Developers might be steadily looking for some challenges to warm their brains up. So do we. And we found this opportunity in the hackathon events. Our company delegated a small team to one of such hackathons in Milan, Italy. The experience was great and definitely worth to write about!
We’ll start the article with the short introduction to what a hackathon actually is. If you are already acquainted with the topic – feel free to scroll down and move over to our actual experience sharing. Enjoy it!
Hackathon events – what they are and what they are not
The word “hackathon” is being misunderstood very often. Negative connotations appear, because people think it is somehow connected with hacking. But the digital crimes have nothing to do with this extraordinary activity. Hackathon events are aimed to gather the enthusiasts and passionate programmers around one idea – to bring innovations into the rapidly developing world.
Hackathons sometimes gather hundreds and even thousands of participants, who usually spend 24-48 hour brainstorming and coding non-stop. The only rule of this event is that you must work on your project only during the hackathon. Participants may come with their own ideas, but the real work starts during the event itself. The team must develop the functioning demo-version of their product and prepare a short and impressive presentation, which is the key to success.
Why would someone do this?
Because it’s like the amusement park for geeks! Onsite and online hackathon events connect developers, designers, project managers other specialists to work on their own projects and create innovations. It’s also an easy way to meet colleagues or potential employers, upgrade your skills and test how stress-resistant you are.
Hackathon is kind of a competition with tasks, deadlines, and prizes, where the teams have to find the best solution for the given problem in a very short time. But hackathon prizes are not what attracts the participants, even though they might be really costly. The real aim is to immerse that unique friendly and open-minded atmosphere.
Who holds the Hackathons?
Hackathon events can have different organization background. Let’s take a look at the most spread ones:
- Internal hackathon events by development companies
These events are organized by development companies for their employees and partners. They are kind of team building, engaging the employees to show their skills, improve teamwork and find creative solutions for the company. Having fun is the main aim of such events.
- External events by IT industry giants
Some great companies like Linkedin, Microsoft, Facebook hold open hackathon events. Every professional is welcome to take part in such events, regardless their specialization, or place of living. New connections and experience exchange is quite important here.
- Events by charity organizations
Such events attract participants that care about making the world a bit better. Developers meet to help non-profit organizations to find efficient solutions for their tech problems. It’s kind of skill-based volunteering – professionals donate their time and skills instead of money.
- Online hackathon events
Such events usually draw multiple organizers and sponsors, as more developers can take part. There are no geographical restrictions. But in this case, the most important part of a hackathon is lost – the open-minded communication and new connections.
Who attends the hackathon events?
Actually, the hackathon audience is more diverse, as you could imagine that. Besides developers, one can meet designers and project managers, testers and marketing specialists. Hackathon events are loved by top professionals, but also by beginners, that are only about to start their way in IT sphere.
Professionals attend the events to meet the people, that are as passionate about development as they are. Newbies will benefit from brainstorming, unique experience of working in catch-all teams, getting feedback on your work and simply learning and growing simultaneously.
The personal aim of attending such events is not becoming a hackathon winner, although it might be a nice bonus to all the great experience you had there.
Work hard – party even harder
Besides professional experience and useful connections, hackathon events are usually full of entertainment.
First of all, it’s tons of free food and drinks. Diverse dishes are supposed to stimulate developers to work harder and to find efficient solutions easier. For the ones, that need some other sort of booster, coffee and energy drinks are available.
During the development sessions, the participants have also a huge variety of entertaining opportunities – ping pong or yoga, Playstation or Scrabble – what would you choose to have a rest after hard work and continuous brainstorming?
Or maybe you’d better have a nap? The ones, who prefer relaxation, will feel more comfortable in one of the lounge rooms.
A hackathon usually ends with a great party for all the participants, judges, and sponsors, which is a great adventure and a possibility to sum up all the positive experience from the event.
ThinkMobiles at Stentlethon
Writing about pure theory is good, but sharing some practical experience is much better. At the end of May, three ThinkMobiles employees took part in the internal hackathon of our partner, the Italian company Stentle. The event got the proud name Stentlethon and was held in the Talent Garden Milano Calabiana, where the company’s office is located.
Stentle is providing modern e-commerce solutions for different kinds of retail businesses. So, the topic of the internal hackathon was chosen accordingly – conversational commerce. Influencers believe 2016 to be the year of conversational commerce, why not to join this hype?
This event was not about fighting for hackathon prizes, but for challenging ourselves. That’s why our representatives joined three different teams and worked on completely different projects. The results were quite impressive:
- Anton Nizhegorodov, Front-end developer at ThinkMobiles: “Our team decided to develop a Facebook Messenger bot, that could communicate with the potential customer as a seller. The bot can ask about your preferences, gives advice and leads you to the purchase.”
- Olga Sikora, Project Manager at ThinkMobiles: “My team had a great idea every lady would love! We created a bot, that helps you to choose the perfect makeup according to the occasion you are going to, considering your preferences, as well as your complexion, face form, hair color and so on. I would use it without a doubt!”
- Alex Roman, Back-end developer at ThinkMobiles: “Our initial idea was to build an independent bot, that could be integrated into any website as a plugin. It could be a great solution for website support services. As there were two experienced back-end developers in our team, this task was completed successfully. The judges recognized our idea and its implementation the second prize at the Stentlethon”
At ThinkMobiles we are so proud of our guys, who showed their expertise in such a challenging way.
Do you have another challenge for us?
We hope that Stentle will implement at least one of these solutions in its coming projects. Because hackathon is not only about creating innovations – it’s the way to bring most daring ideas to life.
FAQ to hackathon participation
Preparing to your first internal or online hackathon you are probably overwhelmed with questions. We will try to answer the most popular of them from the point of view of the team, who already went it through.
What should I bring to a hackathon?
First of all your technical stuff, that you need for work. Don’t forget the chargers. It’s also good to have an extra set of clothes – you will want to change clothes after a long coding day. Sometimes it’s a good idea to take a sleeping bag or a pillow
How likely am I to win the hackathon prizes?
If the main aim of your participation in the hackathon events is the prize-winning – better don’t take part at all. This conflicts with the main concept of the hackathon – to exchange experience and to find new connections. Prepare yourself to hunt for positive emotions and experience, winning hackathon prizes could be a nice bonus.
What if I have too little experience in coding or can not code at all?
That’s truly not a problem. Hackathons main aim is to exchange the experience. If you can not “teach”, be ready to “learn”. If you can not code, you definitely have some other skills that can help your team. Design? PR? Or “just” ideas generating? Brainstorming will reveal your hidden talents!
I don’t have a team. Is it worth going alone?
Definitely yes! Even if you have the team, it would be great to shuffle with other participants and to build completely new teams. New connections, new experience, and tons of fun, isn’t this what you are looking for at a hackathon?
Is there any language barrier?
Actually, this might be the only challenge. External and especially online hackathons usually attract participants from all over the world and the working language is English. If you are fluent in it – great, if not – this is an extra opportunity for you to practice and learn something new.
How do I present my project?
Actually, the presentation is really important. Be sure to prepare the most impressive presentation you can. Be humorous, stand out, appeal to audience problems – in this case, you are more likely to impress the judges and to get more points for your project.
You probably already caught the main idea of the article – it’s totally worth taking parts in hackathons!
What is a hackathon?
- Start for beginners
Hackathon is the event where you can get some relevant working experience
- Try something new
New programming language, new API, new technology – you’ll not find a better occasion to try it out
- Get new connections
Meet people, as passionate about development as you
- Create innovations
Brainstorming and working on ideas that might change the world
- Find unique solution
Solve existing problems in the completely new way
- Have fun
Just HAVE FUN!
ThinkMobiles team encourages you to take part in hackathon events in your region or even on another continent – this is the unusual experience and unique emotions, that can change your life.