April this year has really started off incredibly for me. Over the past two weekends, I attended two hackathons; one in Chicago and one in Dallas. They were both a little different but definitely great in their own ways. Campus 1871 in Chicago and HackDFW in Dallas were such great experiences, and now that I’ve got to dive a little more into this hackathon thing, it has definitely left me wanting more. Instead of vividly describing the last two weekends in detail, here are some of my tips and takeaways.

Newbie Tips:

  1. Bring Your Water Bottle – I cannot stress how important it is to stay hydrated, and bringing your own bottle prevents your from having to look for bottled water since there are always water fountains or dispensers nearby.
  2. Wear Comfortable Clothes – If you’re going to be sitting in one spot for over 20 hours, you might want to get comfortable by starting out with the right clothing. Shorts/leggings/sweat pants all work extremely well.
  3. Bring A Change of Clothes – You will probably get some free swag and t-shirts at the event, but it really does feel good to change your clothes and freshen up on pitch day.
  4. Play for the Right Team – If you can pick your team mates, it would be really helpful getting to know them a little first. It doesn’t help to find out that you can’t click with them when you’re halfway through working.
  5. Deodorant – Need I say anything more?
  6. Snack All Day – I’m not asking you to be eating 24/7 but eating a little every few hours gives you the energy to stay up all night and keep working. If you’re on a diet, bring your own snacks, because they sure as hell won’t be giving you “healthy” snacks to munch on at the event.
  7. Play All Your Strengths – If you’re not an engineer or coder like me, don’t fret. I’m so sure that everyone has a strength that is indefinitely useful for any team, whether it’s design, business, or charisma.
  8. Taking Walks – Taking a short walk around the building every once in a while definitely helped me stay focused and keep awake.
  9. Bring A Pillow – I didn’t bring a pillow to Dallas obviously, but it would have been nice to have something to lay on instead of the table when I was taking breaks.
  10. YouTube and Google – Seriously, if you can’t figure out how to do something, chances are that someone else has already asked the question online and other people have answered it.

Takeaways:

  1. Ten is Too Many – During Campus 1871, teams were allowed to go up to 10 people, and since you didn’t really get to choose your teammates, I ended up in a team of 10. Don’t get me wrong, I worked with some great people during Campus 1871, but it was just honestly so difficult to get anything done with 10 people. 4 to 6 people is plenty.
  2. Be Open – Remember that you’re there to learn things. There are a ton of workshops and mentors on-site and I think it would be silly not to take advantage of them while they’re there.
  3. Freeloaders – Sadly, there will always be moochers who virtually don’t do anything. You just need to do what you were assigned to do and then work with the rest of the team to pick up the slack
  4. Not There to Win – Neither of the teams I was in won the hackathon over either of the weekends, but I honestly learned so much and met such amazing people, I don’t even care. It was also so amazing to see how many brilliant people there are out there!
  5. Friends – You definitely meet a lot of great people there, but it is so nice to have a friend come along with you. I am so thankful to have had Cassie with me all weekend 🙂

Hackathon Collage

Now for a short rant. If you don’t want to hear my complaining, feel free to stop reading  🙂

If you know me, you know I don’t like being called out and so I hate to be a person to have to call out someone else. BUT, I’ve honestly never experienced freeloading to this extent before. When you brainstorm on ideas and the team decides to go with a specific idea, that’s great! BUT, how can anyone sit on their butts all weekend and slack while the rest of your team literally does all the planning, design, coding, presenting, etc? And after the hack suddenly gets a little glory , you claim the hack in all its awesomeness and thank the team for ‘helping’ you make it possible? Dear god, if you are this kind of person, for your sake and other people’s sake, please don’t attend these kind of events.

That’s all I have to say. Bye! 🙂