Introducing the 2nd Chapter Director of TechTogether Seattle, Breann Nielsen
Meet TechTogether Seattle’s newest Chapter Director, Breann Nielsen! Breann (She/Hers) is a recent graduate of the Year Up program. She will be responsible for running TechTogether’s 2nd hackathon for the Seattle community. Interested in joining TechTogether Seattle’s 2021–2022 organizing team? Learn more and apply here.
Hello! Please introduce yourself and your role in TechTogether.
Hi y’all! My name is Breann Nielsen. I’m a recent graduate of the Year Up program, and I’m the 2021 Director for TechTogether Seattle.
Why did you join the TechTogether organizing team? How can other students get involved with TechTogether?
I decided to get involved with TechTogether because we have the same mission. I’m passionate about closing the opportunity divide and helping underrepresented groups break into the tech world. I want to help facilitate change in whatever way I can because I know how daunting it can be to enter a space you may feel you don’t belong in. Rest assured, you absolutely do!
For anyone interested in getting involved with TechTogether, please head over to TechTogether’s website and explore the “Get Involved” dropdown menu at the top of the page!
What are you most excited about for TechTogether Seattle? How do you hope this year’s hackathon will be different from last year?
It’s really hard to choose! 2021 will be TechTogether Seattle’s second hackathon ever, and the previous director (shout out to Sabreena Yang!!) did an incredible job with the first TechTogether Seattle hackathon in January. I’ve got big shoes to fill but I’m looking forward to making this year’s event as fun and interactive as possible. I’m also hoping there will be more hackers in attendance this year!
What is your favorite aspect of hackathons?
My favorite aspect of hackathons are people coming together from all walks of life to build something in a set amount of time. The collaboration is just so cool to me.
Can you tell me about your first hackathon experience?
My first hackathon experience was also TechTogether Seattle’s first! I was interning at JPMorgan Chase & Co. as a Cyber Security Software Engineer, and I’d been writing Python code pretty regularly at that point, but I hadn’t really made anything before (well, finished anything before — chronic “start something and never finish it” person here), and I wanted to jump into a hackathon to see what it was all about.
I remember I was so nervous to join, but it ended up being a wholly positive experience. Everyone was so welcoming, and I gained many new connections afterward! The workshops were full of valuable information, and even though I didn’t participate in making anything, I had a great time. It set the bar pretty high!
Do you have any advice for someone who’s interested in attending a hackathon but may be intimidated?
First off, I totally understand the intimidation factor. It can be unnerving! If you’re doubting your skills, or what you have to offer, please don’t. Most people are very kind and want to see you succeed. Everyone starts somewhere. You may not even have to participate in the actual “hacking” portion if you’re uncomfortable, you can just attend workshops if available — that’s what I did my first time around!
Any secret talents or hobbies?
No secret talents, but as far as hobbies go, the list is ever-expanding! I like to do some moderate impact hiking, knitting things (needle & loom), building PCs, and playing video games, mostly on the PC. When I have the space and money for it, I’d love to get my own pottery wheel and start throwing again.
What do you wish I had asked and what would be your answer to that question?
“How did you get your start in tech?”
I graduated in December 2018 with an associate’s degree in Health Information Technology, which turned out to be super hard to get a job in without connections. I’d never networked in my life at that point, so I took my degree and my 250+ job applications, and gave up on that career path.
Fast forward to June 2019, I’d moved to Seattle and was enjoying my time working at Whole Foods Market. But I knew this wasn’t where I wanted to be forever. I needed to find something else that I could be good at, that I wanted to be good at, and had a passion for. I always had an affinity for tech, I was the go-to troubleshooter in my family growing up. My parents had told me for years I should pursue something related to computer science… And then I heard about the Year Up program.
If you’re not familiar, Year Up is a one-year program that includes college courses, technical training, professional training, and a six-month internship. Year Up’s mission is to close the opportunity divide by ensuring that young adults gain the skills, experiences, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through careers, and higher education. And did I mention it’s free? And they pay you??
It sounded too good to be true, but I applied anyway. I interviewed and I was accepted. I began my journey with Year Up in April of 2020, right as the COVID-19 lockdown began. I went through the six month Learning & Development phase, and then I found out I would be interning at JPMorgan Chase & Co. as a Cyber Security Software Engineer for the remaining six months of the program. Wow! It was a whirlwind.
Since completing the Year Up program, paired with lots of networking, informational interviews, and self-discovery, I figured out that tech is where I’m meant to be in some shape or form. Whether that’s being a freelance web developer, software engineer, or a project manager… I’m continuously riding the wave to my next opportunity.
TL;DR nontraditional routes into tech are possible, and you’re not locked into just one aspect of it. Don’t give up.
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