Howdy, hackers! My name is Caleb, and I’m a software engineer and graduate student in the Engineering Data Science program at the University of Houston and regular Major League Hacking (MLH) hackathon attendee!
Hackathons are an excellent way to learn new skills, meet new people, and make a positive impact. They are also a great way to utilize your technical abilities to impact the world positively. The biggest appeal of the hackathon is that you get to build a portfolio while networking and having the opportunity to win prizes and distinctions.
As someone who attended a hackathon every weekend over six months in 2022, including Christmas and New Year, I hope my enhanced perspectives inspire you to participate in one!
Preparing for a Hackathon
It can be nerve-wracking to attend your first hackathon, so don’t be afraid to start small by participating in small, local events first! Connecting with other participants in advance can also help lessen the anxiety. Remember to embrace the learning experience over winning and be open to new opportunities and technologies: check for sponsor tracks, as competitors frequently overlook them.
Below are some tips that helped me when participating in hackathons:
- Do your research! Find a hackathon that is a good fit for your skills and your interests but don’t be afraid to jump in the deep end and pick one.
- Start preparing early. It always helps to find a team, learn new skills, and brainstorm project ideas.
- Get ready to work hard. Hackathons are intense, but they also have the potential to change your life as they did mine.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Tons of experienced people will help you out. Even if you don’t compete, you can still attend free workshops.
- Have fun and enjoy the experience.
Of all my experiences, my favorite project was Cure-ify which I made at Hack Harvard. Cure-ify is data-driven personalized food and recipe recommendation progressive web app enhanced with soothing herbs and spices food items and recipes. Although I didn’t win any awards, likely because the project was unfinished, I am proud of my preparation, having read two books on the plane on the effects of spices on the body and flavor profile. This preparation level is abnormal as you only need a computer and a good attitude.
Learning Life-Long Skills Through Hands-On Experience
Attending a hackathon each week helped me grow my unique skills, become an “expert” in particular programming languages, and develop a knack for coming up with innovative solutions to problems. I even won a few awards for my work!
Participating in hackathons has changed my life in so many ways, but some of the most significant changes I have noticed are:
- I’ve learned new skills and developed my technical expertise.
- I’ve become more creative and innovative.
- I’ve learned to work under pressure and collaborate with others effectively.
- I’ve found a way to channel my skills to make a positive impact on others.
At first, I went to hackathons to learn and meet new people. I didn’t expect to win any awards or make a significant impact, but the most important thing I gained from participating in hackathons was a sense of purpose. I realized that I could use my skills to make a positive impact on the world, and I started using my technical skills to give back to others and work on projects aimed at helping underserved communities and have even been fortunate enough to assist a local children’s hospital by donating all my unused hackathon prizes.
Hackathons Opening New Career Opportunities
To add hackathon wins and projects to your resume, create a separate section for hackathons or projects to highlight your valuable experiences. You can title this section “Hackathons” or “Projects.” (YOU DO NOT NEED TO WIN TO ADD IT TO YOUR RESUME, BUT IT HELPS)
XYZ Hackathon (Month Year)
- Won 1st place for “Project Name” – a solution to address “specific problem.” Utilized technologies like ABC and DEF to build the project.
- Played a crucial role as the lead developer, contributing to the successful implementation of the project.
- Recognized for exceptional problem-solving skills and innovative approach, resulting in significant user engagement and positive feedback.
ABC Hackathon (Month Year)
- Secured 2nd place for “Project Name” – an innovative solution tackling “specific problem.” Employed technologies such as GHI and JKL in the project.
- Collaborated with a diverse team, demonstrating effective teamwork and communication skills during the hackathon.
- Achieved high user adoption, with the project generating substantial revenue and addressing multiple user challenges.
Project Name: “Project A”
- Developed an application addressing “specific problem” using technologies like MNO and PQR, leading to a 20% increase in user productivity.
- Served as the team leader, guiding the development process and ensuring the project’s timely completion.
- Received recognition for exceptional coding abilities and creative problem-solving, contributing to the project’s success and positive user feedback.
Project Name: “Project B”
- Created an innovative platform that resolved “specific problem,” leveraging technologies such as STU and VWX, resulting in a 15% reduction in operational costs.
- Collaborated closely with a cross-functional team, fostering a cooperative and productive environment.
- Acknowledged for outstanding project management skills, leading to the successful implementation of the solution.
Hackathons provide an excellent environment for networking with industry professionals, collaborating with team members, and learning directly from mentors through workshops. I received multiple job offers for unlisted positions now from recruiters at hackathons, where I was able to showcase my skills and projects. It was exciting to have these exclusive job opportunities and to connect with industry professionals in a fast-paced hackathon environment. I landed an incredible job thanks to my participation in hackathons, and I would encourage anyone to try it!
Interested in giving hackathons a try?
To find an upcoming hackathon near you, check out our list of upcoming events.