By 2025, Sarah Moran wants to quit her job. The CEO of Girl Geek Academy, Moran and her team (pictured above) have been running the sellout all-women Hackathon, #SheHacks, for the past three years. Since securing a $1.3 million grant from Launch Victoria in February, Girl Geek Academy are only going to get bigger and better. Who’d wanna give up a gig like that? Someone who’s going to change the world, that’s who.
“If I were to have a dream achievement it’s that in 2025 I can pack up and go home and work on something else. Because we’re aiming to teach a million women by 2025 – and what we’re saying is, how great would it be if within a generation all women realise, “actually, I can do this. This is something that was meant for me.”
Girl Geek Academy is a self-described “global movement encouraging women to learn technology, create startups and build more of the internet.” Sarah Moran‘s time spent working in and out of the university sector in the clubs and societies space opened her eyes to the inherently entrepreneurial nature of women involved in running these groups (whether they’re aware of it or not).
Moran also understands and recognises that university isn’t all about classes: “yes, you’ve got your classes – but, also part of it is the people you meet, the things you build, the extracurricular stuff you pick up along the way, internships, part-time jobs… so, it’s a really special time in your life to be able to learn to build a business.”
By targeting regional university towns, Warrnambool, Warragul and Bendigo in 2017, Girl Geek Academy will be engaging with those clubs and societies. Moran recognises the business structure of these university ventures and wants women to as well: “you do all this stuff as a business but you are never giving yourself the credibility that that’s actually what you’re doing.”
Once young women begin to recognise their value and get involved in #SheHacks, the fun begins – “women love getting together, learning something in a day, and then they keep learning because they’ve made all these new friends.” The Girl Geek Academy hackathon-model involves grouping students from different disciplines and providing them with the tools to connect and make their own business. Students are sorted into Hipsters, Hackers, and Hustlers. When it all comes down to it, Moran simply wants to teach women to be founders and to change societies vision of what a business owner looks like.
“So, what a lot of people don’t realise is, you have this vision in your head of what a tech founder looks like, and you see Mark Zuckerberg in the movie “The Social Network.” Well, that’s not a woman.”
Moran went on to note how Zuckerberg came to be the face of the modern tech start-up, and how Girl Geek Academy are utilising that: “he came from a computer science degree – but the thing is, people who enter into engineering, they’re engineers, they’re not taught to run businesses either. So, what we say is, why don’t you team up with a business student, they’re the ones who wanna learn how to do that. And then in terms of promotion or marketing, grab one of those students. And then, between all those different disciplines in the university, you’ve got a business staffed. So, why wouldn’t you activate all those people?”
“It’ about teaching people from different disciplines how to run a tech start-up. You could do it, I could do it, anyone could do it – we’ve just got to encourage everyone to try, and learn the bits that they need to bring other people in for.”
Girl Geek Academy didn’t get this far on their own. General Assembly, an education source for the world’s most in-demand skills, hosted last year’s Hackathon on their Melbourne campus and partnered with Girl Geek Academy to offer a Web Development Immersive Scholarship. Moran happily informed us that the 2016 recipient, Duyen Ho, recently wrote a thank you letter to Girl Geek Academy – “it’s really changed her life, which is wonderful.” Of their relationship with General Assembly, Moran enthused their shared value of getting “educational experiences that are complementary to what happens at uni.”
Sarah Moran shared with us her crucial Girl Geek Academy marketing secret: it’s all in the language. Moran perfectly pointed out that launching an event with ““you are invited….” says, “this event is for you, we want you to be there, please come.”” She juxtaposed this approach that other events usually take which feel very exclusive and prestigious, and can turn attendees, especially women, off. “It’s about encouraging more women to step up and take the opportunity,” Moran explained, “We will make space for women, but they need to start making space for themselves and take those opportunities.”
Another initiative that Girl Geek Academy is taking to battle lack of opportunity, finds them partnered with The League of Extraordinary Women. They’re running Australia’s first all-women one-day tech conference, Run The World, and Girl Geek Academy are giving tickets to high school students.
“We’re all about what are the experiences that we know women should be getting – and we actually make room for them to get those experiences because a lot of great conferences sell out really quickly to whoever buys tickets. But the thing is, the way we change the ratio literally makes space for women.”
Not stopping at just university and high school, Girl Geek Academy are launching a #MissMakesCode program aimed at young school girls. And for once, Sarah and her crew don’t have to run the show: “What we’re doing there is we’re actually training teachers to teach young girls to code – and we know that it can be done. So, they will run #MissMakesCode events in their schools, which will be awesome, so rather than us having to run them all the time we’re training the teachers to run them themselves so that it’s sustainable.” The program will be launched at Sydney’s upcoming For Film’s Sake festival alongside “some of the games created by the young girls up on a big screen in the evening.”
To wrap up our conversation, Sarah threw in how excited she is about one of Barbie‘s newest movies: Barbie Video Game Hero. “Barbie is a game developer and she has to be able to use her technical skills to save the day. So that show’s it’s not just about us doing things to help change the world, it’s about everyone picking up and taking responsibility for the representation of women,” Sarah spoke eagerly, “I’m so damn excited that Barbie has decided to do that, too.”