Posted by Jane Guan
@@janeguan

48 Hours, One Website: My Hackapalooza Experience

Ladies Learning Code’s first ever ‘Hackapalooza’ took place this past weekend (July 7th and 8th) at The Lab.

It was a two-day event filled with coding, lightning talks, and designing in an awesome space. 60 learners signed up for the weekend and over 60 incredible mentors showed up to help. 8 lead instructors guided us through the weekend and 5 speakers provided us with tips to build a user-friendly and well branded website. Learners were also given a huge surprise by the Ladies Learning Code team with free domain hosting (thank you Hover!) and free headshots to put on their completed websites (thank you Julie!).

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Hackapalooza was essentially a hackathon meets Learning Code’s introductory classes. The event was designed to help learners take their coding knowledge to the next level very quickly in a collaborative environment, the first of its kind in Canada.

Most women had attended Ladies Learning Code’s Intro to HTML and CSS workshop and some had also taken multiple workshops across different programming languages prior to Hackapalooza. I had personally taken my first workshop with Ladies Learning Code – Intro to HTML and CSS – only 2 weeks ago so I was ready to flex my coding muscles again.

Day One

Everyone showed up bright and early and ready to code!

Heather Payne, one of the founders of Ladies Learning Code, told the story of the organization and told us the importance of being open-minded and ready to learn on this weekend. After, we pretty much dove right into content immediately and started coding (they weren’t joking about the Hackathon style of the weekend). We managed to learn about changing page layouts, organizing our code, incorporating mindful typography, designing logos, and using CSS Animations all in one day (thanks to our awesome lead instructors Kevin, Zak, and Ryan).

Saturday ended off with a brain full of content and a much more customized website. More importantly, we could actually start going into the code and tweaking it ourselves outside of the workshops to modify sections or to add content.

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Day Two

The second day began with some gentle morning yoga led by yours truly! The session stretched us out and helped us start the second day with an open and bright mind.

Sunday was a bit different from Saturday’s layout because there were different streams that learners could attend based on the purpose of their website: personal or business. In the personal stream, we learned how to create contact forms for our webpages, getting hosted, creating a photo slider using Javascript, and API integration for our website. In the business stream, learners were taught how to add more content to their site and turning their webpages into a website rather than learning about contact forms.

Sunday ended with a domain-hosted functional website that connected to social media and conveyed more information through a beautiful photo slider. Thank you Emily, David, Emir, Arron, Tristan, Haris, & Josh!

So. Much. Learning!

In between each workshop of the weekend there was a lightning talk. Our first lightning talk of the weekend was on branding, led by Chris from Heist. He brought insights from his experience in the advertising industry and his role at Heist to give us quick tips on creating a website optimized for our customers’ needs. Camille and Pearl both discussed using developer tools to design “in the browser”, and Christina explained responsive design to us.

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That was a LOT of content for two days and so many women told me they loved it. Workshops moved fast and the mentors saved the day(s) by helping everyone keep up despite the diversity of skill level and learning style in the classes. Thank you to the incredible mentors!

Before joining Ladies Learning Code, I was NOT a tech-savvy person by any means (and you really must take my word for this). While a whiz at fixing VCRs, I could not navigate phones more complicated than Nokias for a long time, and I’m talking pre-Windows acquisition back in the non-touch screen days, nor did I know half the functions on my Macbook existed for years. By the end of Hackapalooza, I couldn’t believe the website I had. It was functional, beautiful, and representative of what I envisioned (and heck, if it wasn’t, I knew how to change it!).

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Having been with Ladies Learning Code for a short part of the planning process, I can tell you that it was stressful behind the scenes. Because it was the first time running Hackapalooza, there was a lot of fret that numbers wouldn’t be high enough or that content would not be finished on time, which would have been such a shame because the event had SO much to offer! However, this event really pulled together all at once closer to the end thanks to bundles of amazing volunteers and sponsors.

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The weekend was a lot more than I expected. While this style of learning is not accessible to everyone, it is reassuring to know that the community for women to learn about coding or technology is growing. It also demonstrates that we’re improving content over here for women who want to step up their learning in different environments. The event was definitely empowering, collaborative, and social. I’m so happy about the interesting people I’ve met and the amount of sharing that happened this weekend, whether in knowledge, insight, or in conversation.

Where do we go from here?

Tessa gave an awesome talk on self-guided learning at the end of Day 2. She gave us online resources to further our learning and suggested building fun and non-personal projects just to test our capabilities and to work towards a goal. A lot of the mentors that showed up this weekend were self-taught and I think that’s as inspirational as anything to pursue projects for the sake of learning.

Here are some of the awesome projects created over this weekend:

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These were just two of the 60 websites created over the weekend. Send us a link to your completed website when it’s up and running; we’d honestly love to check it out!

For those who did not join us on this weekend of coding magic and mayhem, if you’re a quick learner and ready for challenges then this is the event for you. You will be proud of everything you’ve learned and created on this weekend.

If you have any feedback you’d like to give the Ladies Learning Code team to improve Hackapalooza in the future, shoot us a message! We’d be more than happy to get feedback on the event and thank you so much for taking part in our first ever Hackapalooza!