Why Would I Want to Go to a Hackathon?

I want to learn things!

About a Topic

Subject matter experts are often around to help guide the event’s trajectory. They’re there to be accessible to you, so it’s a great time to ask questions. Better yet, activities are a great way to learn about a topic. By diving in to build something, many blocks and questions are encountered which wouldn’t otherwise be found.

You’ll also be surroundedy by other people with a similar interest, based on the hackathon topic. And everyone has different peices to the same puzzle – just by talking and working together, you’ll learn about other resources and initiatives out there.

About a Tool

Again, no better way to learn about something than to try it out. With an API or a new coding language, trying out a method and approach on a focused topic helps to hone and test. Surrounded by other people who have different skill sets and levels than you do, problem solving is an adventure in challenging yourself.

If the hackathon is around a specific tool, there will be experts and mentors standing by to help you out. They love answering questions – from the very basic to the ultra challenging.

About How to Work With Others

Maybe you’re a college kid. Maybe you’ve been learning something on your own for awhile. Regardless, you want to learn how to apply your skill and interests with a group of people. To work on a team! It’s a real-world thing. You can read all you want to about it, but at the end of the day, to learn how to work with others, you have to.. work with others.

I want to win!

Monies!

Hey, that’s cool we all have bills to pay! (Or shiny things to buy…)

As with all things involving money, be cautious of the cash prize. Though most groups offering a cash prize are probably only trying to sweeten the pot on a dry dataset or API, some will use money for more dubious ends. This may mean giving up intellectual property rights or developing products with ethically ambiguous missions.

There is also a “sweet spot” in the amount a company is offering. Too big a prize, and your chances of winning diminish past the value of your time spent.

Your best bet is to read the challenge thoroughly and determine what the hosts are looking for, and how much you would charge for a similar project in a freelance setting. Remember, there’s no guarantee that you will win, so for a cash prize hackathon to be worthwhile based on the cash alone it should be at least double what you would charge a client for the same job.

If the money isn’t the only thing pushing you to sign up, then you can adjust accordingly. At the end of the day, cash prize hackathons are only really worthwhile if you’re also having fun doing it.

Prestige

Yeah we’ve all been there. Fresh out of design (or liberal arts, communication, etc) school, or in the middle of a career transition and finding yourself in need of some people “in the real world” to back you up and say you did a good job. That they would hire you. That they enjoyed working with you in a professional setting.

Well, hackathons are great for that! You get out what you put in. If you go in with your game face on, you stand a much better chance of meeting someone authoritative to expound your abilities to the next company you interview with.

Hackathons are also a great place to show off your chops, and play around with tools and techniques that you can never quite get your bosses to buy in on. Everyone loves that dopamine rush that comes with showing off the latest jquery library no one has heard of, or writing a mind-blowing parallax landing page that wins your team some cray swag!

I want to meet people!

People to Share Passion with

Welp, guess who else is giving up rare off-time in order to use skills they usually get paid to use? The other people attending! And why would that be? Because they’re just as passionate and interested in this topic! I bet if you talk to them, you can commiserate with / inspire each other.

To Work With/For

Hackathons are a great chance to try out working with new people. You might be looking for people to help you out on an existing project, or to help build the next big thing, or to just appreciate/compensate you for your skills. By working together in an high-intensity, high-fun environment, you can see what they’re like in personality and ability.

  • To Build a Business With – Maybe you’ve got a great set of skills and a desire to launch a product that will change the world. If only you could find the missing parts of that perfect team!
  • To Continue this Project – I’ve been working on this project for AGES, and I want people to work on it with me! It’s totally awesome, and the documentation is swell, and it sure would be great if other competent people could help carry it forward.
  • To Work for a Business – Are you just waiting to be discovered? There are a bunch of recruitment hackathons out there that can help you strut your stuff and get hired into a company.

To Make Friends

I really want to make friends with people who share interest and a desire to take action around those interests. People feel really good when they get to be creative, and so their happy brains will mash with your happy brains and maybe you’ll be friends.

It’s also a serendipitious space – not always the usual suspects (depending on teh event), and so you’re likely to meet new people you share intersts with, but aren’t already in your roster of folk.

I Want to Get Things Done!

Being surrounded by a buzz of productivity sure does make one… productive. And whether from intrinsic motivation, or big cash prizes, or the friendly pressure of those around you, you’re likely to surprise yourself with the pace at which you can work in these settings. Bringing that enthusiasm and dedication into the rest of life can really up your ability to examine everyday working methods and have interesting output.

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