TechItForward Hackathon | Experience and Takeaways

In this post we hear from Yang Liu, Dynamics 365 Consultant at Pythagoras about her recent experience at the TechItForward Hackathon.

Yang Liu

Yang Liu


I attended the TechItForward Hackathon organised by Women Driven Development (WDD) and Expedia Group on Friday 15th March.

WDD is an organisation which tackles gender imbalance in the technology industry by providing opportunities for gender minorities and technology leaders to work together, learn from each other and create organic connections.

Setting the scene

For this hackathon, WDD partnered with a number of other charities to use different technical methods and data analytics to provide solutions to facilitate and support their programs. I specialise in the NFP sector, so it’s a great opportunity to understand more about how charity works and the kinds of challenges they are facing.

An amazing day kicked off with an interesting panel discussion including Nasreen Abdul, Catherine Ruggles, and Ana Henneberke. Nasreen looked back at her experience; she broke the norms and strived for a meaningful life. Catherine pointed out that the underrepresentation of women in Technology is bad for this industry. Ana mentioned that for a good technical person, the technical skill is very important, but the communication and collaboration skills need a long time to develop and it’s the key to success.

The challenge

I chose the project with London Village Network, an Islington based grassroots charity dedicated to social equality and community cohesion. They encourage professionals to “Volunteer One Hour of Time” to inspire young people by participating in their programmes. The CEO of this charity, Rachael Box is very supportive and has a clear vision of what she wants to achieve not only for the one-day hackathon but also in the long term.

Our main challenge was about how to make their mobile app more user-friendly, encourage young people to use their app and services, and create better data analysis.

Our team

We had six people in our team, including full stack developers, front-end developers etc. During two pre-hack meet-ups, we had briefly discussed how we would tackle the challenges in 6 to 8 hours. We had decided to focus on re-designing the web portal for different roles, re-structuring the data model, creating a new business process on an incentive system, and building reports to help the charity get a better understanding of the data they had captured so far.

My role: data analysis

I was in charge of data analysis stream. The first step was to set up an Azure database for MySQL server because the charity had provided us with a dummy MySQL dataset and we needed to host it in the cloud in order to work collaboratively. Despite this being my first time setting up an Azure database, the process was pretty straightforward.

The next step was to build a report. I chose Power BI for this as it is free for individual use, and for wider use within a charity the licence prices are very reasonable.

I created a report on young person management, adult volunteer management, centre management (a centre is where a volunteer provides their service), event management and more. This gives a lot of information on the young person and adult volunteer’s interests to give the charity an overview of the demand. I also used map visuals to show where young people are signing up, which the charity could use when deciding on the next locations for centres.

Final thoughts

Other members of the team also did an excellent job in designing the business process and user journeys for the charity.

Overall, it was a great day. Following the topic for International Women’s Day this year, Balance for Better, I was really inspired by all the ladies at this event. We celebrate women’s achievements in the technology industry, we also want to increase the visibility of women, and influence the beliefs and actions of others.

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