The Families That Hack Together

NETSCOUT dads and kids pitch in on student hackathons that help build interest in IT careers across underrepresented communities.

The Families That Hack Together
Karen McCloskey

First of a three-part series

Technology and other STEM career paths offer rich opportunities, but not everybody knows how to access them. That’s why one of the goals of NETSCOUT’s social impact programs is to help open that career door by building interest in IT careers across communities that are often underrepresented in tech.

The best way to get kids involved is to combine learning and fun, so NETSCOUT has sponsored seven student hackathons since 2019, ranging from local affairs to virtual events with global participation.

As part our student outreach, we partnered with Shooting Stars Foundation to sponsor StarHacks—fun, educational, and collaborative beginner’s hackathons designed to expose students to technology and STEM careers. We make a specific effort to include students from cities near our offices as well as youth organizations from underserved communities.

In addition to providing the satisfaction of working with students, a hackathon is an intense team-building opportunity for employee volunteers, who get to meet and work with people across the company. Because the Shooting Stars model engages students as event leaders, we also have the pleasure of working with NETSCOUT family members who stepped up as leaders for these hackathons. 

In honor of Father’s Day, we are profiling NETSCOUT dads and their student leaders in a three-part series about a their hackathon experience.

First up: Hannah Gosselin and Mark Gosselin

Hannah is a rising junior majoring in information technology at Rochester Institute of Technology. Mark is a director for R&D Labs at NETSCOUT.

Hannah and Mark Gosselin

HANNAH: My dad heard about the StarHacks hackathon and asked if I would be interested in helping. I was a senior in high school and had never been part of a hackathon before, but the idea always intrigued me. The first time my dad and I worked together was for StarHacks 2019. While working with my dad, I realized that we shared more of an interest in technology than I originally thought. Although I had already decided to study IT in college, becoming a student leader definitely made me more passionate about my field of study. Having the opportunity to see so many kids get excited and take part in the field I was going into made me look forward to it more.

Since then, I have participated in several more hackathons, because I love the way they encourage students to get more involved in the tech world and be creative. So far, I’ve worked on four hackathons, including StarHacks 2019 in Westford, Massachusetts, and StarHacks 2020 in Lowell, Massachusetts. The two most recent hackathons, StarHacks 2021 and WicHacks 2021 at RIT, were virtual, and I was in Rochester, New York, for both of them. One of the most challenging parts was organizing remote hackathons. We had to figure out a way to engage with more than 100 students (and each other) in an entirely virtual manner, which was a new challenge for me. Best of all, one of the teams I was assigned to mentor for StarHacks 2021 (team 18) won!

At my first event, I became better connected with several of the NETSCOUT employees who assisted with the event, which came in handy that summer when I worked as an intern for NETSCOUT and already knew multiple employees. At WicHacks 2021, I connected with other students from all over the world who share an interest in the tech field. I still regularly keep in touch with some of them.

MARK: For the first Westford hackathon, I was asked to help find student leaders because of my nonprofit board service at YDO-Lawrence. I also asked Hannah if she would be interested. We volunteer as a family a great deal. We feel it’s important for us to give back to the community, and the fact that NETSCOUT is so supportive of those efforts makes it much easier.

Mark’s ideal Father’s Day:
I like to do absolutely nothing! It is one day of the year where I don’t feel guilty just hanging out with the family.

It was great to see my daughter passionate about technology. Prior to her senior year in high school, she was unsure of what she wanted to study, and she’d recently taken an interest in technology. She decided that was where she wanted to go and hasn’t looked back. I was amazed at the maturity she showed in dealing with my coworkers. I felt a great sense of pride seeing what a mature person she has grown into. 

My favorite hackathon was the event we hosted at UMass Lowell’s Innovation Hub. This event had representatives from local nonprofits present real-world challenges for the students to address. I enjoyed seeing students engaged in technology, working together to provide solutions to real-world problems.

Being part of the hackathon has allowed me to interact with other NETSCOUT employees I normally would not work with in my day-to-day job. Employees from all departments and locations are encouraged to volunteer. I’ve also learned a great deal about the lives of coworkers during downtime at the events. 

Learn more about Life at NETSCOUT and Heart of Giving