8 tips to enjoy your hackathon
Last week I participated in my second hackathon. I am not a typical hackathon crasher. Although I haven’t attended many events like this, my main priority has always been to have a good time. I love coding, designing, meeting new people and helping. But being a mum and working as a freelancer it’s hard to commit to spending the full weekend working and for free.
There are lots of tips and pieces of advice around hackathons that are available online. However, most of them are survival guides or suggestions on how to win. And where is the fun bit? Hackathons usually happen over the weekend, and you often get to work with people you don’t know. Let’s find ways to enjoy your precious end of the week time while developing a project in two days maximum.
1. Find the time to talk to other participants
Whether it’s over a cup of warm beverage or while munching a breakfast croissant, conversations with people and that feeling that you’re part of a community have a very positive effect on us. It might also help you choose later who you would like to work with. On the other hand, it could be a great networking opportunity. Who knows how the projects will develop and what opportunities might come afterwards?
2. Choose a team that values your skills and listens to your voice
If you come to the hackathon without knowing what you’ll be working on, if you are without a team at the start, take your opportunity to choose the people you’ll be working with. Feel free to go around and listen to what each project is about, check what skills or what kind of person are they looking for. Ask questions. Don’t push yourself to work with people who might not value your opinion.
3. Choose a project where you have the freedom to contribute the way you like and feel comfortable about it
Hackathons end with presentations where each team has the time to show what they achieved. This isn’t the only goal of this kind of event. Each participant has learned something and most likely created a piece of code, a design or other deliverable that wouldn’t be possible under usual circumstances. If you want to treat your hackathon experience as a place where you can either show off your skills or you prefer to challenge yourself with something completely different to what you’re doing, you are in the right place. Make it work for you, so you feel comfortable with what’s expected from you.
4. Don’t feel bad if you want to change a team during the hackathon
This is another point related to co-working on the same project. Moving between groups shouldn’t be a problem in my opinion. I often experience that at work that changing environment or switching between activities allows me to focus more on the problem I’m trying to solve. It’s like a breath of fresh air. Even better if you feel like your skills or knowledge are on demand during the hackathon because more teams will be pleased to have you even for some time.
5. Enjoy free food and drinks
To keep your productive brain work, you need energy. I hope the hackathon menu would meet different dietary requirements so really everyone can enjoy a chit-chat over a slice of pizza. It’s very likely the food won’t be 100% healthy and nutritious, but nevermind. Let’s don’t complain about free food, juices and beer :)
6. Do your best because it’s for a good goal…
Some hackathons are organised to help people develop, or at least make a solid start, on a project that they can’t afford. Time constraints can be great motivators to achieve something everyone can be proud of.
7. …but don’t hate yourself if something doesn’t go right
If for some reason you and your team can’t accomplish what they aimed for, don’t pull your hair out. There are lots of challenges every project has to face, not only during hackathons. If there is a limited time to solve a problem, the best thing you can do is try different approaches or ask for help.
8. It’s not about winning
Not everyone comes to the hackathon to win. Whatever was your reason, and although it’s great to get the prize, the fact that you participated is marvellous already. The time you gave is a lot, be proud of yourself! Enjoy your well-deserved treat :)