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Hacking the Way to Diversity and Inclusion

Hack the Gap Hack-a-thon

According to the most recent NCWIT data, women comprised only 17% of all computer hardware engineers as of 2017. Most of us have heard this phenomena referred to as the, “Gender Gap” in technology, and the people coordinating the upcoming “Hack the Gap” event are motivated to do something about it.

Heading into their sixth event, Hack the Gap has a new director, who brings with her, new vision. Caroline Karanja has been a key figure in the Minnesota tech scene for the last few years as the CEO of 26 Letters, a software startup dedicated to providing tools and resources for companies and educators to ensure that diversity and inclusion are part of their focus. Now, as the leader of Hack the Gap, Karanja will have the opportunity to bring this knowledge and vision to individuals interested in tech careers, giving them the tools and resources to build their tech knowledge, skill stacks, and confidence to land the tech jobs of their dreams.

The event is a two-day immersive workshop in which participants work collaboratively to build an application. Teams of women and non-binary individuals gather together to gain new experiences, make new friends, and if all goes well, create a new project that solves an existing problem.

Karanja has been a participant in a couple of the previous events, and explained that she feels that the Hack the Gap events are the, “…best place to start an adventure into tech.” And those who are intimidated because they don’t “code” should be assured that they will still find their place at the event. “Coding is only one aspect of building an application. Design, ideas, copy — all of these things are needed for projects like this.”

Another seasoned participant, Lisa Mabley, said that her experience with Hack the Gap helped launch her career in tech. “My first time there I spent an entire day messing around with OAuth and the Twitter api, but just at the nth hour I triumphed and felt like a genius … Having that win under my belt meant so much to me and gave me a much-needed boost of courage and confidence to keep moving forward towards my career goals in tech. Within a year, I had my first dev role.”

Hack the Gap Hack-a-thon

Even those with merely a curiosity about tech may find their calling at the event. As Karanja said, “It’s fun to get together and build something from scratch. You meet cool people, get recognition for your work, and build community that is on-going.” The event offers cash prizes, opportunities for networking and community building, and a true sense of accomplishment that comes from collaboratively building useful tools.

The Hack the Gap team is doing whatever they can to make this event as inclusive as possible. If participant’s children are interested in helping and working on the project, they are free to attend with their parents. The kickoff of the event is fairly early each day so coffee and breakfast will be provided, and teams are kept well-fueled throughout the weekend. There will be accommodations made for dietary needs, and the event is located on public transportation lines. For those who may have a barrier to paying the entry-fee, there are “pay it forward” tickets available, which can be found on their ticketing page here.

Karanja’s goal is to collect insight and suggestions from the community on how the organization can best support individuals. She is pulling together data for potential programming and events based on the feedback she gets on what is working, what’s not, and the areas that people need more assistance. Her goal is to develop Hack the Gap into a more robust organization moving into 2020, and she invites the entire Minnesota tech community to join her on the journey.

Tech.MN is a proud media partner of Hack the Gap. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor or volunteer for this event, you can find more information at 

Valerie Lockhart
Valerie is proud to spend her time immersed in the Minnesota tech scene, whether she’s writing articles for, designing websites, or coordinating events for the Minnesota Women in Technology meetup group.