Cracking the Gender Code: Inside the Latest Hackathon & Tech Partnership

What do you get when you add 50,000 Amazon Web Services’ AWS re:Invent conference attendees, more than 180 hackers, 36 teams, action-packed challenges, a 16-hour deadline, and a competition that landed Protiviti in the final four?

You get the AWS NPO Hackathon for Social Good.

Five practice colleagues from Protiviti’s Technology Consulting (TC) solution descended on Las Vegas at the end of November to participate in the event’s sixth annual hackathon, where they used their expert coding and creative problem-solving skills to build new Amazon Web Services tech solutions for non-profit organizations.

Meet the Hackathon Finalists!

hackathon 2019 finalist
From left to right: Senior Consultant Heath, Managing Director Randy, Senior Consultant Teri, Manager Matthew, and Consultant Madelyn.

Can You Hack It?

Compassion International, GameChanger Charity, Girls Who Code, and Goodwill Industries International were on hand to pitch their problems to the hackathon teams.Girls Who Code.jpg

The Protiviti team chose to build a solution for Girls Who Code (GWC)a non-profit that works to close the gender gap in technology by educating, inspiring, and equipping girls with the skills, resources, mentorship, and confidence to pursue computer science and technology career opportunities.

Protiviti’s Partnership with Girls Who Code

The timing of the hackathon couldn’t have been more perfect.

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Scenes from a Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program

Hackathons have emerged as great places to network, recruit, learn new skills, and pitch ideas.  But our team of developers and security specialists selected Girls Who Code for a different reason, and one we’re very excited to share: In 2019, Protiviti will be partnering with Girls Who Code as a Field Trip Sponsor during the organization’s seven-week Summer Immersion Program.

Local high school girls will have the opportunity to visit our Chicago office, meet with our local leaders and consulting teams, and learn the ins and outs of Technology Consulting. On top of that, Protiviti is contributing $5,000 to cover the travel costs for five girls to enjoy the summer program.

Madelyn Hackathon.png“I spent the summer after graduation teaching a GWC Summer Immersion Program in New York, and I help run a GWC Club in Chicago. I’ve really enjoyed my time with the organization, and I wanted to find way to involve Protiviti, too,” says Madelyn, the Girls Who Code Committee Founder and Office Lead in Chicago. “The real power behind Girls Who Code is the students. Girls enter the program with little or no computer science experience, and they leave with the skills and determination to make whatever they want. It’s very empowering.”

The numbers tell the story of why we need GWC now more than ever. According to their website, fewer than 1 in 5 computer science graduates are women, and the gender gap in technology fields has actually increased since the 1990s. In 1995, 37% of computer scientists were women, compared to only 24% in 2017. Partnering with GWC supports our firm’s goals to attract and recruit a new generation of female tech leaders, while working alongside the new GET IT group to facilitate career development.

susan haseley“Protiviti is proud to partner with Girls Who Code, because we understand the importance of advocacy and sponsorship for women in our workforce and in technology professions,” says Susan Haseley, EVP of Diversity & Inclusion. “Work begins in the early years for girls, and it continues throughout their careers. The impact of organizations like Girls Who Code, who bridge the gap in technology, align with the values of inclusion and innovation that we celebrate as a company.”

Let’s Code!

Back at the hackathon, the Protiviti team toiled alongside 180 other hackers who were camped out with their laptops and free food in the massive MGM Studio Ballroom.

The challenge: Create a way for Girls Who Code to help their corporate sponsors remain involved, learn what events are coming up, and stay engaged with the students long after they’ve donated money.

The Protiviti team built a tile-style display portal, an Alexa skill, and a serverless infrastructure that’s deployed by code. Using the portal, an individual sponsor can filter events by type and what’s upcoming, add their own events, or view employee participation and stats. Check out the portal for yourself!

Madelyn, who handled the front-end UI during the hackathon, said the environment was fast-paced, fun, and competitive – but not without its fair share of roadblocks. She notes one in particular that lost the team several hours and left them scrambling. They had worked with on-site cloud experts for hours to connect two different AWS tools, only to be told the systems weren’t compatible.

“It’s great team bonding, for sure. Hackathons require constant communication and a lot of collaboration,” she says. “By early afternoon, our team settled into a steady rhythm of technical requests – asking a teammate for data in a different format, sharing architectural information, or announcing the need for a new API endpoint – and embraced real-time communication. Postman and Teams were lifesavers. It was really fun.”

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Inside the hackathon in Las Vegas, NV.

At the end of the hackathon, teams showed off their project to a panel of judges from Accenture, the event’s sponsor, and AWS. The team deserves a huge round of applause and well-deserved congratulations for finishing third overall!

“We built from scratch the architectures that we advise our clients on,” says Randy. “I’m proud of the team. We had plenty of fun, as well as some humbling learning experiences.”

The event was such a success that GWC asked the hackathon team to build and develop more solutions for them.

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The Protiviti team on stage at the hackathon!

Teach a Girl to Code & She’ll Change the World! Protiviti is committed to supporting women in tech and creating an inclusive culture. The GWC partnership is being piloted in the Chicago office, with local activities planned for 2019. The team plans to expand to other offices in 2020, and there’s plenty more to look forward to!

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