This article is a guest blog by milspouse coder Kerri-Leigh Grady
I’ll never forget the look of horror on a neighbor’s face when I told her I was participating in a hackathon.
She gasped, and her eyes darted around a bit, like she was waiting for us both to be cuffed and dragged off. Her concern was understandable since we were both military spouses who lived on a military base, down the street from the brig, and to the uninitiated, hackathons sound like a hard pass for law-abiding citizens.
It took some convincing before she understood that the “hack” wasn’t nefarious, but more like the super popular life hacks on Facebook. The difficulty wasn’t surprising. It always takes some convincing for people who’ve never heard the word “hackathon” before to get comfortable.
Hackathons and tech jobs shouldn’t sound discouraging to milspouses, though. The tech industry, with a growing population of distributed workforces and remote-ready jobs, paves a solid path away from the drastic unemployment and underemployment numbers we see in the milspouse community and offers numerous opportunities for milspouses who don’t want to sacrifice another job to a PCS.
Hacking a path into the tech industry
At MilSpouse Coders, we are shining a light on the opportunities for spouses in tech by hosting an annual hackathon. In 2018, our modest but successful one-day hackathon took place in Virginia Beach, and the winning team designed a product that would allow military families to scan boxes during a PCS and know exactly where Grandma’s treasured silver pitcher is, from end to end.
Other projects included an app that maps out military lodging and local sights during a road-trip PCS, a database that tracks special knowledge in a membership group, and an Alexa skill that reports on military news of interest.
Details for the 2019 hackathon
For 2019, our hackathon is hosted by Microsoft’s Military Spouse Training Academy on the Microsoft campus in Redmond. While the in-person event is open to anyone, regardless of military affiliation, we know military life makes travel hard, so we’ve opened the ability for vets and family members to join remotely.
Last year, Operation Code offered a popular code-along to participants who were curious but didn’t feel like they were knowledgeable enough to participate, and we’re very excited that they have generously offered to lead another code-along this year. Those who coded with us last year can learn something new this year, as the project—and even the language—will be different.
Here’s the great news: you don’t have to be a coder to participate, and you don’t have to code to have a tech career. Projects need project managers, product owners, testers, user experience specialists, marketing professionals, and more. In other words, hackathons are a life hack for military spouses seeking a portable, flexible career.
No matter your skillset, you bring value to a software product, and hackathons are an excellent place to learn what you can bring to the industry.
You, too, can hack a career that will survive military life.
Click the link to read more about the upcoming 2019 hackathon or to sign up for the event.