I’m writing this post as Georgia, not the usual anonymous, generic blogger for The Hacktory. I want to personally say thanks for the recognition I received last Friday when I was named “Hacker of the Year” at the Philly Geek Awards, for my work at The Hacktory. The Geek Awards is like the Oscar’s for Philly Geeks – red carpet, black tie, the works. The other person nominated for the award was Stephanie Alarcón, a core volunteer at The Hacktory who also served on the board at Hive76. Steph and I agreed to share the award beforehand, regardless of who “won.” With her awesome technical knowledge, experience in the hacktivist community, and thoughtful event and organizational know-how, she deserves the same amount of recognition.
Although I did write a few comments on a notecard beforehand, when my name got called, I got so nervous in the moment that I just said a bunch of thank yous and ran off stage as soon as possible. Although the Geek Awards and Geekadelphia say it’s a silly event just to have fun, I do appreciate the recognition and want to share a few thoughts on it.
I wasn’t quite sure what the criteria for the award was, but at the ceremony it was said that the recognition was for work done behind the scenes by volunteers, which is definitely a lot of what I do at The Hacktory. I have a feeling part of it had to do with the partnering I’ve done with lots of organizations, like NextFab Studio, Breadboard, Public Workshop, Phila. Sculpture Gym, Hive76, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Fleisher Art Memorial, DesignPhiladelphia, TechGirlz… Though I was pleased to be recognized for the work I’ve already done, it was also a big dose of encouragement to keep my nose to the grindstone to get out several more projects I have in the works that build on this history.
One thing I really wished I had a chance to say at the ceremony was that I don’t feel that this award means that the way we’ve been running things is adequate. We still have a long way to go to offer challenging, interesting, educational, reliable, affordable classes and events for the Philadelphia community. For all of you out there who have signed up for a class that we’ve had to cancel, or came to open house to find that it had moved or was cancelled, or wished we offered more advanced classes, or clicked on a button on our website to be taken somewhere unexpected, I’m sorry. We’ve been doing the best we could as a bunch of volunteers, but are taking our role seriously and will soon have paid staff to make sure that our offerings are better managed. We really appreciate your patience in standing by while we’ve been muddling through and we look forward to providing a number of really great opportunities in the next year and beyond.
Another thing I wanted to say to the Geek community in particular was that the existence of such an awards ceremony indicates the clout we are pulling now in Philly. We should use that to improve the conditions for as many as we can in our city. Many of the skills and experience we have learned or know how to teach are invaluable for finding jobs today. We know we have the ability to make a mark on the city, so let’s focus and see what we can do to improve the conditions of our schools and work experience for our fellow citizens. Fortunately YoungMoo Kim, who was named Scientist of the Year, said this much more eloquently when he received his award immediately after mine.
In all it was a fantastic event, and also a really fun opportunity to hang out at the Academy of Natural Sciences. Mark your calendar for next year, and thanks again!