Ed Donahue

Before an audience of hackers, designers and digital entrepreneurs, AT&T’s tangerine-haired ‘Developer Evangelist’ takes the stage with a modest self-introduction: “Hi, I’m Ed.”

Ed then starts to do what any good evangelist does – spread the word. This is the gospel of possibility through technology, the promise of the new, the path to tapping into creativity and curiosity. Ed’s words are particularly riveting to the small percentage of women in the audience. Perhaps because, well, Ed is a woman.

Ed Donahue creates and runs hackathons for a living. It’s the kind of work proverbial hoodie-cloaked teenage boys dream of, and Ed has been doing it now for 3 years at AT&T.

Hackathons are just one of the ways AT&T drives innovation in technology and supports rising creators and developers – we also host other AT&T Developer Program events including: the AT&T Film Awards, AT&T Create-a-thons, and our annual technology and innovation expo AT&T SHAPE. Our hackathons are open to aspiring and experienced developers, as well as people with ideas looking to connect with tech-savvy individuals with whom they can collaborate. People can attend an AT&T hackathon at no cost. AT&T’s goal is to give people the resources and the space to come up with applications and ideas that make life easier for their communities.

Computer science is not a path traditionally traveled by women, Ed will tell you. But she was introduced to it by her mother, a university professor who was well ahead of her time.

“When I was really young and the internet was just a messaging system, my mom would connect to the internet to talk with my aunt, who lived in different city,” Ed recalls. “She’d say, ‘Isn’t this cool? we can talk to Aunt Betty and she’s in another city.’”

Once in college, Ed dreamed of majoring in economics and steering her career toward international business. “I’d get to travel and it would be amazing,” Ed thought. But what she didn’t realize was that she’d have to take accounting, and she hated it. Frustrated, she listened to some unsolicited advice from her mother.

“My mom said, ‘You should take a computer course. Your cousin took it and loved it.’ I realized she was right. It was awesome, it made sense to me, and I was pretty good at it,” Ed noted.

Today, one of the things Ed enjoys about her work is encouraging women who attend AT&T hackathons to feel at ease and confident in their abilities. She also loves to chat with women who attend hackathons out of curiosity and who have no prior tech experience.

“I have a lot of women approach me [at hackathons] and ask how I got into it,” Ed said. “They’ll say, ‘I’m not sure what to do, this is my first one, I’m not sure what to build, etc.’ My thought is, the tech industry is filled with creative people, smart people, and as a woman I tell other women to just go and try it. If you show up and say ‘hey, this is cool and I’m gonna build something,’ we’re excited to have you.”

Having an open mind is key for women who are considering careers in technology or just going to a hackathon, Ed noted.

“For me, it all stemmed from my awesome mom saying, ‘you should take a computer course,’” Ed said.  “She realized that these were my people and that I needed to find them, and she gave me a little push in the right direction.”

To learn more about upcoming AT&T Hackathons and other AT&T Developer Program events in your area and resources, visit https://developer.att.com.