Hi, today, I’d love to share my personal experience on hackathons, and clear up some of the confusion around them. Hopefully I can present a good enough case for some of you to consider attending your first one.
Before telling my story, you might want to know what a hackathon is:
A hackathon is typically a mini startup competition conducted over a weekend, where people gather in groups and build a minimally viable software product, then pitch their prototype at the end of 24 hours.
The word hackathon is a portmanteau of hack and marathon. Hack means “to quickly put together”, whereas marathon refers to the endurance required to work on-and-off for 24 hours straight.
Despite wanting to become a software engineer and taking relevant classes in college, knowing about data structures and time complexity didn’t exactly teach me how to make a website or extract data from a webpage. Right when I started wondering about this, a good friend asked me:
How the hell did you go a whole year living in San Francisco without going to a hackathon?
Which is funny in retrospect, because the first hackathon I went to was LA Hacks which, surprisingly, was not held in San Francisco.
I was a clueless student with hardly any contacts outside of my school. Then I became a slightly less clueless student with slightly more contacts.
This first taste was the gateway drug. Over a single weekend, I learned and grew by leaps and bounds — I thirsted for more. The more I learned about software engineering, the more I knew just how much more I could learn.
Someone I met from a hackathon taught me about databases. Smart contracts. UI/UX. Docker. AWS.
Someone I met from a hackathon brought me to hiking. To boardgame night. Steak dinner. Rocket-watching. Vacation in the Southeast Asia. Taiwan.
Someone I met from a hackathon became my smoking buddy. Business partner. Mentor. Brother.
I would not be where I am right now without meeting all these people and learning from them at hackathons. I would not have attended a school from the future. I would not have been doing business in the Philippines.
Going to that first hackathon definitely marked the beginning of a new chapter of my life.
There is no guarantee that attending a hackathon will be as transformative to your life as it was for mine. I do guarantee, however, that you will gain considerable value from experiencing a hackathon at least once.
Now get out there and happy hacking!