Passion Pitch: Gesna Aggarwal Leads Technica Hackathon
The “Passion Pitch” is a spotlight on QUEST students that have gone above and beyond for their passions outside of the classroom. When pondering this topic, Gesna Aggarwal of Cohort 32 instantly came to mind.
Gesna is a junior, computer science major and when discussing passion with her, it is evident that her involvement on campus resonates deeply with her. Gesna is the incoming Co-Executive Director of Technica, a 24-hour all-women and nonbinary hackathon hosted here at UMD. Technica provides individuals with a platform to build something that they are passionate about, as people of all experience levels and majors can get together to learn about technology.
“When I first joined the university as a computer science major, I was very intimidated. It was difficult to establish confidence among very talented peers,” she said.
After hearing about Technica as a freshman, she decided to give it a try. It was the first hackathon she had ever attended, and she felt instantly empowered.
“I got to see 800-900 people all around supporting women in tech, supporting nonbinary in tech. I experienced mentorship and a team that really made me feel like I belonged.”
From that moment on, Gesna made it a point to get more involved with the event. Sophomore year, she joined the Sponsorship Team. This past year, she was the Sponsorship Team Co-Director. As mentioned previously, Gesna was recently selected to become the new Executive Co-Director of Technica.
“I want to make other people feel like they belong in tech as well and move barriers for anyone who feels like he or she can’t learn tech or that it’s too complicated for them. Through Technica, I hope people realize that with the right support system and with the right tools, you can do anything you want. Within tech or beyond.”
As she is stepping into this new role, Gesna is prepared through her previous Technica experience, the event’s alignment with her own values, and some of the experiences she’s had through the QUEST program.
“Technica aligns so well with QUEST since almost everything is team-based. If you are a hacker, you are working with others who are interested in similar things to build something. If you are working behind the scenes, you work on a 4-5 person team to accomplish team goals. Both involve a lot of multidisciplinary thinking.”
With the variety of perspectives that go into planning the event itself and into collaborating at the event, the value of diverse-thought is clear. “Similar to QUEST, you learn a lot from mentorships and workshops, but you learn the most from your teammates.” Even various planning teams work constantly with one another to collaborate on the event.
And it appears that the hard work put in has paid off. This past Technica was the largest hosted yet! Through the feedback of previous events and the program iterations moving forward, Technica is able to improve every year – which is certainly something emphasized throughout QUEST. One can only imagine all of the awesome things that will come next year through Gesna’s leadership.
For anyone interested in Technica, keep an eye out for upcoming information. The annual event will likely take place next November and would be a great opportunity to get involved and support an incredibly dedicated and passionate member of the QUEST community. You rock, Gesna!