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January 21, 2019

The inside story of Hacking Carrots

Agata Piekut by Agata

We’ve officially started Hacking Carrots, a new two-year program focused on developing real solutions for global challenges defined by the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as education to bring more diversity into emerging technologies (AI, VR, Iot etc.). For a start, we thought we’d share with you the backstage story known only to insiders.

Why Sustainable Development Goals? What motivated you to come up with an idea for Hacking Carrots?

There is a pressing social need on a global scale to come up with more solutions for problems like overcrowded cities, or fast changing educational needs of the job market that traditional school can’t address.

Simultaneously as a community focused on IT, we notice the problems with bringing diversity to the world of emerging technologies. So we took the favorite form of IT events, a hackathon, and we approached it from a different perspective. On one hand, we focus on educational activities before the main event, on the other, on enabling the diversity of participants – being family friendly, requiring that teams consist at least of 50 % women and running it in English.

This is also the reason why Hacking Carrots is planned as a two-year program. There will be four editions, each addressing four Sustainable Development Goals and technologies that have a chance to solve the issues.

On a more personal note, I first came up with the idea for Hacking Carrots when I joined Geek Girls Carrots as a new CEO. My professional background is both in public administration on a European level as well as in startups addressing social issues. This enabled me to observe international works first on MDGs [Millennium Development Goals], and then on SDGs, both as an entrepreneur and grants’ provider.

Hacking Carrots is much more than a hackathon, it’s also a two-year long educational program in emerging technologies. Why did you decide to augment the traditional form?

Although there are much more women entering the world of IT, there’s still a belief that emerging technologies like AI, VR or IoT are ”for boys”. Or at least people with PhDs from top technological universities. My decision to focus on education first was based on our experience as an organization that first we need to turn this area of tech into a friendly space, just like we did with programming seven years ago.

At the core of Geek Girls Carrots is supporting women in IT, and working on changing the status quo. That’s why it’s so important for us that everybody who’s interested in emerging technologies or SDGs doesn’t feel left behind.

In each edition we’ve planned four meetups dedicated to the practical solutions to issues we’ll be tackling and four workshops to practice necessary tools and technologies. Only then we’ll open registration for the hackathon.

Creating real solutions is one of the crucial parts of Hacking Carrots. What impact do you expect?

It’s very important for us that the solutions that win each of the finals will have a chance to be implemented in real life. The whole hackathon has been planned from the very beginning with this outcome in mind.

We limit the number of SDGs we’ll be tackling in each edition to four so that each of them is thoroughly addressed. We will also focus on the quality and potential scalability of the entries, not the number of participants. Our goal is to build a global platform of experts dedicated to advancing SDGs, not the biggest hackathon in terms of attendance.

To further support winners in the implementation of their solutions, we are simultaneously building a network of partners who will enable the teams to continue their work. In some cases, our Theme Partners will be also interested in introducing the solutions as part of their offer.

The community behind Hacking Carrots, Geek Girls Carrots, have a strong international presence. However, all of the events up to date were happening locally. What will change in this program?

We are very proud of our local Polish and international communities. They are doing a great job activating girls and women, enabling high-quality networking and programming classes. And as Geek Girls Carrots is all about connecting people, innovations and open approach, we’ve been working for the past year to strengthen our international presence and relations, for example by joining Facebook’s European digital skills program.

With Hacking Carrots, we want to enable Carrots (an international community currently of over 40 000) not only to obtain valuable knowledge but also networking and career opportunities on an international level. The first edition will take place mainly in Warsaw, where we have our headquarters, but we’re inviting our international community to participate. We’re planning to take the next editions to international locations.

Geek Girls Carrots have been supporting diversified recruitment for IT positions for a long time. Are there any career opportunities in the new program?

Apart from the obvious, that is gaining new technological skills, it’s a great opportunity for both potential employees and employers to meet in an environment that encourages a lot of interactions. There will be four informal meetups and four weekend workshops, each dedicated to a chosen technology.

And then during the hackathon, the partner companies and experts can observe how participants deal with stress, fatigue and solving problems under time pressure. On the other hand, there’ll be also many opportunities to just chat over a coffee, which is impossible during a formal recruitment meeting.

It also works the other way. Participants will be able to see how the companies behave towards them. Overall it will be a rare occasion when a selected group of the best and most dedicated professionals on both sides will meet in one place.

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