I still remember the first hackathon I went to. I was too shy to attend as a hacker, so I had decided to volunteer. It was WearHacks Montreal back in September of 2014. I was fascinated by the people I found myself surrounded by. What kind of people would spend their entire weekend working on a project? They started from scratch, They worked with complete strangers, they barely slept, and all just because they loved what they were doing.
Before I knew it I was going to a different city every weekend. One weekend I would be in Philadelphia attending PennApps, to MHacks in Michigan (a 14 hour bus ride by the way), to HackHarvard, all the way to Brown University’s HackBrown in Rhode Island. Taking a plane became second nature. It was surreal. In the Fall of 2015, from September to December, I think there was a total of 2 weekends where I was home in Montreal. To top it all off, in January 2016 my hacker collective hosted our first ever ConUHacks at Concordia University.
When I look back on that year, the weekends all just kind of meshed together and it’s all kind of fuzzy. I remember being very tired all the time, but high on the fumes of RedBull, pizza, and smelly feet. I was enchanted by opportunity and possibility. After all that I had accomplished that year, I still felt like I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was constantly bombarded with questions like “What do you plan to do after University?” and “What area of software do you like?”. I didn’t know. But what I did know was that I had found something. I could feel it and I wasn’t ready to let it go.
In June 2016, I found myself at HackCon IV, the official hackathon organizers’ conference, in Denver, Colorado. I was surrounded by the students who make hackathons across North America possible. I couldn’t believe I wound up there, standing a top a mountain in the Rockies.
That weekend was just like all the hackathons weekends I had trudged through, fuzzy but filled with excitement, opportunity, and possibility. The one thing I do remember vividly was a talk by Brandon Keepers, who at the time was the lead of Open Source at GitHub. He gave a talk entitled Contributing to your career. He spoke about open source and how it is created by everyday people. He went on to say that there is nothing stopping any of us from being where we want to be. With the right tools and the right support, you can get there. And I think it was in that moment I learned a bit about myself, about what I believed in, and what I wanted to do. I was crazy about this community and I was eager to take my next steps.
Following Keepers talk was the announcement for the launch of their Campus Experts program. I had this instant rush of passion, desire, and just pure excitement for this opportunity. I immediately grabbed for my phone and jumped online to fill out the application. After a bunch of the standard questions, ensuring I was in fact a living breathing non-robot thing, there was the last question. The golden question, “Why do you want to become a GitHub Campus Expert?”. You only had 500 characters to explain. How could I cramp everything that was going on in my head into 500 characters?
So I stayed up that night laying in bed listening to the half functioning fan desperately trying to make another full rotation. While starring out the window at the mountains with the stars that laid a top like sprinkles, I thought to myself, “How I could put a bit of myself into that message?” I pondered on the thought of how I could show them who I was and how incredibly head over heels I had become for this community.
I hit submit and waited.
Before I knew it, I was headed into an eight week program along with twenty nine students from around the world. Despite falling in the time frame of madness that is midterms, we were all more than happy to be on board.
Throughout the weeks, we received an incredible amount of support from the GitHub organization. We got assistance in how to organize tech events like tech talks, hacks nights, and hackathons. We learned how to put together technical content. We were given opportunities to develop engaging talks/tutorials along with an opportunity to present and rehearse them. We were given resources and tools needed to build and grow our community.
Wait, what is the Campus Experts program?
The Campus Experts program began with the notion of let’s find the people on campus who are leading their tech communities and help them get better at it. The program focused on building our communities. It offers the opportunity to gain experience in organizing events, in public speaking, and in technical writing.
What it boils down to is the following: We will help you bring together your community to network, learn, share, and celebrate!!
We began by examining our communities’ demographic, our current resources, and our current communication mediums. Starting small wasn’t frowned upon and simplicity was favorable. Through analyzing and defining our community we got to set a clear goal(s) and designate the steps we would take to accomplish them. And more importantly we were reassured to not be discouraged if we didn’t meet our goal on time. There was no one way and no one right way. It was an adaptive process and we got craft and mold our community into what worked best for us.
The most significant aspect was there was no one cookie cutter recipe to follow and instead we got to build our eight weeks into what we wanted. What do you want to improve or what do you want to get better at? Let’s document that and make it happen. I think that is what I enjoyed the most. We all had something different in mind. And it worked. We had the freedom to build our community. What is your message[that you wanted to communicate to your community]? We were free to create our own program in a sense, but still be guided by two incredible leaders, Joe and Hector.
It was an incredible experience to meet other passionate students who are also volunteering their time to do amazing things. These twenty nine students were already encouraging and developing the next generation of young talent. These were people I wanted to be surrounded by. These students inspired me.
The program taught me the importance of public artifacts — about leaving a paper trail — and to start building myself and my career. “All the little things you’re doing now is building up to where you’re going to be”. — Brandon Keepers.
Overall, I couldn’t believe the incredible amount of training and mentorship I got from GitHub staff. I became conscious of the reality that people are the foundation of community.
Being a part of the GitHub Campus Experts Program, I was given the right tools and support I needed to help other developers. I felt like I had been given a secret weapon. And after the eight weeks, I was more than ready to take on the world knowing I had this secret weapon in my back pocket..
I can eagerly say that I have grown my network of support and I feel much more prepared for the next challenge. I found my sweet spot between community and technology. GitHub Campus Experts gave me the push I needed to take the next steps in my path.
The program pushed me outside my comfort zone and with great results. I participated in my first ever Hacktoberfest and jumped into the amazing open source community. I also got to make my first ever video tutorial on something I had only began learning a few weeks prior. I even got featured on MLH’s Local Hack Day YouTube channel! Most of all I got to make new friends and new mentors.
Everything I had been doing in the past months, going to hackathons, going to meetups, organizing tech events, etc. allowed me to build myself. And more importantly it allowed me to fall in love. I fell in love with being immersed in a culture that focuses on learning, building, and sharing.
The GitHub Campus Experts Progam is fostering communities that promote learning, building, and sharing in technology on a global scale. — Kim Noel
Today, I can proudly say that I am a contributing member to the support system in the tech community that Keepers was talking about. And I’m not going anywhere any time soon.
Thank you Joe, thank you Hector, thank you John, thank you Brandon, and thank you GitHub! ❤
Do you enjoy organizing, planning, and bringing people together? Do you want support and help running events? Do you want access to resources and advising? If you want to be a part of a growing community who is making a long-term and positive contribution to the future of tech, then this is the place for you! Become a GitHub Campus Expert today https://education.github.com/experts