My First Hackathon

hackathon Helen Shui  apple swift Amy Cliett develop developer app code coding windows 8.1

Photo credit: Helen Shui

I know. I know. It’s been a long time since my first post. I promise I did not give up that quickly, and I really do have a decent excuse. On July 1st, I flew to New Orleans to volunteer at my very first hackathon. For those of you who don’t know what a hackathon is, I will sum it as an event where groups of developers, designers and innovators get together to work on coding projects. This particular hackathon was so much more that that. I could go on and on about the amazing experience I had working with Qeyno Labs, just as I could with the #YesWeCode movement and the incredible journey that was in itself, but I will try my very best to stay focused here.

I strategically signed up as an event volunteer, mainly because I didn’t feel that I had enough coding experience to to keep up with the ‘professionals’. I’m very happy I chose that route, though it turns out I had both enough coding and professional experience to be able to contribute in many areas. In fact, I ended up doing an app mockup and some coding on the Windows 8.1 platform. A week ago, if you told me I would be coding on Windows, I would’ve escorted you to the closest rehab. Yes, I was completely outside my comfort zone and loving every moment of it!

Why you should join a hackathon:

  • Experience- The best way to learn how to code, is to code. At some point in your coding career, you will inevitably need to collaborate with other professionals. A hackathon is a great way to get used to working with others in tight, noisy spaces. If you can handle that, the norm will be a breeze.
  • Connections – You will meet people who have the answers to the questions you’ve been googling for days. You will make new friends, mentors and collaborators. You may even walk away with a new job. Obviously, this will not be accomplished if you hide in the corner. Talk to people and make the most of every moment.
  • People like you – At my age, I’m 100% comfortable with being the ‘nerd’ in the room, but there’s something about being surrounded with people that have similar interests that makes me smile. Not once did I have to explain my puns!

Where you can find hackathons:

  • Just google it. For example, using the keywords ‘hackathon Philadelphia 2014’ returns several options.
  • Eventbrite. Use the same keyword search. You may want to expand your search area, depending on how far you are from a major city. I found this HACKFit event– Looks interesting!

Some Tips:

  • If you’re lucky enough to have many options and/or willing to travel, choose a topic you’re passionate about. I love kids. I love watching their spongy brains soak everything up, and I’m always amazed by their brilliance. I know this contributed to my positive experience. Check out this video one of the students posted!
  • Don’t get wrapped up in what you don’t know. Everyone is an expert in something and we can all learn from each other.
  • Plan to get sucked in for the entire time. If you make evening plans, you will end up canceling or forgetting.
  • Remember your deodorant 😉

I can’t stress enough how amazing this experience was for me. I’d love to hear about other hackathon experiences. Post your feedback, questions or comments below!

Happy coding!!

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