tech, and create business ideas that benefit the greater community.”There was a full house at Impact Hub San Francisco of participants and onlookers for the Sunday morning pitch competition, which is arguably the most exciting part of any hackathon. There’s always a palpable anticipation from the audience waiting to hear the ideas that teams have generated over the course of a weekend. This energy mingles with the teams’ nervous rush to complete pitch decks even while fighting mental and physical fatigue. I was honored to be one of the five hackathon judges along with  Richard Kerby (Venrock), Chris Martin (Pandora), Merline Santil (Yahoo), and Sasha Werblin (Greenlining Institute). Among the six teams that presented at Hack4Diversity, there was a robust representation of the talented CODE2040 Fellows. App ideas ranged from a clearinghouse for tech events, two types of resume builders, to a meetup for maker/DIY interests. The winning app, TransDocs, allows coders and techies around the world to translate any tech doc into one’s mother tongue (usually tech docs are only available in English). My personal favorite, however, was an app created by the BiasAnalytics team based on the Implicit Bias Test. Their app would allow test takers to note any preferential patterns based on race, gender, and educational credentials by comparing resumes of similarly-qualified candidates. I could see the immediate applicability and use of this tool in recruitment and hiring processes.

These were just the ideas that made it to the final stage. I’m curious about the ideas that were left on the floor, concepts that may have been too ambitious to complete over the course of the weekend – perhaps tools to help people learn to code or build demographic-specific tech communities. I am absolutely inspired by the clever and insightful tech-driven approaches to problem solving that hackathons present. This is one of the strongest arguments for greater diversity in tech – greater brainpower and more varied perspectives point to better solutions.

This was the first time that I’ve served as a hackathon judge, and hopefully it won’t be the last!

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