This past year, the Hack Upstate team has been very fortunate to collaborate with a number of exceptionally talented students, academics and practitioners throughout Upstate New York’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. It has been a thrill to interact with and witness this talent at work firsthand.

Along with their vast knowledge and talents, many have demonstrated the desire to get more involved at helping to further the program’s mission.

We’ve come to refer to these folks as Hack Upstate Evangelists.

This spring we’re excited to have a number of Hack Upstate Evangelists on board. What follows are their stories, why they have decided to get involved and what it means to them.

Billy Ceskavich

This past summer I had the pleasure of working as a developer relations intern at Evernote in the Silicon Valley. While living in the Bay Area, I helped our team coordinate hackathons and meet-ups for developers and designers interested in working with the Evernote API. I saw firsthand great products develop and connections form when people of all skill levels came together for a night or weekend.

As a Hack Upstate Evangelist, I’m excited to take part in the same efforts here in Syracuse. The Central New York tech community is thriving, filled with passionate, talented, and welcoming individuals. Hack Upstate is the perfect event for people with a variety of interests to get together and make (or break) something! In the meantime, you might also make a new connection, friend, or even meet a business partner.

I can’t wait to take part in Hack Upstate and the budding tech community here in Syracuse. No matter what your skill set, I hope you’ll join us for a weekend of exploration to kick off a new season.

Tom Charles

It’s virtually impossible to feel out of place at Hack Upstate. There’s a sense of collaboration — a “let’s do something” mentality — floating in the air that’s hard to shake. Although there are some nice prizes on the line, that’s hardly anyone’s focus. The weekend is driven by a desire to learn something new, challenging, and unfamiliar. Everyone’s in the same boat regardless of how far along the learning curve they are.  By simply showing up, you’ve proven your worth.

I’m speaking from experience. I considered turning around more than once while on my way to the Fall 2013 installment of Hack Upstate, my first hackathon. Coming from a background in communications, I hardly knew the first thing about information systems. I was getting into something way over my head, I assured myself, and my technical inexperience would instantly be sniffed out in a room full of cyber gurus.

I was proven wrong before coding had even commenced. During the opening announcements, Mike Smith, a fellow evangelist, asked for contributions to First Time Hacking, a project he was working on to curate various tools and resources for novice coders. He introduced himself as “the least technical person in the room.” As the weekend progressed I met no less than four people who claimed the same title. Yet when I regrouped with those same people on demo day we were all bursting with excitement, clamoring to share what we had learned.

No product fully resides within a text editor. There are countless roles to be filled within any project. It’s just a matter of finding them.

Sarah Roche

In the spring of 2013 I was focused on progressing my startup, and in order to do so, I needed incredible tech talent. Unfortunately, my co-founder and I quickly discovered a massive communication chasm between the people who love to market and sell ideas and the people who build beautiful code. I attended the Spring Hack Upstate just to begin to understand how to bridge that gap, to learn what it was that got developers excited and what it took to take someone’s vision and make it a functional reality.

I had some basic web development knowledge, but was prepared to be a fish out of water. The atmosphere was incredibly welcoming and filled with people with various backgrounds, skill sets and abilities. Seeing the groups come together to create projects over the weekend was an incredible experience and the opportunity to network with talented individuals who love to write code was unprecedented for my team.

Through the connections we made at Hack Upstate, we were able to bring on a very talented web developer who is now a full co-founder. Although my goal for that weekend was completed a couple months later, I was hooked on watching the process of Hack Upstate, from the initial pitches to the demo day, and now I try to be one of those people who helps in bridging the gap between various talents. I highly recommend these events to others as a way to begin to understand the skill and talent it takes to execute their idea and to network with the wealth of tech talent in Upstate New York.

Jeff Swift

My first experience with Hack Upstate was in Fall 2013, on October 12-13. I came with a team of five fellow SUNY Fredonia students. As I soon learned, the event served as a terrific chance to network with a plethora of talented individuals and teams, whose skills ranged from Android development to web programming and from hardware to game creation. I immediately found the environment at the Syracuse Tech Garden to be a free and open one which fostered creativity, productivity, and casual social networking with some of the brightest hackers in the state. At the end of the 24 hours of hacking, it was very enjoyable to see the products of the hard work of so many brilliant individuals and teams across a variety of disciplines. This was truly both impressive and inspiring.

I highly recommend the experience to anyone who wishes to test just how much one can accomplish given a short period of time, and to anyone looking to connect with other skilled and intelligent individuals sharing a strong penchant for technology and creativity. I’m excited to become more deeply involved with Hack Upstate as a HU Evangelist, and I’m passionate about its mission of bringing talent together, encouraging human invention and ingenuity.

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