2015: A Year of Firsts

Opening note: I’ve arrived to the year-in-review party rather late, but an impromptu trip down memory lane has led me to fully process just how busy the last year has been. I also remembered that I told myself I would write more in 2016, so here’s my first Medium post. Oh, the irony.

2015 bridged my second and third years at university, a period of time that has brought an unprecedented amount of change. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, especially towards the end, but there have been countless highlights, including many firsts, as the title of this post suggests, including…

Arabic Society

Until April, I was a member of the UCL and London Intercollegiate Arabic Society committees. It was my first society role (and unbeknownst to me at the time, training wheels for TechSoc) and I ended up taking on a lot more responsibility than I bargained for! Highlights were helping to organise and run our Annual Charity Dinner, where we raised £1275 for Human Syria Care and the Annual Intercollegiate Society Ball.

Challenge: If you can spot me, I’ll bake you some cake.

Landing Hack

A cold, but beautiful weekend at the PayPal office in Richmond-on-Thames was the setting for my first volunteering gig at a hackathon. It was a perfect way to close the first year of MLH hackathons in the EU, and the first time I met or spoke to a lot of people in the hackathon scene, many of whom I have the pleasure of being friends with today.

(Un)fortunately, I left my keys in Richmond so I got to go back and explore outside too.

Interning at Bloomberg

My first experience of working at a big company, which I was initially pretty apprehensive about, but it was all for naught. I got to pioneer a new style of architecture for the Android codebase and was able to take full ownership of and fully write, test and deploy my own project, FLY<GO> on Android, to tens of thousands of real, paying users! All in all, it was a fantastic job, great friendships were formed and memories made.

(I suspect they cap the number of interns so that they can fit everyone into this photograph each year.)

Hackcon EU

My first speaking gig at a conference! Yes, me, that person who always listed public speaking as a weakness and wouldn’t even present during the demo of her own hacks, was now on stage advising hackathon organisers how to help people like her improve themselves at their events!

It was a brilliant weekend, with lots of lessons to take away from lots of experienced organisers, that happened to land on my 20th birthday (and I still refuse to believe that I’m that old). Hopefully the videos will be out sometime before Hackcon EU II, but if you’re considering running your own hackathon, sign up for it when registration opens. Trust me.

Yes, the conference was at work. On a weekend. On my birthday. *cries*

Hack The North

My first international trip without my parents (yes, I’m old, but I still have a super over-protective father) and my first time visiting North America. It was also my first time at a hackathon with more than 300 attendees.

Obligatory international trip selfie that could just as easily have been taken at home.

Unfortunately, jetlag and a total lack of sleep largely rendered our attempts at hacking a bust, but it was still a really worthwhile experience from an organiser’s point of view. Also, I got to go to Canada for a weekend which, by all accounts, is pretty ridiculous.

Local Hack Day @ UCL

The first hackathon I’ve been involved in organising and I somehow ended up leading.

This couldn’t be so difficult… could it?

I have to admit, it was largely pulled together in the week or so I had after I finished my internship, and the firefighting was constant (getting locked out of my own event at demo time with a dead phone was the cherry on the cake, really), but somehow, people still seemed to have a great time!

A lecture theatre full of Slideshow Karaoke-induced laughter!

I’m proud to report we had 100 or so attendees, 10 awesome projects presented, and lots of new coders and hackers! It seems that a sizable group of freshers now seem to be hooked on hacking, which is rather heartwarming.

UCLU TechSoc

Having been hired as Events Director in March, it’s been nine months of hustling, moving and shaking to get some great events and opportunities set up for our ever-expanding crowd of members.

Pro-tip: Getting half of the committee to spell out “TECH SOCIETY” with their limbs doesn’t work.

It’s definitely not been easy, but I’m quietly very proud of what the team and our members have built together in such a short time and am so excited for what we have planned next year. Great things are on the horizon!

By the way, you should definitely follow us on Twitter (@UCLUTech) and visit our website (http://uclutech.com). And hey, if you’re interested in working with us, shoot me a tweet!

Summing up

Simply put, 2015 was a year of opening doors that I didn’t believe I could. Self-belief has never been my forte, but it was time to stop waiting for good things to happen and to try and make some luck.

It really did, though.

A post about 2015's goings-on would not be complete without saying that I owe so much to the EU hackathon and student tech communities. Their support has been invaluable, they’ve presented so many opportunities and I’ve met lots of genuinely wonderful, talented and inspiring people who I would have been way too shy to have spoken to before.

Anyway, that’s enough reminiscing for now and time to pursue some new goals. 2016 is going to bring lots of new challenges and (hopefully) new firsts but somehow I think I can…

Appropriate level of cheesiness to conclude this post.