6 Reasons to Attend a Hackathon

Hackathons are events where a large number of people come together to collaborate and solve a problem using computer programming.

Often sponsored by big name companies, these events are competition-based and revolve around solving tech problems within the sponsor companies. Teams are formed around which problems people want to tackle. Starting from scratch, teams solve the problems in the form of websites, mobile apps or even robots.

They’re also are a great chance to meet people who are just as excited about programming as you are. They can lead to great product creations, interviews, and even new jobs! If you thrive on creativity, enjoy free food, memorabilia, and cash prizes then hackathons are worth checking out.

If you are still not convinced, here are 6 reasons YOU should attend a hackathon:

1. Showcase Your Skills

If you’re starting out your programming career, it’s safe to say you don’t have much work experience under your belt to include on your resume/LinkedIn profile. Participating in hackathons will help you stand out from the competition and, among other things, show that you truly are passionate about coding. Hackathon projects can also be great additions to your portfolio. Additionally, prominent companies like Facebook, Microsoft and Uber often sponsor these hackathons, which make them a unique opportunity get in front of industry leaders to showcase your technical chops. It’s not unheard of for hackers to get noticed by big employers, and then get brought in after a hackathon for an interview.

2. A Great Opportunity For Peer Networking

Just moved to a new city and don’t know too many other people? Trying to find a network of peers who you can share best practices with? Maybe even looking for a developer co-founder to launch a start-up with down the road? These are all great reasons to attend a hackathon! Since hackathons last such a short amount of time, it forces people to work together, grow together and test out chemistry. It may be a shot in the dark you’ll find your soulmate. However, there are a number of developers who say that they made a ton of contacts and friends at hackathons—many which last long after the hackathon wraps up.

3. Cash Prizes and Free Stuff

At the end of hackathons there are prizes given out for the winning teams. These prizes can range from monetary rewards (sometimes up to $30,000) to company interviews. Hackathons are usually loaded with company memorabilia such as t-shirts, coffee mugs, staplers, stickers, sweatshirts—you name it! Attendees of hackathons also rave about the free food that is served while participating. Since they last the weekend, hackathons usually provide food for the competing groups (and it’s been said the quality can be amazing).

4. A Rewarding Experience

Even if you aren’t a winner in the traditional sense, hackathons are an extremely rewarding experience! Let’s face it—creating something from nothing is hard. In fact, it may be one of the most challenging things you can do. However, hackathon participants can attest that there is no greater feeling of accomplishment than working hard with your team to see a solution come to life in just a matter of hours. Hackathons offer participants a chance to push the limits on what they thought was possible and enlightens many on how the creative process in coding unfolds. In addition, most hackathons are geared toward the assistance of non-profit organizations, or other organizations in need. Not only do you get to showcase your skills, network and win prizes – you also get use your skills to do real good for others and help out society as a whole!

5. Teaches You How to Work Efficiently

When you gather a group of people together and put a time constraint on a project it opens the door for innovative ideas. You try to find ways to work quickly, with more precision. One common practice at hackathons is “pair programming.” It’s essentially finding someone of a similar skill level, and then taking turns typing and advising on the project. It offers huge learning potential and teaches effective collaboration (in a high-stress environment, at that).

6. Acquire Industry Skills

When you attend a hackathon you can acquire important industry-specific job skills. If you’re newer to programming, you’ll learn how to create a project from scratch, buff out the problems, and present to a panel of judges. Even if you’re already a coding pro, you have an opportunity to enhance your team collaboration and presentation skills.  All-in-all, a hackathon prepares you for working in a fast-paced environment and gives industry professionals experience tackling coding challenges.

hackathon-san-francisco-hackingedu

HackingEDU’s ‘Invent the Future’ hackathon near San Francisco. (photo cred: EDUInstagram)

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One of the things most people who attend hackathons can attest to is the environment. The high pressure stakes, the sounds of keyboards being attacked, the overwhelming chatter of teams. It is a new experience for many, and one that challenges some to work harder and faster than they ever have before. Hackathons are a great way to expand your horizons. They’re also good fun and can be one of the most memorable ways to spend a weekend!

Thanks to @shubsengupta for the featured image.

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