I did a thing.
Hi, I’m Pam. I’m a twenty-something black woman working as a full stack engineer. My day to day usually consists of writing code, attending meetings, and spending hours feeling anxious about the future — in particular, whether or not I am capable of turning all my dreams/goals into reality, and the next season of Insecure*.
Amidst the storm of anxiety, I did a thing: I organized Color Coded.
THE WHY, THE WHAT, AND THE HOW
As another self proclaimed Awkward Black Girl**, I generally feel uncomfortable in any social setting (I’m working on it). The discomfort becomes more unsettling when I attend tech events and conferences where I am one of three Black women out of 100 White people, or maybe even the only Black woman. I hate the spotlight, thus you can imagine how uneasy I get when I feel inquisitive eyes on me, as if I’m some kind of exotic fish that got lost and ended up on the wrong side of the tank. It disturbs my experiences and removes the focus from learning new things to feeling like I have to justify my presence.
I decided to provide a solution to my own problem with Color Coded. A series of creative events where people of color get together, build cool impactful products, learn from one another, and where they‘re given the room to take a break from the complementary struggles of being a “minority”.
The first edition happened over the weekend of November 5th and 6th in the form of an unhackathon** that focused on empowerment through self-care, good vibes, and creativity. Here’s a quick breakdown of how I tried to include these points in this first edition:
It started with the schedule. The meat of the event was hacking / building / creating, but I made sure to add self-care hours with a yoga class, and a guided lunch discussion about mental wellness and being a person of color in the workplace.
The branding was light and welcoming. I used the site and logo to reach the targeted audience: background illustrations depicted fictitious people of color I created using Illustrator, and the logo is based on the infamous HTML tag marker: <
There was a set number of participants. Large events can be overwhelming and impersonal: it’s hard to connect with people, it’s easy to feel alone and excluded, solo time can be tricky. I tried to address that by limiting the number of spots to 50. It’s large enough to have teams with a decent amount of members, and small enough for everyone to interact.
We had a dope space and good food. iStrategy Labs provided their space. It is modern, and very cozy at the same time. There are lots of different spaces where people were able recharge their batteries (there’s a literal nap pod) or where teams worked away from the main space. The food was for the most part healthy, and omnipresent. There was an abundance of snacks and beverages to keep everyone comfortable.
Instead of traditional presentations, there was an open floor showcase. Public speaking is scary and not always a necessary medium. So instead of presenting in front of the whole squad, a member of each team stayed at a station while everyone else perused the space to check out projects.
Overall, the event went pretty smoothly, but there are definitely some things to improve. For instance, making sure the food has vegan options, better transitions from one activity to the next, and most importantly making sure each person feels included.
*I’m only sort of joking
**I can’t get enough of Issa’s work
**Unhackathon: an event during which people get together to build things with camaraderie and good vibes. There are no winners, no trophies, and no stress.