The one thing that most people get wrong about Hackathons is that they need coding experience to participate in them. What they don’t get is, hackathons are pretty much comparable to game jams where you join a team of people to plan, design, and develop a project (whether it’s a game, app, website — you name it) within a span of two days. Hackathons are like a get-together of a bunch of friendly people who are just passionate about learning and want to create cool things.
So, how does it actually feel to attend a Hackathon?
Hackathons are technology festivals where like-minded people come together, have fun, share their knowledge and create amazing products. If you haven’t attended one till now, you might not know that it might turn out to be the most nerve-wracking, up-and-down experience of your life. When you turn up at a Hackathon, you are greeted by amicable people who hand you over a few complimentary swags and answer all your questions. You can either come with your friends or alone. Either way, you’ll be making new friends without a doubt.
Do you need to know Coding?
Not necessarily. An experience as a developer is definitely an added advantage, but programming isn’t the only thing that goes down in Hackathons. For example, here’s a list of all the work that goes into a Virtual Reality (VR) experience:
- Narrative design
- Immersive audio
- Software development
- Hardware configuration
- Voice-over (Yes, I’ve seen voice actors at past hackathons)
- 3D art
- Environment design
- User experience (UX) design
So, team members are required to take ownership of each segment and make the entire thing work together. At a hackathon, you can take on any role(s) you want. Even if you don’t feel like you fit in one of the above categories, you can make up your own as you go.
The education you get out of a 2 day hackathon beats a CS introduction semester’s material any day. So if you’re someone who’s looking for a chance to learn how to write codes in quick sessions, Hackathons are the events you should check out. Although, some basic understanding of languages like Java gives you an edge but then, you can always make up for that by doing a little prep before going to the hackathon. A week’s learning would be enough to help you figure out what you’re team is up to and how can you be useful.
And, if you’re there to win or are planning on joining a more competitive team, then please do prepare beforehand:
- Figure out what language/SDK/software your team is going to use for the competition or what your specific area of contribution will be.
- Arrive at the event with your computer already set up. There’s nothing more frustrating than spending the first half of the competition trying to install/setup your machine or dealing with cross-platform issues that could have been sorted out in advance.
- Spend a few days to familiarize yourself with the language/API/software that your team will be counting on you knowing. It’s OK to be a novice, but it’s unrealistic to show up without even having attempted a Hello World program and expecting your teammates to give you a crash course on basic computer programming at the event.
Why should you participate in one?
These are the top six coolest reasons why participating in hackathons should be the next thing you should pick from your bucket list:
You’ll gain more practical knowledge in one hackathon than you learn in a month of lectures. People say this all the time. Hackathons are a super-condensed learning experience. You learn about idea generation, working with others, managing a project, how to use the libraries, frameworks, and APIs that are used by software engineers every day, how to work to a deadline, how to debug, how to do version control, how to deploy, how to test and improve your work, how to present your work on stage, and much more. When you work with others, you’re going to pick up so many new tips and tricks. These are all skills which will make you a better developer and these are all skills which will help you get a job/internship.
2. Team Spirit
Nobody is paid to hack. Nobody has ‘power’ or ‘leverage’ in decision-making. Ideas can come – without fear of consequences – from any team member. Like any team, some are about problem-solving, while some are about asking hard questions – and others still are hanging back until they believe that something meaningful will happen – and only then do they amaze you.
You’re going to make some new friends. If you’re into tech or making stuff, you’re going to love the inventive, smart, fun people you meet at hackathons. And you’ll get to meet people from all over the world. People who you’d never get a chance to meet otherwise. Hackathons are like career fairs on steroids. If you’re looking for an internship or a job in the tech industry, guess where companies are recruiting? At hackathons of course! Unlike career fairs, you have a proper chance to meet the developers. You can spend a weekend with them, learning from them, showing them your work, and making an impression.
4. The Unexpected
Startup CEOs sometimes call themselves ‘Chief Bottle Washers,’ which means they see themselves as being at the service of their employees, removing barriers. Hackathon teams take this concept to the next level, asking for all kinds of unexpected contributions that have nothing to do with ‘what you’re good at’ or ‘what you’re supposed to do’ – to hell with your Comfort Zone.
The winner isn’t the best coder; it is the best creation. People win at hackathons because they master the skill of building something from scratch, relying mostly on imagination and optimism. The idea –‘What if it does work?’ prevails over everyone in hackathons. High doses of denial and optimism are required to believe that what the team suspects is good and can be built.
And last but not the least, the most important one—
6. Great for your resume
Hackathons work like cement in the wall for a resume. It proves your worth being an innovator and a team player. Hackathon experiences give a sense of security that the candidate is already experienced in working within a team, and also ready to take on challenges. Hackathon experience is a big yes, while going for interviews.