Kat O'Leary, 21

Hacker, Organizer, Sponsor, Mentor
Kat O'Leary
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Kat first found themselves drawn to STEM and programming in high school. Coming from a  rural area that lacked a tech scene, Kat and their classmates went out on their own to create a robotics club at their school. When their club made it to the national championships during their sophomore year, they started to notice an aptitude for programming and the potential it had for their future, especially within a teaching capacity.

It wasn’t until college that Kat attended their first hackathon. Dragged to the event kicking and screaming, they imagined the hackathon world to be a dark room with a bunch of men in hoodies, typing into a terminal or hacking into something. The realization of being able to take education into their own hands got them hooked on hackathons. Since then, Kat has attended 35+ hackathons. Kat jokes, “I sold my soul to Major League Hacking for a sticker in 2016 and it was the best decision I ever made.” 

Kat attributes hackathons for keeping them out of a depression when they were at their lowest points, making sure they had food when they were struggling financially, and introducing them to friends who became family. They don’t know if they would have stayed in college if not for hackathons and it confirmed that they were smart enough to be in tech.

Viewing hackathons as an educational playground, these events helped them identify their strengths and learn new skills. As well, it provided them with a platform to support queer hackers and non-tech majors. Through hackathons, Kat has learned how they work and think about things. In addition to learning many new skills, they realized they were a generalist with a knack for design, software development, and entrepreneurship. 

Since being introduced to hackathons, Kat has worn many hats within the community. After attending their first hackathon at HackPSU Fall 2016, they started helping to organize the hackathons on their campus while simultaneously attending as many hackathons as humanly possible. 

It was during the sophomore year that Kat made their favorite project at the Pitt Challenge: a blockchain platform that allowed universities to securely verify students vaccination records. It was their first time working with blockchain and front end programming, which ended up being some of their favorite tech topics. 

It is also where they met Ryan Swift, the Coaches Program Manager, and decided they wanted to work for MLH. Kat says, “Ryan was the first person in tech that actually believed in me and didn't assume I wasn't contributing as much as my male teammates. That whole project was a huge breakthrough for me.” Wanting to have that same impact on hackers, Kat applied for the Coaches Program. The MLH Coaches provided Kat with an immense amount of kindness and support. Kat says, “The Coaches are basically a family. We all encourage and support each other even though we can only talk online.”

Kat is currently a senior at Penn State University majoring in Design and Development. 

They continue to pave a road for queer hackers everywhere, working to make the community more non-coder and LGBTQIA+ inclusive through their work as an artist, mentor, coach, and in their new role as Localhost Product Manager which they will take on full-time after graduating in May. 

Quick Facts

Pronouns: They/Them
Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida, USA
School: The Pennsylvania State University, University Park
Graduation Date: 2020
First Hackathon: HackPSU (Fall 2016)
Favorite Coding Language: Java
Can't Live Without: Procreate

Kat O'Leary, 21

Hacker, Organizer, Sponsor, Mentor
Kat O'Leary
Share this profile

Kat first found themselves drawn to STEM and programming in high school. Coming from a  rural area that lacked a tech scene, Kat and their classmates went out on their own to create a robotics club at their school. When their club made it to the national championships during their sophomore year, they started to notice an aptitude for programming and the potential it had for their future, especially within a teaching capacity.

It wasn’t until college that Kat attended their first hackathon. Dragged to the event kicking and screaming, they imagined the hackathon world to be a dark room with a bunch of men in hoodies, typing into a terminal or hacking into something. The realization of being able to take education into their own hands got them hooked on hackathons. Since then, Kat has attended 35+ hackathons. Kat jokes, “I sold my soul to Major League Hacking for a sticker in 2016 and it was the best decision I ever made.” 

Kat attributes hackathons for keeping them out of a depression when they were at their lowest points, making sure they had food when they were struggling financially, and introducing them to friends who became family. They don’t know if they would have stayed in college if not for hackathons and it confirmed that they were smart enough to be in tech.

Viewing hackathons as an educational playground, these events helped them identify their strengths and learn new skills. As well, it provided them with a platform to support queer hackers and non-tech majors. Through hackathons, Kat has learned how they work and think about things. In addition to learning many new skills, they realized they were a generalist with a knack for design, software development, and entrepreneurship. 

Since being introduced to hackathons, Kat has worn many hats within the community. After attending their first hackathon at HackPSU Fall 2016, they started helping to organize the hackathons on their campus while simultaneously attending as many hackathons as humanly possible. 

It was during the sophomore year that Kat made their favorite project at the Pitt Challenge: a blockchain platform that allowed universities to securely verify students vaccination records. It was their first time working with blockchain and front end programming, which ended up being some of their favorite tech topics. 

It is also where they met Ryan Swift, the Coaches Program Manager, and decided they wanted to work for MLH. Kat says, “Ryan was the first person in tech that actually believed in me and didn't assume I wasn't contributing as much as my male teammates. That whole project was a huge breakthrough for me.” Wanting to have that same impact on hackers, Kat applied for the Coaches Program. The MLH Coaches provided Kat with an immense amount of kindness and support. Kat says, “The Coaches are basically a family. We all encourage and support each other even though we can only talk online.”

Kat is currently a senior at Penn State University majoring in Design and Development. 

They continue to pave a road for queer hackers everywhere, working to make the community more non-coder and LGBTQIA+ inclusive through their work as an artist, mentor, coach, and in their new role as Localhost Product Manager which they will take on full-time after graduating in May. 

Quick Facts

Pronouns: They/Them
Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida, USA
School: The Pennsylvania State University, University Park
Graduation Date: 2020
First Hackathon: HackPSU (Fall 2016)
Favorite Coding Language: Java
Can't Live Without: Procreate
Share this profile

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