Organising #HackMed18

November 2016 was the first time I had a conversation about hackathons. I left that conversation inspired to not only get involved myself but for the ladies in my community to get involved too.

I made a goal to attend a hackathon in 2017 and so in April, I attended my first hackathon with a group of women who took part in the Sheffield Code First: Girls course.

HackSheffield 3.0
Code First: Girls (#shefcodefirst) at HackSheffield 3.0

It was scary for all of us, but after those 24 hours, we all gave it a go and some of the girls had a leading role in the front-end development of their project. I remember looking around the room, energised by the vibe, by everyone’s projects and by the lead organiser’s main mission: getting everyone from different backgrounds to come together to solve real-life problems in healthcare and medicine.

Last weekend, I put 6 months of organising, planning and learning from other hackathon organisers and observing other hackathons I attended since into action with the second instalment of the medical hackathon, HackMed18.

The main things I learnt from these crazy past few months

  • First and foremost, organising events isn’t easy. I pretty much took this for granted when I attended events in the past! After organising HackMed, I’m much more mindful and appreciative of the effort in making sure attendees are all catered for, making sure everyone’s comfortable, what to do if x, y, z happens, logistics etc. There’s a lot more that goes on making these events come to life. 🌟
  • I learnt how to negotiate better – When you’re raising funds for an event, you need to know how to negotiate to make sure that you get the best deal as possible – especially a student-run one. I got quite confident trying to get better deals during the organisation of HackMed. πŸ’°
  • I got creative in ways to build up hype on social media – From countdowns to announcements I had the chance to be creative on social media! Playing around with different things was fun and I actually saw the Twitter account grow over the past year. πŸ™ŒπŸΌ
  • I learnt how to get people excited and believing in what you’re doing – I feel like I have a lot of practice passing on my passions to people from my community work with Code First: Girls but understanding the hackathon scene – which I felt new to – took practice. By the end of the event, however, I felt I could communicate what a hackathon is to complete beginners, why it’s such a valuable experience for students to not only to students but also organisations that may not have heard of it before. Communicating this well to organisations is a make-or-break for potential sponsorship! πŸ’«
  • I learnt that people like free things
  • …especially free food 🌯
  • Planning all of this, actioning it alongside my degree, part-time jobs (yes, there’s an “s” after that) and everything else took serious time-management skills. Managing my time is definitely something I pride myself in because sometimes I don’t know how I do it. πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈ If you passed me during the last few months, you’d know I have been pretty much been on each hour of the day until the day is over. Worth it? Hell yeah.

Learning didn’t stop once the event started. During the weekend, I learnt so much from attendees, mentors, sponsors and the rest of the organising team as the event went on.

The most valuable lesson during the weekend was that you can’t plan for everything so chill. There are things that are simply out of your control, you just have to be able to adapt as much as possible. πŸ’–

What went down at HackMed18

During the weekend, I was in charge of event photography. Although I have a pretty awesome camera (Sony A5000), I don’t actually know it well enough to confidently talk you through all the settings despite having it for over two years now.

This might be surprising to some of you but I still have a lot to learn when it comes to taking better photos. I found my motivation from the hackathon to dive into learning. πŸ“Έ

Pretty proud of how they came out anyway!

Matt helping out with some Git stuff!
Matt helping out with some Git stuff

In the morning, we ran workshops by our sponsors and mentors. 

Matt ran an interactive session on getting started with GitHub and pull requests, he ended up creating this website that showed participants that successfully sent in a pull request!

Later in the day, I ran a workshop on meditation and yoga to help hackers relieve any stress from hacking and get them away from their laptops – at least for 45 minutes. Despite feeling a little nervous about it, it was a success!

My usual state
My usual state

Last year, HackMed17 had 37 attendees. This year, HackMed18 welcomed in 51 students from all over the UK and abroad into Sheffield University for a weekend of hacking. #GreatComms? πŸ˜‰

The room of hackers
The room of hackers

When reflecting overall attendance, we found that 47% of registered attendees were female. This was such a great achievement for us as one of our main goals this year was to make the events that we run as inclusive as possible. I’m glad that we not only attracted female students to the hackathon but also in attendance was students from Humanities students (Finance, History etc.)

NOT JUST biological or Computer Science backgrounds.

Hackers during the opening ceremony
Hackers during the opening ceremony

This made my heart smile. I am seriously so proud of what the team have achieved.

Community + Community = πŸ’œ

My work in encouraging more women into tech fields and into tech careers despite their degree background extended to the hackathon community and so, you betcha I took the ladies from Code First: Girls with me.


I realised that the merging of two communities was an aim Matt and I had discussed back in November (this is how we bonded – I know, true love, right?) and since then, we’ve made so much progress towards this.

Not only were there CFG ladies who had gone to previous hackathons attended but also, complete beginners (from the Spring 2018 course) who wanted to see what the fuss was all about from me! πŸ˜†

Linh doing her thang 🎀
Linh doing her thang 🎀

Over the weekend, they got into different teams and ended up building amazing things. Some of them ended up winning prizes too! A special mention to Cen Feng, a student of the SS Code First: Girls course, who led her team and built the whole front-end of their project from scratch. You bet I was in the front row during demos, being a very proud (and embarrassing) mom.

Cen Feng talking about their project
Cen Feng talking about their project


⏰ The countdown from 10 seconds…

The quality of projects produced over 24 hours was unbelievable and truly made me optimistic about the future of the tech and health space.

Projects ranged from empowering patients with taking control of their health data, using tech as a tool to remind patients to take medicine to be aware of doctors and clinicians health too.

You can find all projects at HackMed18 here.

Getting Involved

Overall, organising HackMed has to be a highlight of my final year at University. I had a lot of fun being involved in making the event better than before – with attendance and inclusivity at the heart of it.

I’d like to thank our sponsors, mentors, students and of course, my MedTech Sheffield team for such a wonderful weekend. I left inspired and optimistic by the projects created – the future is bright!

To me, this weekend proved that collaboration, care and diversity is the way forward in every industry. 

HackMed18 - that's a wrap!
HackMed18 – that’s a wrap!

Want to get involved in organising next year’s HackMed hackathon and MedTech Sheffield events? Get in touch! πŸ€— It was such a rewarding experience where I had the opportunity to learn so much (which I hope I’ve outlined in this post) – can’t recommend enough!

HackMed18 in…

Just over a minute…

9 responses to “Organising #HackMed18”

  1. It’s great that you’ve been involved with organizing the hackathon! Glad it turned out well at the end. Haha, yes! People LOVE freebies, especially when it’s something super useful! Good job on your contribution! You must be proud of the outcome πŸ™‚

    1. I am! Thanks so much Nancy! πŸ€—

      My new marketing technique: come to x, and get a free *sparkly* t-shirt!!!

  2. Wow, congratulations! Looks like HackMed was a huge success! πŸ™‚ It’s so awesome how you had a lot of participants from different backgrounds, and not just Computer Science and BioMed. That’s super encouraging and that means people are finding value in knowledge like this even if it’s not *directly* connected to their field. In grad school, I learned that connecting communities is very important because knowledge from one field can also be applied to many different fields, even though the connection is not obvious at first! So, congratulations because you managed to make the event as inclusive as possible! <3

    1. Thanks so much Claudine! πŸ’– You’re so right – connecting communities is key!

  3. Sounds like it was a success! Congrats on putting all that work in! These sound like a fun way to learn stuff!

    1. Yes it most certainly is! I recommend attending one at least once! A great experience for learning πŸ˜€

  4. Ah hahaha I am a SUCKER for free food. If it involves great snacks, count me in! I LOVE the class that you ran! I can imagine that’s even more important when you’re sitting in front of a computer for so long. And that’s amazing that almost half of the people who registered were female. YES to all the ladies out there killing it!
    Looks like you had a great event!

    Susie |

    1. Thanks so much Susie! It was a super successful event ✨


  5. Congrats on organizing a successful hackathon! You make a good point that it’s easy to take an event for granted without knowing what goes on behind the scenes. It looks like you’ve learned a lot and put in so much hard work! I’m amazed you were able to do all of that with everything else going on in your life.

    I like that you ran workshops during the hackathon too and had a meditation break in there. That’s a really good idea. Also, great job on increasing the attendance and making it feel more inclusive! The percentage of female is amazing, and that’s great to hear that other majors joined in!

    Good job and congrats to you and everyone who was involved! Looks like it went really well!

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