Hello everyone! I’m Joanna Youssef, MLH Hackathon Community Manager at Major League Hacking (MLH). When I was 10, I was convinced that I was a genius. Not even a child genius, but a rival to the great names cited in every K-12 textbook in the tristate area – I was untouchable! What is it that caused this era of delusion, you might ask? HTML and CSS, of course. AKA The Dangerous Decorating Duo, The Marvelous Markup Mix, The Contagious Coding Cohort, and my personal fave: The Reason I found MLH. 

My “inspect-element” discovery of HTML and the power it held catapulted me into a new world, one that felt like a secret. Should I be able to edit this? How could I change the text on this webpage so easily, surely this is a mistake, right? So many questions and only 45 minutes a week to ask my high school CS teacher. It was evident, fairly quickly, that HTML was not the reigning supreme of web development. HTML and CSS were still my first love, but my achilles heel was revealed, I was *not* in fact a genius for discovering how to edit my 2011 Tumblr blog. In fact, I had barely scratched the surface. Infinite scroll, automatic image galleries, music that plays automatically on every page?? Now that was TRUE power! How do I do that?? One word: coding

I was ready to learn more! But it was the summer and I was left to learn on my own – that was until I found out about hackathons. A marathon, but for people who don’t want to run!! Perfect. I entered my first hackathon with no clue about the wonders of programming; through mini-events and workshops, I was already feeling like I could tackle the unknown. Hackathons were the secret sauce I needed to make my perfect knowledge sandwich. With an environment designed to fuel your creative juices (with both food AND ideas) I was flourishing! By the end of the event I had learned skills I didn’t even know existed; from python to Github, I had absorbed more in 24hrs than I did all school year.

When I submitted my final project for the demo, I checked off “receive newsletters from MLH,” eager to get back into as many hackathons as possible.

Saying goodbye to high school hackathons, I attended the New Jersey Institute of Technology, where I earned my degree in Information Technology with a specialization in Cyber Security & a minor in CS. Without MLH’s event lineup and their newsletters keeping the best events on my radar, I don’t think I would ever know such an avenue existed. I got to attend my first college hackathon– HackNJIT– where I really got to immerse myself in all things hackathons. I had (again) barely scratched the surface of hackathons and was so ecstatic to attend as many as I could.

And I did!! This was only the beginning– several hackathons, a degree, and one shiny MLH job app later, I had now Uno-reversed my journey and began my new trip: The One with MLH.

Joanna at HackconI’m super excited to be a part of the MLH community that gets to help hackers and organizers learn, build, and share their hackathons with other curious and creative minds. Can’t wait to see the next one– hope to see ya there!

Happy Hacking!! 😀