Hacking For Humanity. My first hackathon experience

“By going beyond your own problems and taking care of others, you gain inner strength, self confidence, courage, and a greater sense of calm.” — Dalai Lama

Last month I attended Hacking for Humanity in SF and loved every minute of it! Throughout the event, I felt excited, nervous, tired, rushed, motivated, passionate, and enlightened. This event was indeed a blissful experience. I have never been around so many passionate and dedicated people.

For anyone that doesn’t feel that they are ready for their first hackathon: I encourage you to find one that you are passionate about and sign up for it! You won’t be disappointed!

What Motivated Me to Attend my First Hackathon

I believe that with code we can make the world a better place by building products that empower and motivate lives. Which is the reason why I chose Hacking For Humanity as my first hackathon. The purpose behind this event was to unite women to solve global challenges with tech.

We joined the Girls in Tech SF chapter and Hackbright Academy to tackle topics that dealt with girls and women including, Homelessness, Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Human Trafficking, Women’s Health, and more. All issues that I care about!

Anyone that wanted to embrace the idea of Social Innovation was welcomed. Every level of experience was also welcomed :)

Most Memorable Moment

When I entered the room, I immediately felt everyone’s energy and excitement.

One of the most memorable moments was when two local nonprofit organizations came and talked to us about their mission and some of the key issues they are currently facing. These were the organizations our potential products could directly help. Some of the issues they faced varied from having difficulties in outreaching millennial donors to finding volunteers. It was such a motivating moment and sparked even more ideas.

The free swag, food, and new friends of course made the experience even more memorable.

Hackathon Schedule. Photo Credit: Hackbright Academy


Instead of providing you a story of what all happened during the event (which was mainly brainstorming, coding, coding, and coding), I want to give you some of the things I was able to accomplish from this experience.

  1. Worked with designers for the first time.
  2. Worked in a high paced development environment.
  3. Brainstormed, developed, and presented a website in 24 hours.
  4. Used Git to collaborate with a team for the first time (and finally felt the pain of a merge conflict)
  5. Presented to a large crowd of designers and developers for the first time.

It’s motivating to know that you can get this type of experience even if you are still in search of your first developer or designer job.

Brainstorming and coding with my teammates

#1 Suggestion to First Time Hackers

The one thing that I suggest to any first time hacker is to be prepared to be uncomfortable at times! Be ready to feel many different emotions and roll with it! Even if you have to take extra breaks or give your close friend a call and cry a little. Being able to work with others in such high pace is courageous and provides self confidence. Even more importantly, coming together with others to make a positive social impact is empowering and helps raise awareness about issues that matter.

Final Product: EmpowHerSF

My teammates and I were all interested and passionate in the topics of Human Trafficking and Domestic Violence. After a few hours of trying to narrow down what specific issues we were trying to solve, we finally made a decision to focus on raising awareness and outreaching to potential donors by building a modern website for donors.

We broke down the tasks and everyone worked on different portions of the project. Since I was the only one that really worked with back end and ajax calls, I was given the task of figuring out what data we needed and worked on creating a JS script to act as the backend for our website.

The submission time came by quickly and even though we didn’t get to integrate my Javascript code, the girls continued to be supportive through the entire process.

In the end, we presented our EmpowerHerSF website, which focuses on providing awareness and funding to local SF area shelters. The website first presents the visitor with facts about human trafficking and provides a list of SF women shelters needs. After choosing one or more of the items the visitor has available to donate, it will bring them to a page to donate to local shelters that needs at least one of those items. We wanted to use social media as another stream of raising awareness. So we added a popup menu that provides social media buttons that allows the visitor to share their commitment to helping victims of human trafficking!

You can check out our live project here.

You can also view our GitHub Repo here.

Thank You Note

I am so grateful to have been a part of this event. One of the ways to raise awareness about issues like human trafficking is to come together. We did just that and built products to support and empower these victims. So can you! Get out there and sign up for your first hackathon!

Thanks to Girls In Tech, Hackbright Academy, DocuSign, and the rest of the sponsors!

A special shout out to my team members, Luna Chen, Sandra Sopol, Shen Gao, and Lauren Brennan for making my first hackathon experience so memorable and motivating.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” -Gandhi

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Let’s be friends on Twitter. Happy Coding :)



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Maribel Duran

Maribel Duran

Software Developer living in the Bay Area. Spending my time Running | Hiking | Coding. Here to share inspiration :)