Born out of a Hackathon and now in its fifth year, Camp SEEK invites girls and non-binary young people aged 14–16 to spend five days at SEEK HQ to get an action-packed introduction to the creative and varied careers available in the tech industry.
What were you up to during the school holidays when you were aged 14–16? Hanging out at the shops? Going to the movies? Catching up on some sleep?
What about spending a week in the head office of a global tech company learning about possible future careers and hacking for two days on a product to design, prototype and pitch to a judging panel by the end of the week?
For the 40(ish) attendees of Camp SEEK 2019, that’s exactly what happened. On the Monday morning of the second week of the school holidays we opened the doors of SEEK HQ to our Camp SEEKers. As MC for the week, I was waiting upstairs trying to remember any tips from my one semester as a university tutor for engaging with teenagers. Suddenly, it was time to start. I stood up, smoothed down my Camp SEEK hoodie, and…
…GOOD MORNING EVERYONE — WELCOME TO CAMP SEEK 2019!
Just like that, we were off!
The first morning covered personal pathways to tech, an icebreaker and an introduction to Agile. Even after only a couple of hours, the energy in the room increased exponentially, which was a real sign of things to come. Especially once we ran a building tour and the Camp SEEKers discovered the ice cream freezer upstairs for that extra energy. Over the next few days we ran sessions on Data Science & Analytics and Ontology, User Experience Design, Product, Data Security and Coding. The Camp SEEKers threw themselves into the experience, sharing personal stories and insights, researching and designing new ideas, and collaborating to practice their new learnings through loads of activities.
We also ran a retro at the end of each day, during which we got great feedback on what was working well and what we could do to make each day even better than the last. Key callouts were that a lot of new friendships were forming, lots of activities kept things interesting, and, despite all the ice cream excursions, healthy food was a preferred option for lunch!
On Wednesday afternoon we divided the Camp SEEKers into their create-a-thon teams and sent them off to start hacking with their mentors. Many SEEK employees (and some students from RMIT SWITCH) had generously volunteered their time to help out with the create-a-thon, representing Technology, Design, Product and other disciplines within SEEK. It was a great opportunity for the Camp SEEKers to consolidate and apply the information they’d gained during the teaching sessions.
Friday came before we knew it. By midday there was a frantic rush as our Camp SEEKers set up their Marketplace stalls. There were balloons, lollies, flyers, QR codes, pot plants…and of course five incredible ideas ready to be shared with the whole SEEK community! SEEK staff flocked to the Hub to chat with the Camp SEEKers about their ideas, soon followed by family and friends of our attendees.
During the pitching session, our five teams gave entertaining and insightful presentations on their create-a-thon products, covering meaningful areas such as mental health, environmental sustainability and gender equality. The judging panel awarded top prize to a team that focussed on reducing the gender pay gap with a website that encouraged transparency from businesses and offered support and tips for anyone experiencing pay discrimination. The People’s Choice award (voted on during the marketplace) went to a team that offered practical ways to reduce everyday waste and limit our environmental impact.
And just like that, Camp SEEK 2019 was done. I couldn’t believe what had been achieved that week, both by the SEEK team who put together all the magic and the attendees who gave it their all and inspired us as much as we (hopefully) inspired them. We’d all learned so much, including a bunch of tips on how to make next year even better!
Many of us who work in tech found our way into roles that maybe didn’t exist when we were in school, or that we didn’t know about and therefore didn’t consider as options for further study or work. To be part of a movement enacting change in this area was one of the most rewarding parts of my entire year. Feedback from attendees indicated that most of them were more likely to consider a career in tech or studying STEM subjects after having attended Camp SEEK, which is exactly what we were hoping for. I can’t wait to see what our Camp SEEKers achieve in the near future (and we’re working on scaling our alumni program so we can stay in touch).
Meanwhile, the SEEK team is already working on new ways to increase diversity in the tech pipeline and how to make Camp SEEK and affiliated programs more accessible and inclusive – stay tuned for exciting plans in 2020!