life lessons

jobs, life lessons, career

Hackathon Wisdom for a Non-Coder

In late April I volunteered for an all female hackathon--#SheHacksNYC**-- sponsored by Monarq at Trello's lofty offices in the Financial District, NYC.  Over 30 women had submitted project ideas, teams were created, and by Friday evening the women were grouped and talking shop.

I am a not a coder. I'm a trained painter, Stage Manager, and English teacher to small children. While I love and work in tech, my coding skills are limited to 8th grade HTML.

That weekend and these women have been inspiring.  I'm blown away with what they created and the lessons I'm bringing into my life.  Here are five key takeaways for a non-coder from a hackathon.

Friday late night

Friday late night

CINCO*: You don't have to understand the tech to get the concepts.  I'm only beginning to learn about APIs, full stack, tech-speak, and new coding languages.  But each moment I realize that I don't have to understand the technology to get the ideas and concepts.  These women are passionate, idea-filled, and conscious that their audience isn't always a coder.  This hackathon considered the importance of all sides of a new product including coding, marketing, design, business development, and pitching to potential clients and investors.

CUATRO*: Everyone is interesting.  Everyone has a story to tell. I heard about new projects being working after the traditional 9-5 work hours.  I heard tales about leaving multi-decade professions to pursue passions. It's been a joy and a privilege to listen to these women. Their stories have inspired me to get off my butt to take further actions on my goals.

Coffee orders on plates

Coffee orders on plates

TRES*: Simple gestures matter. I learned how and made many rounds of cappuccinos, lattes, and espressos this weekend. Beginning with the personal interaction of asking for orders and ending with a hot coffee delivery, my fellow barista extraordinaire Lydia and I fulfilled on caffeine promises. These women were unreasonably grateful not just the coffee but also the recognition of a need (the caffeine) and the follow-up ask.  Simple gestures matter.   Those gestures make a difference in that moment and moments add up fast.

Teams working to finalize presentations on Sunday morning

Teams working to finalize presentations on Sunday morning

DOS*: I could be a coder. I could learn and start working with a new career path in mind. I could be a designer. I could pick up Adobe Creative Suite or balsamiq. With passion, I could do just about any damn thing I want. The diversity of "how I got here stories" provides a wealth of future possibilities for those who are truly listening. No ceilings. No limits. There is no stopping me (or you)!  How exciting is that?

UNO*: A group of women working together--even if on separate projects-- is a powerhouse of potential. This was my first female-only tech event (except for some exceptional male mentors). This experience has far exceeded my expectations. Women, when brought together in a challenge like a hackathon, are a force to be reckoned with.

*At the hackathon we found that counting down backward in Spanish tends to be an effective tool to gaining the others attention. 

** #SheHacksNYC is hosting their second all-female hackathon this October.  Please find more information at

The teams working hard at Trello's office

The teams working hard at Trello's office

life lessons

How Toilet Training My Cat Made Me A Better Person

Originally posted on Buzzfeed

Life Lessons From Toilet Training A Cat

I live in a two-bedroom apartment in New York City where the bathroom window opens to an airshaft. I have a cat, Niko. Therefore, I had a litter box. The combination of the litter box and no fresh air was truly horrific. One day, my mother sent me a link to CitiKitty and said “Wouldn’t this be great for Niko!”

Well, anything was better than the status quo, so the training began. It was entertaining, frustrating, and involved a lot of vacuuming of excess litter during the training process, and the whole thing was a great learning experience for us both.

Niko and his Toilet

Niko and his Toilet

Challenge Yourself to Make That “Smelly” Situation Better

Toilet training my cat was a result of necessity. My quiet literal “smelly situation” needed to end and I took action. A simple purchase click of the CitiKitty kit and there was hope for a better situation by challenging the cat, my New York life, and me.

Niko was quite open to the new litter contraption. For the 6 weeks where the litter tray resided on my toilet there was much cheering and positivity. The cat was succeeding! I was still cleaning clumps from a tray, but hey, it was all flushable contents!

By the end, Niko was toilet ready each and every time. I took initiative to make a smelly situation better and into one where everyone’s quality of life is better. It doesn’t get much more amazing in my crazy cat lady book!

Take Enjoyment Out of the Little Things in Life

Every time Niko pees or poops I have one or more reactions:

Giggle. Laugh. Point and Laugh. Or saying, “HEY LOOK AT MY CAT ON THE TOILET!”

It reminds me that each and every day awesome events are all around us. Toilet training Niko (and the comedic aftermath) has had a profound effect on my enjoyment of life with a ‘stop and smell the flowers’ mentality.


Everyone Likes an Interesting Conversation Starter

Many don’t believe me that my cat uses the toilet (thank you, video function on my phone for allowing proof at all times), but boy is it a great conversation starter. There are volumes written about the best way to begin chatting with someone you don’t know. Niko has provided me a great intro to a conversation, it is important to find (or take action) to find yours!