July 17th 2018 was when my friend told me about the Recode Nigeria Hackathon. I immediately registered as it held the promise of being a fun weekend. I mean, 3 days of coding! What else can a man ask for!?! This friend of mine, Habeeb, I had met not quite long, July 8th actually at… you guessed right a Hackathon! Here’s a fun fact, Habeeb isn’t a coder, yet. He is a digital marketer who has a knack for product design, management and leading teams. All in, dude’s an exceptional fella to work with. We came 3rd in the July 8 Hackathon where we first met and were grouped in the same teams. We became quite acquainted immediately a lot more because of his endearing nature and patience. Something that I don’t have so much of a reserve for, especially when I my code gets bugs… aarrrghhh. Yes back to the conversation. The Recode Nigeria Hackathon.
Funny enough, that weekend had another hackathon that was being organized by Figma and which was geared towards designers. I had registered for that when Recode was announced; I immediately shifted my gaze as Recode appealed more to my interests as a developer. Well, Friday came by very quickly and I left work early so as to make it to the venue early. Yeah, my team in the company knew about it. This not being my first code slumber party, I had packed the necessary requirements in my backpack: Hoodie, Water Bootle for the energy drinks, Toothbrush, soap, deodorant and an extra Tshirt. One extra Tshirt because I knew that the organizers will make Tshirts available to the participants and I planned on wearing that for the last day.
Habeeb and I had planned to leave for the venue together, somehow our timelines did not sync and he left for the venue before I did and I had to catch up with him there. I got to the venue and I was wowed by the arrangement put in place. The venue African Fintech Foundry did wow me too, buh ama be chill about that and not flip… Lol
The venue used for the event is called the Hive and… you will not believe this… it is built entirely out of containers! All floors! Man… Like I said I ain’t going to flip. I’m not tripping though when I tell you that it is an architectural masterpiece. A thing of beauty and delight.
Day 1 had us arrive and the opening sessions delivered by the various companies who had brought problem statements for the participants to build solutions for over the course of the weekend. Participants who did not have team mates and those who wanted more people on their teams were paired together. All of this happened intermitently and well into late evening. Habeeb and I were joined by two other folks: Emmanuel (my namesakes) and a dude who called himself Tj. Emmanuel is a product person like Habeeb and Tj claimed to be a Software Engineer. My team chose to work on the FMCG problem statement as Habeeb had gained experience working in that sector. Night came and I never realized that Tj had left! He simply upped and left! I was left alone as the coder on the team.
Day 2 started 12:00am! Yes because the moment the moment the clock moved a second forward from 11:59pm we were in Day 2. No one slept that night. With Tj gone, the team progressed with prototyping the product flow and we sufficiently completed this before 4:00am and I started to build. In hindsight now I would have gone with Ruby On Rails over the MERN stack. I will tell you why when I close the article. Day 2 went by very fast as I had to attend another event I was organizing that day. The plan was to go there early, set up and go find "one corner" to continue hacking. At the time I had no inkling that Tj was not coming back. Well, what was I thinking, I mean, how on Earth will an event organizer be at an event and be able to attend to other things until his event is donw!!? Silly me! The afternoon went into evening and the event was thankfully a success and I had to go back to the Hackathon. That was almost 10 hours of work time lost! Evening progressed into night and morning came.
Day 3: Working alone on the products. Sleep deprived and powered by energy drinks, I did not (could not) complete building out the entire product that we had prototyped. Long story short, presentations took place and we did not come top 3. That broke me... apart. I blamed myself for everything. From not inviting my friends who are developers (they couldn't have been able to make it down), not asking about Tj's skills set (might have served as an early warning system), discussing with the other members of the team who were non technical and giving them a wide enough berth to interrupt my coding flow (getting in and out of the zone is frigging stress... arrrgghhh). Hackathon ended and it was good byes and back pats.
Form a team prior to entering into a hackathon and each team member should be clear on what is expected of them and internal team interactions should be clearly understood!
If you are going at it solo, decide on a programming language that you can use to quickly get an MVP up and running on a live server! I could have done this with Ruby on Rails even whilst sleeping! I wouldn't worry about code best practices given the short time and that I would be coding alone.
It is okay to let everyone know not to disturb you while you are writing code. Especially the non technical members of the team. Very important to verbally communicate this and not just assume that they ought to understand!
Well there you have it. I hope you enjoyed reading this and learnt a couple of lessons that you can apply in it. Do kindly let me know your thoughts in the comments. Thank you!