Will Russell, 21

Hacker, Organizer, Mentor, Community Manager
Will Russell
Share this profile

When Will began his time at university, he was still searching for his niche. He knew enough about his interests to quickly immerse himself in the school’s computing society. After some talk about a local hackathon, Will decided to get involved. He didn’t know what a hackathon was or what it entailed, but he knew that he wanted to be as involved as he could be and meet other people. So he and some friends formed a team and got to work. The idea was an Android app designed to help students make use of food ingredients before spoiling in order to reduce waste. A great idea, but Will’s team had bitten off more than they could chew. Paired with faulty UI and time constraints, the team was left with an incomplete project, but a memorable experience. They had all worked their hardest, which the judges saw enough to give them the Best Newbie Prize. This new experience and motivation made it clear to Will that he had found something to work toward.

A fast learner, Will bounced from hackathon to hackathon, practically planning itineraries for future events while coding at another. Thanks to the experience of his friends and teammates, Will got hands-on experience with git, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. At one event, he used this knowledge to build a Nintendo Switch JoyCon musical instrument with a web browser. Having his first failure under his belt, Will was entirely comfortable with making his next project fun while learning from his experience. The demo impressed users and judges enough to leave with first place. Will was on his way out the door, prize in hand, thinking about the next event. 

Of all the strange projects Will has been happy enough to work on, Willmojis stands out as a lifelong memory. The plan was to create actual TrueType emoji fonts from just photos of someone’s face. So, the plan became a reality. The combination of image manipulation, facial recognition, and a stockpile of Will selfies left the team with a project that worked according to plan. It barely held itself together, but that’s exactly why it’s such an important event to Will. 

Living with a chronic illness left Will nervous about travelling frequently and meeting new people when he was younger. But after meeting so many caring and understanding people at hackathons, he felt more welcomed and comfortable than he could have imagined. Memories of staying up all night just chatting with teammates in hotels are the memories that keep him coming back event after event. Because of the few widespread hacking events across the UK, Will took it upon himself to work with HackTheMidlands 4.0, allowing him to speak with multiple schools and present his own accomplishments created through hackathons. Seeing students become inspired by his own words made Will sure that he was doing the right thing, and wanted to take his work one step further in order to make technology accessible for all. He looked into volunteering, a way to build one’s organizing skills in order to assist a hackathon run smoothly, without the months of prep. One volunteering job led to another, and soon he had worked eight events as a volunteer. Having seen so much of the inner workings of event planning, Will had the inkling of an idea to build his own event with the help of his friends. 

Team building, project management, and task prioritization are just a few of the skills that Will can confidently say he possesses after his experiences at hackathons. There are some things that just aren’t taught in school, and these skills are just some of the few that came to Will thanks to the specific environment of competitive hacking. It wasn’t until the medium went all virtual that Will realized just how valuable these skills are. Born from the boredom and stir-craziness of being on lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, Will and his friends (including Jacklyn Biggin) began organizing Hack Quarantine. The idea was to create a space where hackers could meet and greet during a time when everyone was holding their breath. As the planning process got going, the array of collaborative and problem-solving skills that he had learned became very clear. Will, when faced with a planning problem, never quickly accepted defeat but instead asked himself how he could use what he’s learned to form a solution. And more often than not, he had that solution. The event brought in over 3,500 active people, a true shock to Will and the team. It’s easy to see how far he has come, from hopping school to school in hopes to empower one student to the larger success of Hack Quarantine, but Will views every connection made with just as much importance. 

After Hack Quarantine, Will and a friend decided to build Hack Productions, a livestream company to help more organizations make the transition to digital events. They saw a current necessity in the market due to unforeseen circumstances, adapted, and brought their adaptation to others for the sake of helping whoever may need it. They were given the opportunity to work with hackathons that had gone digital all over the world in order to bring quality entertainment and engaging events to thousands of hackers in all. Seeing that they were bringing memorable experiences at a time when people needed them was incredibly empowering for Will.

As an organizer and volunteer, Will cannot understate the importance of the soft skills he has learned. Because tech is so fast-paced and filled with professional jargon, it’s easy to get caught up in the hard skills and overlook the soft, but when it comes to planning an event where many different people and communities bring their skills, the soft skills are invaluable. A few years ago, Will wouldn’t have said confidently that he was a strong writer or public speaker. Now, he doesn’t have to say it because the results speak for themselves. He’s been in the community for over two years, from a competitor to a volunteer to an organizer, bringing in other attendees and encouraging anybody along the way to get involved the same way that he was encouraged to get involved. Knowing that he has been able to bring any sort of impact on other hopeful hacker’s lives is what drives Will to continue going above and beyond in his community.

Last summer, Will started helping out with the MLH Fellowship as an intern, helping hundreds of people have the best experiences possible. He hosted a variety of talks and sessions for the fellows to help gear them up for their careers. After a fun summer, Will was interested in staying involved somehow as he found the Fellowship incredibly empowering. He quickly transitioned to a part-time role helping run the day-to-day experience for fellows while completing the final year of his degree. After building the fellowship over the last year, Will transitioned to working full-time on the program and curriculum. This was incredibly rewarding for Will as he was able to continue giving back to the community in a much larger capacity than before.

Quick Facts

Pronouns: He/Him/His
Hometown: St Neots, Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom
School: University of Birmingham
Graduation Date: 2021
First Hackathon: HackTheMidlands 3.0
Favorite Coding Language: Python
Can't Live Without: YouTube
Will's favorite hack, Willmojis

Will Russell, 21

Hacker, Organizer, Mentor, Community Manager
Will Russell
Share this profile

When Will began his time at university, he was still searching for his niche. He knew enough about his interests to quickly immerse himself in the school’s computing society. After some talk about a local hackathon, Will decided to get involved. He didn’t know what a hackathon was or what it entailed, but he knew that he wanted to be as involved as he could be and meet other people. So he and some friends formed a team and got to work. The idea was an Android app designed to help students make use of food ingredients before spoiling in order to reduce waste. A great idea, but Will’s team had bitten off more than they could chew. Paired with faulty UI and time constraints, the team was left with an incomplete project, but a memorable experience. They had all worked their hardest, which the judges saw enough to give them the Best Newbie Prize. This new experience and motivation made it clear to Will that he had found something to work toward.

A fast learner, Will bounced from hackathon to hackathon, practically planning itineraries for future events while coding at another. Thanks to the experience of his friends and teammates, Will got hands-on experience with git, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. At one event, he used this knowledge to build a Nintendo Switch JoyCon musical instrument with a web browser. Having his first failure under his belt, Will was entirely comfortable with making his next project fun while learning from his experience. The demo impressed users and judges enough to leave with first place. Will was on his way out the door, prize in hand, thinking about the next event. 

Of all the strange projects Will has been happy enough to work on, Willmojis stands out as a lifelong memory. The plan was to create actual TrueType emoji fonts from just photos of someone’s face. So, the plan became a reality. The combination of image manipulation, facial recognition, and a stockpile of Will selfies left the team with a project that worked according to plan. It barely held itself together, but that’s exactly why it’s such an important event to Will. 

Living with a chronic illness left Will nervous about travelling frequently and meeting new people when he was younger. But after meeting so many caring and understanding people at hackathons, he felt more welcomed and comfortable than he could have imagined. Memories of staying up all night just chatting with teammates in hotels are the memories that keep him coming back event after event. Because of the few widespread hacking events across the UK, Will took it upon himself to work with HackTheMidlands 4.0, allowing him to speak with multiple schools and present his own accomplishments created through hackathons. Seeing students become inspired by his own words made Will sure that he was doing the right thing, and wanted to take his work one step further in order to make technology accessible for all. He looked into volunteering, a way to build one’s organizing skills in order to assist a hackathon run smoothly, without the months of prep. One volunteering job led to another, and soon he had worked eight events as a volunteer. Having seen so much of the inner workings of event planning, Will had the inkling of an idea to build his own event with the help of his friends. 

Team building, project management, and task prioritization are just a few of the skills that Will can confidently say he possesses after his experiences at hackathons. There are some things that just aren’t taught in school, and these skills are just some of the few that came to Will thanks to the specific environment of competitive hacking. It wasn’t until the medium went all virtual that Will realized just how valuable these skills are. Born from the boredom and stir-craziness of being on lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, Will and his friends (including Jacklyn Biggin) began organizing Hack Quarantine. The idea was to create a space where hackers could meet and greet during a time when everyone was holding their breath. As the planning process got going, the array of collaborative and problem-solving skills that he had learned became very clear. Will, when faced with a planning problem, never quickly accepted defeat but instead asked himself how he could use what he’s learned to form a solution. And more often than not, he had that solution. The event brought in over 3,500 active people, a true shock to Will and the team. It’s easy to see how far he has come, from hopping school to school in hopes to empower one student to the larger success of Hack Quarantine, but Will views every connection made with just as much importance. 

After Hack Quarantine, Will and a friend decided to build Hack Productions, a livestream company to help more organizations make the transition to digital events. They saw a current necessity in the market due to unforeseen circumstances, adapted, and brought their adaptation to others for the sake of helping whoever may need it. They were given the opportunity to work with hackathons that had gone digital all over the world in order to bring quality entertainment and engaging events to thousands of hackers in all. Seeing that they were bringing memorable experiences at a time when people needed them was incredibly empowering for Will.

As an organizer and volunteer, Will cannot understate the importance of the soft skills he has learned. Because tech is so fast-paced and filled with professional jargon, it’s easy to get caught up in the hard skills and overlook the soft, but when it comes to planning an event where many different people and communities bring their skills, the soft skills are invaluable. A few years ago, Will wouldn’t have said confidently that he was a strong writer or public speaker. Now, he doesn’t have to say it because the results speak for themselves. He’s been in the community for over two years, from a competitor to a volunteer to an organizer, bringing in other attendees and encouraging anybody along the way to get involved the same way that he was encouraged to get involved. Knowing that he has been able to bring any sort of impact on other hopeful hacker’s lives is what drives Will to continue going above and beyond in his community.

Last summer, Will started helping out with the MLH Fellowship as an intern, helping hundreds of people have the best experiences possible. He hosted a variety of talks and sessions for the fellows to help gear them up for their careers. After a fun summer, Will was interested in staying involved somehow as he found the Fellowship incredibly empowering. He quickly transitioned to a part-time role helping run the day-to-day experience for fellows while completing the final year of his degree. After building the fellowship over the last year, Will transitioned to working full-time on the program and curriculum. This was incredibly rewarding for Will as he was able to continue giving back to the community in a much larger capacity than before.

Quick Facts

Pronouns: He/Him/His
Hometown: St Neots, Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom
School: University of Birmingham
Graduation Date: 2021
First Hackathon: HackTheMidlands 3.0
Favorite Coding Language: Python
Can't Live Without: YouTube
Share this profile
Will's favorite hack, Willmojis

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