elevenM’s Georgia Potgieter recaps a memorable weekend at the GovHack hackathon, during which she and the elevenM team used open Government data to try and improve inclusion of women in the IT industry.
The weekend just flew by, and I find myself sitting here reflecting on the incredible experience of participating in the 46-hour GovHack open data hackathon. I can confidently say it was one of the most exciting, adrenaline pumping activities I’ve done in some time.
Not many people know that you don’t need to have strong coding skills to enter a hackathon, all that’s needed is ideas and an innovation mindset. In this particular case, it was all about using open data provided by government departments to solve real problems and improve social outcomes.
To set the stage: Picture a team from elevenM scattered across NSW, the bustling streets of Victoria, and sunny Queensland. Each of us, in our respective states, bound by a common goal – to have a lot of laughs and create something exciting. We may not have had a software dev on the team, but we had ChatGPT, endless enthusiasm and the raw will to succeed.
Understanding the problem
The problem we chose to solve lies very close to our hearts – helping women improve their financial outcomes through increasing diversity and inclusion across industries. We pragmatically waded through the vast amounts of open Government data to inspire our solution.
To our surprise, we discovered that there is a 29 percent gap in superannuation facing women close to retirement. Similarly, women are increasingly employed in low paid occupations such as administration and office management – despite having fantastic skills such as communication, problem solving and attention to detail.
We equally observed that cyber security is an industry crying out for workers, yet is largely male dominated. The average salary in these occupations is significantly higher than those in many of the female dominated occupations and yet the female participation in studying these areas is very low.
Pitching the solution
To solve this problem, we came up with the idea to create a platform that connects women and the IT industry together, replacing cover letters with short introduction videos, allowing transferable skills to shine through.
Our solution would be orientated with match-making in mind – understanding that some industries are willing to invest in the right talent who have a growth mindset and the soft skills to enrich their organisations.
And that’s how we developed: shesgotIT – a platform to connect female talent with cyber security employers.
shesgotIT features profiles for both talent and employers, uses matchmaking algorithms to build connections based on values and interests and facilitates engagement using predictive text.
Trials and challenges
Of course, no adventure is complete without its challenges. Our major hiccup came in the form of audio quality. Just when we thought everything was in place for our final presentation, we realised our audio wasn’t up to par.
The initial panic was palpable. Here we were, counting down to the final hour, troubleshooting video editing, counting down the precious download minutes as the clock struck ever closer to our impending deadline. But as with everything during this hackathon, we tackled the problem head-on, with a touch of humour and a lot of determination. There were laughs, a few groans of frustration, and even a moment where I thought we might not make it. But in the end, we did it.
Over the span of a weekend, we finalised out our idea, created a proof of concept and recorded our pitch. With our submission in, we now wait excitedly to hear from the judges, who will decide by November who the winners will be.
The titans behind the triumph
Each of us played our part, but there were some notable star moments I need to mention.
First and foremost, Laura McVey – our resident data queen and unexpected DJ. It’s not often that you come across someone who can juggle numbers with as much flair as they do music. Her ability to swiftly dissect open data was nothing short of a masterclass. And just when we needed a breather, Laura’s beats would fill the air, infusing our workspace with energy and rhythm. Every hackathon needs a Laura!
Then there was Mark Byrne, the beacon guiding our ship through the vast ocean of information. His talent lay in his quick observations and his uncanny ability to interpret the mass of data before us. But Mark’s contributions didn’t stop there. His banter never disappoints, ensuring we stayed both entertained and relaxed, even when the pressure was mounting.
Nick Allen, with his deep familiarity with the cybersecurity industry was our compass, directing us to the core of the problem at hand. Nick’s insights, especially concerning the challenges and nuances of including women in this sector, were enlightening. His expertise not only enriched our project but also broadened our understanding of the intricate landscape of cybersecurity.
Of course, Nick Dyson, was the tank of our team, pulling off a miraculous feat. Through pure determination, he single-handedly put together our MVP. His ability to leverage AI was a sight to behold. Functionality and pragmatism seemed to be his second language, and witnessing his expertise was nothing short of unbelievable.
Last, but certainly not least, was Margaret Carter. She was the heartbeat of our team, bringing boundless positive energy to every session. Even in moments when our spirits threatened to wane, Margaret ensured we stayed on course, focused and raring to go. Her insights were invaluable, especially when we found ourselves in a bind, searching for solutions. If ever there was a sunshine amidst the chaos, it was Margaret.
A journey to remember
As I reflect on our time during the GovHack hackathon, I’m reminded of the endless possibilities that emerge when diverse minds converge with a unified purpose. This hackathon has allowed me to appreciate new sides of my colleagues and see them excel in their own unique strengths. Here’s to many more adventures and shared victories.