Hackathons and coding challenges? What exactly is there to gain from these and are they worth it? Certainly, there are mixed opinions on these events but I think I’ll throw my hat in the ring and talk about what I think of them.
What is a “hackathon”?
A hackathon is a “marathon” for coding and is usually an event that has prizes for top projects from teams and for winning other challenges.
So I’ve been to a few hackathons, which were all organized by universities such as uOttawa and so on. Well, universities are the ones mostly organizing these hackathons, but there are also companies that organize some, such as Gitlab’s occasional hackathon that rewards people with Gitlab swag.
Hackathons usually last for at least 24 hours and encourage people to build a project from the ground-up from the design to the finished prototype. There are also additional coding challenges during these hackathons, so participants do have choices indeed.
I’d say overall, you should definitely consider participating in hackathons. Whether you are doing the actual hackathon or participating in the mini challenges that sometimes accompany these events, hackathons are quite flexible in terms of activities.
I personally find it an upmost priority to network with the sponsors of the event, as usually there is an area at the hackathon that has various sponsor booths set up.
As I am always looking for summer internships and networking with people, you’ll probably find me at the sponsor booths discussing dev tools and back-end jokes.
I get a decent bit of understanding of what the sponsor does, who the person I’m talking to is, what I should do to position myself to get noticed, and so on.
Motivation to work on something
The work environment is also a big factor in my recommendation of going to hackathons. It’s rare to see so many developers gathering together and working on something for a day or several days. This really brings out some inner motivation to learn or build something new.
For example, I started looking into Google Cloud Platform (GCP) during uOttaHack 3, and definitely learned more about dev-ops during and after the event.
These unique hackathon work environments are also a great place to make new friends and find new friends to work with on projects and matching visions.
This is a big one and is surely something enticing for those who like a good challenge. Sometimes hackathons do offer coding challenges and whoever completes it successfully first will get a prize.
Some of these challenges are sponsored by companies and you might even get on their radar for recruitment if you do the challenge well enough. Of course, I can’t say much since I don’t really take part in these challenges, but still, it’s the thought that counts.
Yes yes yes! Prizes are always a reason to participate in hackathons. Usually prizes are given out to the best projects, top performing developer(s), and so on. You are not guaranteed to win something, but you could use this as another piece of motivation to encourage you to learn something.
Software development isn’t all just about the coding, it’s sometimes about winning as well. At hackathons, I’m pretty sure you have some kind of bragging rights for winning, but don’t quote me on that. Overall, I think hackathons are pretty good events to get something done, further your career, and have fun.