My First Hackathon: Joyce Van Drost — Director of Marketing

Joyce Van Drost

In the summer after my junior year of high school, I was involved in this program called Girls Who Code that opened my eyes to the world of computer science and all its glory. Before then, I had no intention in going into computer science in college. I was planning on majoring in accounting only because I was good at math and didn’t have any other ideas for backups. Luckily, participating in this program made me want to go into CS instead of accounting, and I’m grateful. This is not putting down that field at all, because if you’re a great CPA and can do my taxes for me, you’re already winning in my book. I just realized that accounting wasn’t for me anymore. But the reason I’m saying all of this is because right after this program ended I started hearing the concept of hackathons. Girls from my program would ask me if I was free certain weekends to go with them to this hackathon over here or figuring out carpools to get this hackathon here. But most of those plans fell through and I never ended up attending one.

It wasn’t until my fall semester of my sophomore year of college that I attended my first hackathon, and that was none other than HackRU. I felt it was finally time for me to go to one and this time there was no excuse because it was on campus. So I went all by myself. It was intimidating at first for sure. I remember walking in, and the first thing I saw was this guy with three huge monitors plus his laptop. All I could think was “how many screens does one person need?”

I was so excited to find another girl who was also team-less because we just hung together the rest of the hackathon. We didn’t end up building anything, so we both took it as a learning experience. We went around and talked to sponsors about their technologies, plus we met some fellow hackers and learned about what they were building and what technologies they were using. It was a cool experience because I met some great people who were willing to speak about their projects plus teach me something new.

After my first hackathon, I really want to get involved in organizing. So I became an organizer for the marketing team for HackRU Spring 2016. I also helped with HackHERS this past February, and I’ve been Co-Director for the Marketing team of HackRU since last semester. As you can see, I like to keep myself busy but it has all been worth it. I have met so many great people in this hackathon community and just working with them all to put on such great events has been so rewarding. I honestly keep learning throughout this experience of organizing and I feel that’s the best thing to have come out of something like this because hackathons promote and foster growth and learning.

From my first hackathon as a whole, I learned that it’s okay to go into something a little intimidated at first. As long as you come in open-minded and ready to learn new things, it will result in a great experience for you.

For any person out there feeling hesitant in attending their first hackathon, DON’T BE! I know coming from a person that took almost three years to attend one, that this statement doesn’t seem too convincing. I’m here to tell you: take advantage now. There are so many people willing to help and teach you new things because they want you to learn too! Ask plenty of questions so you can understand and absorb everything you can. I don’t doubt that it won’t be scary at first, but take the leap. You will be glad that you did.

Joyce Van Drost is the Director of Marketing for HackRU XII. She is a junior at Rutgers University, majoring in computer science. On an average day you can find her laughing or listening to her favorite artist Drake.