DiversaTech
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DiversaTech

Diverse Backgrounds are Cool — They Might Just Take You to Finland (Virtually)

by Rachael Deng

Photo created by alexgrec — www.freepik.com

It’s June 28th, 2020 at 6 AM. It’s the second consecutive night I’ve stayed up until morning and my eyes are drooping as I stare at Remo, a virtual event and networking space that I’ve been living on for the past 48 hours.

Just as I’m about to doze off, I hear: “The winner of the Reducing Carbon “Food”print challenge is… HARA!” And that was how I found out I won my first innovation hackathon.

The Start

Let’s backtrack a little bit. Back in June, I was scrolling through Google for food-related events — as one does — when I stumbled upon FoodTechies Finland’s Feeding the Future Hackathon. To preface things, I’d never thought of myself as the type of person to enter competitions, let alone a high-pressure hackathon with a 10-hour time difference between Helsinki and Berkeley. Moreover, as a pre-med, entering hackathons seemed like the last thing that I’d do, with my lack of product expertise and technical experience. Yet, for some reason, I felt compelled to enter.

Why? Although I can’t chalk it up to any one reason, I can say that my experience as a consultant in DiversaTech was a huge motivating factor. Despite only having joined for a semester, I’d learned so many skills that I hadn’t had before — including how to deck effective deliverables, how to prototype in Figma, how to devise user/consumer retention strategies, and much more. As well, seeing the accomplishments that all of my amazing friends in DiversaTech had accomplished, I felt inspired to try something new.

So, I reached out to a few people in my network and formed a team of four, assuming the role of project manager and designer. Readying ourselves for major sleep deprivation, we created HARA — an integrated CRM and review platform that uses machine learning to help restaurants make big steps towards having a small carbon footprint. After innovating for hours, we presented a pitch with meticulous consideration of business model, design, and implementation strategy!

The Challenge

FoodTechies Finland’s Feeding the Future Hackathon aimed to solve four issues: Sustainable Farm2Fork Solutions, Reducing Carbon “Food” print, Innovating New Baltic Herring Food Products, and Increasing the Finnish-African Food Trade. My team competed in the second track, Reducing Carbon “Food” print.

This challenge focused on achieving carbon neutrality goals in the restaurant and food industry for the City of Helsinki. We were tasked with developing a digital solution that could not only reducing carbon “food”print in the restaurant sector — which is primarily achieved through less food waste, better energy efficiency, and low-impact sourcing of food — and also act as the go-to tool to measure production of metrics contributing to carbon footprint.

The Grind

During the 48-hour hackathon, I stayed up for hours to network with all of the available mentors and update my team. Despite the excruciating hours, I didn’t even feel tired — I felt energized by the insightful ideas from mentors who came from countries all around the world, with diverse backgrounds in a myriad of industries. Through this process, I learned about the machine learning concept of collaborative filtering, which we used to develop the algorithm for HARA’s carbon footprint scoring and restaurant review features.

Being the team lead, I also encouraged periodic breaks and worked with each member when they had conflicts throughout the day to keep us efficient even if we were working asynchronously. Quite similarly, DiversaTech quickly adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic as a club and we’ve been able to tackle our consulting projects smoothly and effectively!

The Takeaways

By taking a chance and diving into the world of hackathons, I was able to apply my experiences in collaborative innovation and design thinking from DiversaTech to an immersive project and make something meaningful.

More importantly, I saw clearly that it’s not really a disadvantage to have an unconventional background — my knowledge in Public Health and Nutritional Science actually helped me empathize with HARA’s target demographic in unique ways and create a solution centered in food justice and corporate social responsibility.

Looking towards the future, I’m looking forward to taking HARA to the implementation stage. Our team couldn’t be more excited for the invitation we won to participate in Forum Virium Helsinki’s pilot program!

Rachael Deng is a junior at UC Berkeley studying Public Health, the Nutritional Science minor, and the Certificate in Entrepreneurship & Technology. This semester, she is a Consultant on the LinkedIn team with DiversaTech. In her free time, she loves researching and playing with makeup and skincare, as well as singing and going out to eat or sightsee.

DiversaTech is the leading student-run technology consulting organization at UC Berkeley, creating unique experiences and projects that encourage students of all backgrounds to connect, collaborate, and create. We combine engineering, design, and business principles to create dynamic recommendations and strategies. Visit our website to learn more!

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DiversaTech is the leading student-run technology consulting organization at UC Berkeley. We combine engineering, design, and business principles to create dynamic recommendations and strategies.

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DiversaTech

DiversaTech

The leading student technology consulting organization at UC Berkeley. We combine engineering, design and business principles to create dynamic recommendations.

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