Just another day in work, solving a different production bug that crept up last night because the junior dev forgot to put a semicolon at the end of his code.
We(developers) by nature of the profession are problem solvers. We are so focused on solving problems that we get sucked up into the narrow view of solving problems only for the company. Yes, of course, we tell others we are gonna build our company in a year or two but just ask yourself how many times that “in a year” passed without giving birth to that unicorn idea of yours.
What we lack is not the skills(otherwise respect for fooling your company seniors by acing the coding interview and landing that well-paying job of yours) nor is it the drive to make the world better nor is it the motivation to build and bring something of your own into this world. What we lack is the right motivation at the right time with the right team which will of course with the path you are on never turn into reality….
Right now, you might be thinking “Is this it? Will my ideas die with me just because I can’t bring myself to sit on it with excuses being on the ready like “I’m just too tired from work”, “I don’t know the tech stack so let me edu-castinate, or some other ready to be served excuse I cooked up??”
Edu-castinate: A pun on procrastination using education
This will be true…..UNLESS!! You find a place that brings together people from the same or different domains who are as driven as you to make something that can dazzle the world and bring in that sweet dough, cause your time ain’t free right!!
Everything you are looking for goes by the term “Hackathon”, so let’s dive right in.
What are Hackathons?
According to Wikipedia:
A hackathon (also known as a hack day, hackfest, datathon or codefest; a portmanteau of hacking marathon) is a design sprint-like event; often, in which computer programmers and others involved in software development, including graphic designers, interface designers, project managers, domain experts, and others collaborate intensively on software projects.
The goal of a hackathon is to create functioning software or hardware by the end of the event. Hackathons tend to have a specific focus, which can include the programming language used, the operating system, an application, an API, or the subject and the demographic group of the programmers. In other cases, there is no restriction on the type of software being created.
To help save energy for that overworked brain of yours, Hackathons are events that bring together different kinds of people of varied skillsets together so that they can make something to show to the people in the event and hopefully to the world, how capable you are by making something out of almost nothing.
Hackathon Participation Benefits
Staying up until 4 AM every weekend building advanced projects under a time crunch produces an unmatched adrenaline rush. While hackathons are surely enjoyable no matter the outcome, it is not the same without a win. The prizes and swag help validate the hard work and lack of sleep over a weekend. However, winning is not easy, and learning how to do so can take a long time. As a result, many new hackers become discouraged and don’t continue. Lucky for me, this was not the case, as I was able to quickly develop strategies that helped me be successful.
Discarding those mouth-watering goodies and cash prizes, Hackathons are places where you can develop your network( which has astounding benefits), a place that forces you to understand how the Product cycle works( just on steroids). They are also one of the best places for you to improve your knowledge, either be in new frameworks or in other completely different domains.
Developer ==> Entrepreneur
For most of the developers or at least the ones in my circle, everyone has a wish to start their own startup or business, basically not be tied to the soul-sucking 9–5 and obtain financial freedom. And as I mentioned before it wasn't the skills department that was lacking but the ideas and motivation department.
You don’t need any kind of external motivation to start working out when at the gym, the atmosphere just compels you to do. — Just Another Gym Freak
When you are in a hackathon the deadline, the fiery nature of your competitors, the drive to make something, and the greed to grab those juicy prices just has a way of motivating you to forgo sleep and just keep blasting away on that keyboard. That I assure you will definitely cover the motivation department.
Those shower thoughts of yours are never born into the world exactly because they are your shower thoughts, meaning you never discuss them with anyone else nor do you get any feedback on them nor do you check if someone would want the thing you might build. In hackathons, you gotta brainstorm with your ride or die mates, and only start working on it if you get consensus from all your teammates that it's a winner which takes care of the ideas department.
All my talks(or in this case writing) are motivational and all but nothing proves better than actual examples. Let me explain how one of my friends Akash Smaran who was just another awesome developer(Machine Learning) just like you and me founded a startup that is backed by many big incubators like MIT Sandbox, Harvard ILabs, and a few others by attending a hackathon. I asked Akash to do me a personal favor and iterate his experience so that I can enhance this article to provide better value to you guys, enjoy…..
Like most people, I knew very little about computer science before joining college. The first hackathon I participated in made me hooked to the concept not because I succeeded but because I failed miserably. Through this experience, I realized that there was a disconnect between what was taught in class and what is implemented in real life. Hackathons let you explore and help you find the things you are passionate about. For example, many of my current interests which are in the intersection of the computer science and medical domains were developed through participation in hackathons. Check us out at Humaine
I have other friends who through hackathons like Microsoft Imagine Cup, MIT hackathon built awesome products in the Augmented Reality domain and took the entrepreneurship route. Let me know in the comments if you would like their stories too or if you got a story of your own, please do consider sharing here.
YOU CAN BE NEXT!!
I know what you thinking “Vikranth!! Enough teasing, show me the resources to get started”.
Fortunately, I can read minds, so here’s a collection of websites that have popular hackathons that you can start attending immediately, keep in mind for some there are requirements that you should be a student or a professional and so on, so keep that in mind when you register.
These websites show you hackathons happening all over the world and your locale, so YOU can START BUILDING with NO EXCUSES!
Wanna escape the 9–5? Get started at the closest hackathon.
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