Creative Talk with Angela Bee, Founder & CEO of Hackathons
This month we talk with Angela Bee, the Founder and CEO of Hackathons Australia. Angela runs the popular Australian Hackathon events, a platform to support and ignite a culture of innovation in Australia across several industries, geographies and organisations. We find out more about the who, why and what are Hackathon’s.
Can you tell us a little about you?
Hello, I’m Angela and I love all things innovation. I run Innovation at a company called Schneider Electric and I also run Hackathons Australia hence where the term ‘Innovation Hacker’ came. Aside from that, I’ve back packed to over 50 countries so I love to explore the world, my Instagram is filled with pictures of delicious food from hipster cafes and the outdoors is my zen zone.
How did the idea of you starting Hackathon’s come about?
After university I found it hard to find a job. I had interviewed with almost every PR agency in NSW and I was getting nowhere. That’s when I decided I wanted to try and build my own business. I approached a couple of friends who I’d knew had built and sold businesses and they challenged me to go to a hackathon. I had nothing to lose (and was going to apply for more jobs anyway) so I went to my first hackathon that was run by the Foundation of Young Australians. I met amazing startup founders, open and collaborative mentors and met the most amazingly skilled and talented youngsters. This challenged me to re-think my purpose and how I was going to make a difference in this world.
The events work on actual live issues and problems?
Depending on the purpose of the hackathon, almost all hackathons encourage participants to work on a challenge someone is facing. What is keeping a person up and awake at night? Ensuring that we are solving a pain point gives a solid purpose behind the event. The solutions we come up with can be blue sky thinking!! It’s wonderfully creative and energising.
How do you pick / find the Hackers?
Generally those who take that first step to come to a hackathon have an interest in innovation. They are active participants and are passionate about creating our future. Hackathons Australia encourages a diverse range of people to come because we believe everyone has the capacity to innovate. This could include corporates, industry bodies, educational institutes, government departments, businesses and startups. We would ‘pick’ the participants if there was a strong intent for the program.
Are you seeing a mix of age, gender and industries attending?
Absolutely! We try and run the most diverse events and also be inclusive of everyone. We’ve had high school students come and give their fresh perspectives, people who have worked in the industry for a long time so we can absorb and learn from their experiences, we have all genders, backgrounds, cultures... you name it! The most important thing is that we recognise everyone has their strengths and use them in the appropriate way to collaborate and pursue innovation. We have a basic framework called the ‘minimum viable team’ which includes the hustler (sales, marketing, project management), hipster (designer, customer journey mapper) and hacker (programmer, developer, technical). Everyone has something to give and add value!
How do you feel Australia sits on the world board of female vs males in technology?
Honestly, we have come a long way from where we were even 5 years ago. I used to be the only female non-programmer who went to hackathons when I first started attending them. Last weekend out of 50 participants there were 13 females which is a great! There is still progress to be made so being intentional and being inclusive of everyone, and most importantly recognising that everyone can contribute is key.
Do you think women are now gravitating more towards technology as a career?
With digital at our fingertips, I can see more and more female role models being more open with their journeys. There are movies such as Hidden Figures which portrays the story of black female mathematicians who worked at NASA during the Space Race. There are people like Dr Catherine Ball who is the connoisseur of drones and more and more CEOs are now women including Shemara Wikramanayake who is Macquarie Group’s first female CEO. Technology is a necessity and in the future all of our jobs will involve technology in some way, shape or form.
With technology introduced from primary school age, do you think the Australian government is playing its part in ensuring we are sitting on the global tech leader board?
The government needs to do more in the education space and I think that is a given. More importantly we need to be upskilling our teachers to understand its applications and teach it to students. If teachers are not upskilling then they should be involving other parties such as Code Camps, Design Thinking workshops and other entrepreneurial opportunities. We did a workshop for International Women’s Day at St Peter’s Girls in Adelaide where there were over 200 girls from 6 different schools coming together to learn and play with technology, as well as understanding it’s applications in a real-world scenario. That was very rewarding.
Your legacy to the technology industry in Australia?
Ultimately our purpose is to activate meaningful innovation in Australia. I personally found it rewarding getting involved in the startup scene and culture, understanding different frameworks, being agile and learning from experimenting, and I absolutely loved to come up with solutions that would reimagine our futures. I hope that through hackathons and other innovative events we can empower individuals to make that first step in making a real impact on the world.
Where can we find out about Hackathons / sign up?
You can go on our website www.hackathonsaustralia.com for a list of Hackathons.
Twitter @HackAUS for the latest news.
Instagram @HackAUS to see what the experience entails
Facebook Group ‘Hackathons Australia’ to join the community
Smart Cities hackathon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohOfGYFFSI0
Corenet Hackathon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyUxk52Ehn8
WWF Hackathon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYadwSUBgKE