Introducing the New Director of TechTogether Seattle, Sabreena Yang
Hello! Please introduce yourself and your role in TechTogether Seattle.
Hi everyone! I’m Sabreena Yang, a rising senior studying Public Health and Informatics at the University of Washington. I am an aspiring product manager who is passionate about healthcare technology. As the Director of TechTogether Seattle 2020, I’m excited to help organize the first TechTogether hackathon in Seattle and increase engagement within STEM communities in my city!
Why did you join the TechTogether Seattle organizing team? How can other students get involved with TechTogether Seattle?
Hackathons give me the opportunity to go out of my comfort zone and learn from others. My first hackathon really shaped me to be the person I am today, which is what inspired me to join the TechTogether Seattle organizing team. My goal as the director of TechTogether Seattle is to help carry out TechTogether’s mission of diversity and inclusion in the tech world by creating a supportive space. I want to act as an advocate by using my leadership skills and influence to proactively help build and advance the careers of individuals interested in technology. Most importantly, I want to help prevent individuals from feeling discouraged about pursuing a career in the technology industry if that is what they are interested in. Before attending my first hackathon, I was never confident in my abilities to succeed in the technology field. I thought that I needed to be an expert in coding to be successful. However, after attending my first hackathon, I realized I was completely wrong. I learned that there are many roles in addition to software engineers, such as UX/UI designers, product managers, and user researchers. This experience gave me the courage to explore different career paths in the technology industry, which helped me discover my passion for product management. Hackathons are a great way to showcase the diversity of technology and I want individuals to recognize that there are various domains in the field where they can shine.
For anyone who is interested in TechTogether, you can participate by helping organize this event or by attending! If you want to help organize this extraordinary event, there are open positions for director roles on the TechTogether Seattle website coming out soon. You can also be a team member if you do not want to hold a director position, we need as much help as we can get! If you would like to attend the event as a hacker, mentor, or volunteer, stick around on the TechTogether website or follow us on social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. There will be more details coming soon about the event.
What are you most excited about for TechTogether Seattle 2020? What aspect of the event being virtual are you most excited about?
There are so many reasons that make me excited for TechTogether Seattle 2020 since it will be the first TechTogether event in Seattle. However, one thing that I am really looking forward to is getting to know the participants this year. I am eager to hear about their backgrounds as to how they became interested in the technology sector and to see what types of creative projects they will construct. I believe that projects are a notable way of showcasing passion and I can’t wait to see what types of innovative ideas the participants have in mind.
With COVID-19 making the event virtual, I am excited to see how many hackers TechTogether Seattle 2020 can bring together. With the hackathon no longer restricted by venue size, anyone who is interested and qualified can participate and gain valuable experience. Additionally, I am excited to see how we can make our event more accessible to more individuals, while maintaining the appeal of the physical event!
What is your favorite aspect of hackathons?
My favorite aspect of hackathons is the sense of accomplishment you feel at the end when you finally create something out of nothing in such a short amount of time. Even if you don’t win any prizes, seeing your finished product and acknowledging the work you put into it will make yourself feel like a winner. Hackathons are one of the best places to get together with other individuals who share the same passions as you. I love seeing the end product and the success of combining everyone’s diverse experiences and skill sets!
Can you tell me about your first hackathon experience?
During the fall quarter of junior year, I was introduced to the WINFO (UW Women in Informatics) Hackathon in my Intellectual Foundations of Informatics course. The idea of attending a hackathon seemed interesting, but I was hesitant about signing up because of my lack of programming knowledge and experience. However, a friend of mine encouraged me to attend.
Going into the event, I was nervous and afraid. However, I met a lot of students who were in the same boat as me where it was their first hackathon. Seeing students with all different levels of coding experience work together on such impactful projects gave me confidence in myself. I was able to identify my strength in leadership and problem-solving, and apply that on the project we were working on by acting as a product manager and user researcher.
In my team, we were all new to hackathons. Nevertheless, we all found our strengths and showcased it to put together a project. We were able to work collaboratively to brainstorm, strategize, and design. Despite being a team of newcomers, we ended up creating a high-profile application prototype to promote healthy sleep habits and track sleep patterns. Coming into the event, I had no idea what it would be like. However, I left the hackathon with more motivation, a deeper and more comprehensive knowledge of the technology field, and a new group of friends. Although I was new to hackathons and the field of technology, I found this experience very valuable. It gave me the inspiration to attend future hackathons and become the director of TechTogether Seattle!
Do you have any advice for someone who’s interested in attending a hackathon but may be intimidated?
If you are interested in attending a hackathon, go for it! I felt intimidated about joining a hackathon my first time, but still decided to give it a try. Looking back, I would have regretted not going if I did not attend. My advice to everyone is to think of hackathons as an opportunity to learn new skills, sharpen existing skills, and meet new people in the industry. It is important to be open-minded about what you might end up doing. You do not need to be a top-notch programmer or even know how to code to contribute on a team. There are plenty of non-technical people needed at these events. If you feel intimidated because you think your skills are subpar, do not let that get in the way of attending a hackathon. Sparking creative ideas and presenting user research findings are other ways you can get involved. There is a lot of knowledge you can gain from meeting fellow hackers, getting advice from mentors, and networking with companies. Many hackathons are beginner-friendly, so you can submit any sort of solution. Whether you end up with a fully functioning application or just a prototype, hackathons are a great opportunity to combine your team members’ different skill sets to build something incredible.
Any secret talents or hobbies?
I guess this is not a secret anymore… but I have been a piano player for 15 years now! Growing up, I attended the National Federation of Music Clubs’ festivals and played for hospital patients and employees. Much of my childhood was dedicated to learning new piano pieces and playing for an audience. I love playing piano because it is a way for me to relax and take a break from everything that is going on.
What do you wish I had asked and what would be your answer to that question?
One question I wish you had asked would be how I became interested in pursuing a career in technology and what was that journey like.
As a first-generation student and daughter of Chinese immigrants, it was forced heavily upon me that I needed to be successful. To my parents, being successful meant becoming a healthcare provider. Thus growing up, my parents pushed me to pursue a career as a doctor, nurse, or pharmacist. Since my parents put this influence on me and I had a passion for improving patient health, I decided that I should become a nurse. However, when my mom got a FitBit to help better manage her diabetes, I became fascinated with the concept of using technology to improve personal and community health. For my mom, having a FitBit encouraged her to stay active by participating in FitBit challenges and being rewarded for reaching her daily step goal. This sparked my interest in wanting to help empower people to live healthier lives and improve patient outcomes through technological solutions.
It was not until the end of sophomore year in college when I decided it was time to pursue what I truly wanted to do. In the following year, I turned down my nursing school offer, began taking computer science and informatics classes, and getting involved in as many student technology activities as I could. I am so glad to have had the courage to go out of my comfort zone and pursue a career in technology because the more I learn about this field, the more fascinated I am with the opportunities and growth this industry has to offer.
Any final thoughts?
If you have never participated in a hackathon before, I highly recommend that you do so! It is a great opportunity and learning experience that can help you both personally and professionally. During a time when we are all physically far apart, TechTogether Seattle provides a chance to bring people closer together and create amazing projects. I am excited and looking forward to seeing everyone at the virtual TechTogether Seattle hackathon! Lastly, I hope you are all staying safe and healthy during these unusual, challenging times in our country. I wish everyone good health and all the best!