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#BookingHacks — My experience at All Women Edition

Aline Bastos
Front-End Software Engineer, Mother and Crazy Cat Lady.
・4 min read

The application

When I found out that Booking was going to host an all-women Hackathon in Amsterdam my heart nearly stopped! I’ve never been on a Hackathon before, and that was my chance to start in a great way!

Of course, the impostor side of me kept saying that I was not going to make it, but I gathered all my courage, improved my curriculum and applied.

My daily reminder of a life-changing experience that I didn’t even know that was about to happen:
My daily reminder of a life-changing experience that I didn’t even know that was about to happen.<br>

The process

After a long wait of more than a month, almost losing my hope, I received an email from Booking inviting me to take a Front End test. Of course, once again, I thought I wasn’t gonna make it. I would have 20 minutes to complete the test on Hackerrank, so I started studying a lot, using all my time left until the deadline. Well, it’s now or never, so I clicked the link sent to me. It was nothing like the practical things I was studying for the last hours, but 20 theoretical questions. Ok, let’s go! Did it, really nervous, running against the clock! I sent it and hoped for the best!

It took them five long days to send me some feedback. The recruiter, then, sent me an email inviting me to have a call to talk more about my experience and about Hackathon.

Oh, my goddess! That means I did pass the test!

It’s really hard for me to believe in myself! And, as a single mother, is even harder, because I don’t have so much time and freedom to study what I want and when I want. I’m always behind. At least, that’s how I feel about myself all the time.

Four days later we had the call. We talked about my past experience, what I am doing right now, my desire to move to Europe and about my ideas for the Hackathon. We had a great talk and, in the end, she said:

Ok, so I want to invite you to come to Amsterdam to join our Hackathon! We will send you an email with the details.

At that point I wasn’t listening anymore, I was running around my apartment, with the cell phone on my ear, looking for my daughter and screaming without making a sound!

I did it!!

I did it!!

Later, I found out that I was selected between more than a thousand women! I still can’t believe it :)

The preparation

Now the complicated part: My ten-year-old daughter and my father, who is having some old age issues and memory loss, what am I going to do with them?

With a lot of rules written down, a lot of groceries bought, a lot of assurance from my sister, who works all day from Monday to Saturday, that she was going to be at my apartment every day to take care of them and cook for them, I tried to stay calm and go.

My arrival in Amsterdam

After about twenty hours of flight, I arrived in Amsterdam. I was so nervous before the travel that I didn’t plan how I was going to go to the hotel, as I always do before any travel. I didn’t look at any map, didn’t plan anything. Since I was also short of money, I couldn’t take a taxi from the airport to the hotel. The result? I got lost, of course!

After a train to Central Station, more than one-hour walking and short taxi travel, I arrived at the hotel.

About a week before the event they created a Slack group for us to meet virtually, so when I arrived I already knew a lot of them. So, having met everyone, we went to have dinner and some drinks. It was great! I’ve got to know a lot of wonderful women, we talked about everything, it was a great way to start our journey together!

The Hackathon

Finally, the most expected day!

We started the first day by visiting the Booking’s office and having some really inspiring talks! Then, after a delicious lunch, we started to form the teams.

Iffat Gill from Code to Change:
Iffat Gill from Code to Change

Since I’m describing the event from my perspective, I have to say that by that moment, I was having a terrible day. I received some messages from home, questioning how I left my father. I knew he was been taking care of, but I felt apart anyway, thinking I shouldn’t be away from home. My sister made everything for me to calm down, so I started to feel a little better.

But I started to feel really better when they selected the teams. I ended up with some wonderful and talented women, that I enjoyed so much to meet. We connected, we helped each other, the project went so well that, even without a Product Owner, and being a small team, we delivered a great project and received an Honor Mention at the end!

Our project was about finding a better group of hotels near some points of interest the customer wants to visit and be close to. It shows the better hotel option too, the one that has the best location related to the points of interest. We are so proud of our project, of our team, of the great relationship we had the entire time.

Team Hack-5:
Team Hack-5

Going back home

I went back home feeling really happy, very powerful like I can do anything that I want! Even better, I went home full of ideas! I already participate in a lot of projects made especially for women here in my region, to include and empower them to start working in tech, and now, who knows, maybe I’ll create our own All Women Hackathon here :)

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