Everyone can relate to that uncomfortable feeling that surfaces when you try to acquire a new skill.
It's in those times that you confront the depths of your knowledge and begin to realize just how much you don't know, how long the road is ahead of you, and how high the mountain you've got to climb. You might even think to yourself that this journey is going to take longer than you thought. You know it's a marathon, but how far of a marathon is it really?
Well, I'm here to tell you…there's hope. Yes, if you'll allow me to indulge you for a few minutes, I want to enlighten you on the power of hackathons. Hackathons are very powerful learning tools for developers of all levels and if you're just starting out, you'll discover that they even have superpowers!
I had never attended a hackathon before this weekend. I usually enjoy self-learning, sticking to my coffee shop routine with my headphones in, blasting brown noise, tuning out my surroundings, and absorbing the material through tutorials and trial-and-error. In fact, I was on the fence about attending, wondering what the opportunity cost would be for attending this event.
I'm glad I got out of my own head and gave it a shot. Thanks to being on a great team, being flexible, and just having fun, our team was able to create something that worked with the time we were given…and we won! Using D3 we created a hover map displaying the monthly housing allowances for veterans looking to go back to school, www.bahmap.com. The feeling of finishing a hackathon with an end product felt incredible and really sped up the learning curve!
Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash
Ready for those Superpowers…
Hackathons allow you to absorb tons of information in a matter of days. If you're a beginner, the chance that you will work with someone who has more experience than you is very high. You'll have a chance to peak into their thought process as they code, soaking in all of their knowledge, and the way they troubleshoot.
Proximity is power! Being around other developers with more skills will sometimes bring out the skills in you that you didn't even realize you had. It's like that scene from the Matrix where Neo plugs himself into the machine and downloads a Jujitsu program, bypassing the learning curve and understanding it instantly! I feel like I've learned more in these past 2 days of coding than in one month of tutorials. It's like a time travel booster into the future.
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
Technically, not a superpower but arguably it comes close. During a hackathon, you will rub shoulders with people from all kinds of backgrounds, ages, and ethnicities. The chance that you will come across some tidbit of information to further your cause is very high. You'll gain insight into what events are happening in the tech industry, who's hiring, the best ways to apply for the job, and what questions they're asking on the interview.
Connections breed competence. It's impossible for you to be everywhere and know everything all of the time. Hackathons are a great way to build leverage. I came away knowing about other programs I could use and paths I could take to reach my objective. Networking at hackathons gives you such an advantage while you're exposing yourself to real-world tech problems.
Photo by Marius Masalar on Unsplash
Have you ever gone to a concert and after it's over, you get home; it's late, but you can't sleep; you're still full of adrenaline and the artist's music, so you start performing in the mirror? Hackathons give you the same feeling. The chance that you will come away with a boost of vigor is very high! You will be super motivated to finish whatever project you've been working on and figuring out how to finally debug that code.
Momentum is mushrooming. You'll be able to expand your bandwidth of capabilities and finish those projects with that added boost of vivacity! I didn't go to sleep until 2am when I got back, I kept working on a bug I was trying to fix. And staying awake could also be attributed to the fact that we celebrated our win by going to Starbucks and drinking coffee. Working with a great team of coders was a great way to spend my weekend. A special shout goes out to Joseph Whittington for being the TechLead and Adrian Calvache for being Project Manager!
Long story short…
If you're ever on the fence about sacrificing your weekend to a Hack-athon and you're a newbie coder, take my advice and GO for it! It will be WELL worth your time!