180 students, 12 hours, 1 question: “What does equality mean to you?” West Monroe Partners had the opportunity to sponsor and mentor the 6th annual University of Washington Women in Informatics hackathon; where students from all walks of life came together to tackle real-world problems surrounding equality.
From ideation, to design, and all the way through development, these students were able to create astoundingly complex applications to aid some of the biggest problems society faces; all within a 12-hour time limit. Projects varied vastly between teams, but all focused on empowering marginalized communities through technology. A few outstanding examples were With You (an information hub to combat sexual harassment in the workplace), an Aria Label generator (helping those who are visually impaired navigate the internet), and Cyrus (a language learning app designed for low-income families whose children have limited access to language learning resources). As mentors, we were able to provide insight during every phase of the hackathon. During the ideation phase, we helped teams fine-tune their understanding of their root problem and create a solution road-map with goals that could be achieved within the time allotted for the afternoon. We guided students to design prototypes with their intended users at the center of their design decisions. And as deep technologists, we assisted with developing and debugging, setting teams up with additional resources to help them become better developers even after the hackathon ended.
As the day drew to a close, we had the opportunity to circle the room and ask the students about their projects, their processes, and how their day went. Each table we visited had a unique perspective and creative solution to issues of inequality. Our team was deeply inspired by the passion and brilliance we saw in every team.
As recent college graduates ourselves, we were able to reflect on everything we’ve learned since our college careers came to a close. One of West Monroe’s goals is to build the next generation of leaders and looking back on the last six months, we can attest that the mentorship and challenges presented here has allowed us to grow in ways we never imagined. We feel privileged to be able to coach another group of future leaders at the Hackathon and pass on some of the mentorship and advice we’ve received.