Since time is a scarce commodity, we are always encouraged to use our time wisely. Therefore, we make decisions everyday on how we want to spend our time. Decisions, decisions, decisions…. Should I watch a movie or read a book? Should I exercise or sleep? Should I study or hangout with my friends? All those questions are very common, but did you ever consider hackathon participation as a way to spend your time? Did you ever wonder why you should “invest” 24, 48, or 72 hours of your time at a hackathon?
If hackathon participation is not on your to-do list, here is a list of the top 10 benefits of hackathon participation, which I am sure, will put hackathons on your radar.
1. Learning a new technical skill.
People tend to invest a lot of money in traditional education. But, doesn’t it sound so great to be able to learn a new technical skill for free? That’s exactly what you should expect from a hackathon. I know you must be surprised because you probably thought that hackathons target experts. Well, I am very happy to report that it’s definitely not the case. Hackathon organizers tend to host these events around a particular technology and provide the environment, the tools, workshops, and mentors to teach and guide you to unleash your creativity in order to solve a problem. The best part is that they support you and cheer you on throughout the process.
2. Creating a sense of accomplishment.
Can you imaging if you were to participate in a hackathon with little knowledge of a particular technology but then work hard, learn a tone in the process, and then have a tangible demo by the end that you get to showcase to a room full of people who went through the same process as you did? Can you image the amazing sense of accomplishment that you would feel at that point regardless of how polished the project was or if it is even completed? Trust me! That sense of accomplishment is priceless. I am always amazed to observe the glowing faces of hackathon participants when demoing their projects.
3. Enhancing your soft skills.
A successful carrier in a technical position is not solely based on solid technical skills. It requires soft skills as well such as team collaboration and effective communication. The hackathon environment is absolutely the perfect place to foster those skills. Most likely, over a short timeframe, you are expected to collaborate effectively under pressure with a team of strangers. You have to figure out their strength, how to distribute tasks, and how to combine the different parts into a single unified project. Needless to say, good communication skills are vital during that process as well as when pitching project ideas and during demo time.
4. Beefing up your resume.
When reviewing a resume, prospective employers don’t simply take the face value of your listed education and job history. They look beyond that to try to build your persona. Therefore, by listing your hackathon participations, you build your brand as a person who takes initiative, a constant learner and someone who enjoys being challenged. Definitely, all those skills are considered a great asset to any employer and will add a differentiating factor to your candidacy.
Networking is the essence of a hackathon. Imagine being surrounded by like-minded individuals who are there to learn and collaborate. It is simply impossible not to network with them. In addition, by merely working under pressure with your team, you will most likely be able to build a strong bond with them that will be extended way beyond the hackathon. And aside from the hackathon participants, you will get the chance to meet and get to know mentors from the community and even corporate sponsors. All these connection will definitely enrich your network.
6. Paving the path for a startup.
A hackathon may be the breeding ground of the next big idea that becomes the foundation of a startup. For example, in March 2015, Patrick Shields and Stephan Wong attended the Intel® IoT Roadshow in Boston. Before attending the hackathon, the team had an idea to combine traditional deadbolts with the power of the Internet. By attending the hackathon, they were able to bring their idea to life in 24 hours. According to Stephan “the whole hackathon experience was an adrenaline rush. The feedback from the judges and the folks from Intel helped us think critically about what to do next with our idea”. As a result, the team co-founded Random Wire Technologies and, Keysforall, the project that they started working on during the hackathon is now available for pre-sale.
7. Getting inspired.
The positive energy at a hackathon is contagious. Upon the end of the event, I can almost guarantee the fact that you will leave with many ideas and new goals regardless whether you finished your demo or not. Just merely observing how the participants approach problems and their creative solutions will ignite your creativity, widen your imagination, and inspire you.
8. Giving back to the community.
During the course of a hackathon, one tend to appreciate the value of the community around a particular technology because without the support of the community, completing the project in that limited timeframe would have been very challenging, if not impossible. Just like you get help from the attendees as you solve the problem at hand and get online resources from the extended online community, you will feel compelled to give back by doing the same.
9. Winning a prize.
Of course, the learning that you acquire at a hackathon is one of the most important prizes, but there could be more. Sponsors of the event tend to give away a lot of swag, software licenses, or even hardware in some cases. Also, your project may be one of the winning projects. You never know!
10. Having fun.
Hackathons are synonymous with fun. Yes, you will be challenged and yes, you will be stressed at some point but you will enjoy every minute of it. Being surrounded with very interesting people, eating free food, engaging in fun little activities, and having your brain stimulated with new technologies are definitely a great combination for having fun.
Theoretically, the more options you have on how to spend your time tend to increase the planning complexity. However, given the listed benefits of hackathon participation, the decision should still be easy. Give it a try and experience first hand all the amazing benefits that hackathon participation provides!