Home About Hackathon Surprising advantages of attending a hackathon!

Surprising advantages of attending a hackathon!

HackerEarth concluded IndiaHacks 2017 recently. I learned many things from the series of hackathons that were conducted across multiple problem statements and themes. It became one of the most memorable events in my life. The sheer energy in the room, learning about people’s backgrounds, pressure of meeting various deadlines, and creating the presentation at the last moment to explain the entire idea is something I will remember for a very long time.

I have been attending various hackathons for more than a year now. IndiaHacks was not my first hackathon but after attending some of the other events locally I had asked myself why I needed to attend another hackathon that “promised” bigger sponsors, better prizes, and top quality attendees. But, I’m so am glad I took up my friend’s invite to this event.

This is what I learned from my experiences. Go to hackathons:

  • To have fun
  • To earn money
  • To network with other professionals
  • To build a portfolio for future employment
  • To recognize what you know and what you don’t
  • To challenge yourself to solve a tough problem
  • To socialize and make friends
  • To contribute to a large project of common interest
  • To grow as a person

To have fun

The best times I had as a developer were not when I wrote code but when I discussed, debated, and exchanged notes on architecture and reflected on how a certain technology will grow. Hackathons provide a platform to work with people with vast experiences in varied backgrounds. To discuss with such people, implement those ideas, and build a prototype is way more fun than you know!

To earn money

Most of these hackathons involve sponsors, and it is a wonderful opportunity for you to work on your skills, hopefully build something interesting, and get rewarded for it. The prizes can range from t-shirts and goody bags to significant amounts of cash and even funding to take your ideas to market.

To network with other professionals

Hackathons tend to attract people from different backgrounds, not just from a technology background. Working with such a diverse set of people helps you understand the challenges they faced and how they approached some of them. This helps you to build your ideas further, makes you think about customers, product adoption, makes your ideas more mature, and encourages broader thinking.

To build a portfolio for future employment

With time, the value of resumes has waned and there has been an increasing need to create and develop an online presence. Job seekers must ensure they have an online portfolio. According to a Forbes report, 56% of all hiring managers are more impressed by a candidate’s personal website than any other personal branding tool. Hackathon organizers usually use a platform which allows you to create your own profile or link your existing profile to their platform.

To recognize what ‘you know’ and what ‘you do not’

A diverse set of people with a wide range of skills attend hackathons. The information they had access to or the rich experiences they had in building technology products can sometimes give you a complex. It is rare that two people have the same thought process. An Android developer is different from an iOS developer. Raspberry Pi and Arduino developers think differently. High school students, developers, and aspiring hackers from colleges and working professionals think differently. Product managers, UX designers, SEO experts, and ethical hackers all think very differently. Each one has a different life hack or a tech hack up his sleeve. Just knowing SQL can sometimes make you the query ninja of the team. Do not be nervous to share your knowledge or speak about your limitations in the company of others. This will help you learn more from the hackathon.

To challenge oneself to solve a tough problem

A hackathon is not really about glamour; it is more about solving a complex problem. A tough technology-driven or social problem tends to attract great, diverse talent (See example here). The range of ideas that come from such a group can be truly astounding. You have an opportunity to work with talented individuals and contribute to solving global issues.

To socialize, meet interesting people and make friends

Hackathons are timed events and this time constraint along with the larger goal of the hackathon forces people to work together. A study by Markus Heinrichs and Bernadette von Dawans at the University of Freiburg (Germany) suggests that acute stress may actually lead to greater cooperative, social, and friendly behavior in both women and men. This makes for a great connect with individuals in the team.

To contribute to a large project of common interest

Not all hackathons are offline ones, where you need to go in person. Many of them are online. You can interact with others via social channels before accepting them as a part of your team or becoming a part of their team. The idea or the prototype you work on is connected to your profile and lists you as a contributor. This gives you a good chance to not only develop your profile but to also contribute to open- source projects while taking part in the hackathons.

Companies sometimes sponsor hackathons to advertise their APIs or products to developers. Most times the companies are more worried about the ideas and the solution, and it is completely fine to build on top of an existing repository. The terms and conditions are laid out pretty clearly in all platforms. These hackathons give you the opportunity to contribute to projects of public/ common interest and provide you with a first-hand experience of working with some of the latest technologies. This can add immense value to your profile.

To grow as a person

Every hackathon is a new experience with a new set of problems to solve and new people to meet. Every hackathon has helped me learn at least one new thing. Each hackfest has demanded a different thought process. This has enabled me to constantly push myself and grow as a person.

I wish I knew about hackathons earlier. The best part about hackathons is that you do not have to be a good programmer (although it helps). There are many wrong notions like you need to stay overnight or that nothing productive ever comes out of hackathons. Go to a hackathon with a clear, open mind along with willingness to meet new people, learn from their diverse experiences, and I believe you will have a great experience.

About Author

Anand Hariharan is the product manager at HackerEarth. With over 10 years of experience in the software industry, he has successfully managed many critical technology projects for companies like Cognizant, People Interactive and Zinnov. Anand is passionate about technology and building new products.

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