Sunday, January 5, 2014

Code Shannon - A Hackbright Candidate Who Fundraised out of "nothing" an amazing $10,000 story

Today I met with Shannon Burns talking about fundraising for women learning to code. Shannon was coming to me for advice, little had she known that she's up for a surprise. We talked about her journey to learn code and applying for Hack Reactor and Hackbright, which she picked and will be going in February. Just as the Silicon Valley fires up about women in tech and the future of women in tech, Shannon shows us what is a possible and very personal solution for the big problem. 

Shannon's GoFundMe Profile $14,000 dollars to go or more

She showed me a community that she is building which is still in a BETA phase : She wants to use herself as a guinea pig to start a campaign, crowdfunding her way to pay for Hackbright, which costs nearly half of her annual salary. For most women, and most people, that's a lofty price to pay before they even dream of a potentially big salary (ranging from 10%-100% of their current paycheck). It's a personal fundraising campaign, with lists of beginner resources, and a vision for a pay-it-forward using a crowdfunding model to support education for hackettes.

Upon successfully completing Hackbright, she pledges to contribute 10% of her first year salary to a scholarship pool for young women just like her present day self. She will personally select the scholarship recipient with the help of her advisors (donors).

It was so obvious to me that Shannon's project's success is conditioned on her own success and a creation of a trustworthy personal brand. Her story sounds familiar like many young women I have met: worked at a small attic-dwelling startup, then account manager at a popular on-demand ridesharing company, learn to code for 6 months on her own, hacking away JavaScript, and now a proud candidate for Hackbright,  and already building something for women. She has an inspirational story, but not yet a powerful personal brand (or does she). I asked to see her GoFundMe fundraising page to excavate real inspirational bits

"I just figured no body would look at that page", Shannon is still saying. Yet there is a

$10,000 donation from Suzanne on GoFundMe! Shannon's campaign is already a success. 

Actually she was so surprised, she said a lot of words and asked me to excuse her for swearing. She even refreshed the pages a few times. (The donation is dated 5 days ago, really came in as a surprise. Shannon still has to contact the donor). Channeling her inner artist, Shannon gives somewhat unusual kickstarter-like perks: drawing, mp3 playlist and adventures. For $10,000, You will have a vote in choosing the scholarship recipient (in addition to all previous reward levels.). Could the donor be amused by this dream girl or may be she is also inspired by her call-to-action "be the solution to the gender gap in the tech industry."

Shannon Burns: a list of unusual perks

I am so happy for her, and more importantly her personal crowdfunding model clearly is working: people want to contribute to the education of young women, and they want to contribute big. They want to trust this inspirational girl even before she delivers "flowers". 

She may not be a full time hard core full stack developer YET, and she will need to deliver some results ... early on. After talking her, Shannon has agreed to put a small amount of her pool into mini scholarships right away. These may be mini donations to Girl Develop It, Treehouse monthly subscriptions, learning communities that Shannon already associate with. I also advised her to be an informational hub and a go-to resource for women's crowdfunding effort (learning to code specifically). You can tweet at Shannon to get in touch, or better yet contribute to her campaign.

You can help too: Shannon is fundraising $25,000 dollars on Gofundme. And anything excessive of the tuition and living cost of not having a job, she pledges to inject into the scholarship pool. You can visit her page here.

I had to ask Shannon, what if you don't become a developer? Slightly offended, and saddened Shannon says "but my dream is to become a developer"and "I will donate 10% of my first year salary no matter what (referring to even if it is not a developer position)". And that was inspirational: this is Shannon's dream and journey, who are we to question her?

You can imagine this is day one of our discussion (we just met!), the future is unknown, but I am excited to see what Shannon does. She will keep all of us posted. Way to go Shannon! I was proud to share this moment with you.

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