Before beginning the blog and discussing the very question, let us first understand what a hackathon is – Hackathons are competitions where one tries to make something be it software, hardware or something else at all to provide an impactful solution to a given problem statement by the hackathon organizers in most cases. The range of participants may vary depending upon the eligibility criteria set by the organizers. Hackathons may consist of only students, only professionals or a mixed ratio of both. You get to know the topics or tracks through which you provide solutions to their problem statements be it Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Web Apps, Mobile Apps, Augmented Reality and more. In some hackathons, they direct you to provide and develop a solution to their given problem statement and in others, they keep it open and ask you to develop something for a problem in the world for which you feel there must be a solution. And all this is done within a given duration of time. You can see Hackathons range from 4 Hours – 4 Days. You need to provide a working solution or prototype in the allotted time.
So, is a “Hackathon” really necessary to thrive as a coder or developer? Well, the answer lies in your competitive and collaborative levels. Each individual has a different level of each property. If you feel you get the best out of yourself in a competitive and collaborative environment, then you should always look to take part in hackathons. Simply because that’s something that suits you better. So, does that mean the other set of people should not participate? Not, everyone is encouraged to participate. It might be that you have not discovered yourself yet. You should always try to participate in a minimum of 3-4 hackathons to test yourselves. It is not always about winning the competition, but the answer to the question – Were you able to make something which you can be proud of? if yes, you are on the right track. Keep looking for different hackathons in your location and participate. Who knows, you might win one. Below are the 5 Reason Why Hackathons are important in a coder’s life.
1. Brush Your Skills and Knowledge
In schools, you acquired a lot of theories and knowledge, but you do not have many chances to test your ability. Most of the time, the school will just give you assignments and examinations to grade your skills, and the materials used in the assessments are all prepared in a way that is easily used.
Studying at different schools, the scope of the same major is varied by schools or lecturers. Hackathons provide a very good opportunity for participants to network with people from different backgrounds. Sometimes, you may meet students from oversea schools. Through networking or in their presentation, you can know what techniques or software they used so you can understand what you are lacking in terms of knowledge and skillsets, in another way of speaking, you can estimate your competitiveness in the job market.
3. Mentor Support
To help participants improve their idea, usually, there are mentor sessions in hackathons. Organizers will invite their senior employees to be mentors who will talk to participants and comment on their ideas before the final presentation. The main reason for having mentors in the venue is to allow people who are fresh to that industry can know the business concerns and focuses on the problem statements that are provided by the organizers. Being a student, you may not have any ideas about different industries, you can make good use of the mentor session to know better the nature of the industries and the culture of different companies.
Organizers may partner with different tech companies like AWS, Google, and Microsoft to offer pre-hackathon workshops on how to use their cloud services. For non-technical people, you can know how to use some handy tools to do programming, and for technical people, you can know alternatives to complete the tasks.
For hackathons with themes on very new or uncommon technologies like blockchain or drones. There may also be briefing sessions that are provided by domain experts so participants can have a fair understanding of the topics.
5. Awards & Prizes
There are usually three main types of awards in hackathons which are cash awards, prizes & trophies, and job opportunities. Especially for hackathons that are targeted at students, they will provide internships to selected participants (even they are not the winners). Some companies organize hackathons as a candidate selection process, through mentor sessions, different management team heads can talk to participants directly and they may know the strength or the weakness of participants, so they can tell if that participant is a good fit to their teams.
If you find your dream company will hold a hackathon, you should apply for the competition. This may be a shortcut for you to get into that company or at least you have a chance to talk to the managers directly and see if you are fitting in the company’s culture.
Awards can also be intangible things like the friendships you established in hackathons, some people find like-minded persons and launch a startup.
Aren’t there any options for people living in areas where hackathons don’t get organized much often? Won’t they be able to participate?
Well, the “Internet” is your answer. Online Hackathons have become more frequent these days. The rules are the same as that of Onsite Hackathons but the way of working and participating changes. You can work on your prototype and submit without leaving your place. Isn’t that awesome? Yes, it is!
Concluding the blog, Nothing is “mandatory” in life. It all depends on your choice and your style of doing work. It is always encouraged to take part but if you feel otherwise you may not. It’s your choice. But if you do, you can always test yourself with a much wider range of competitors, judge your position and do better. And if you get to win a Hackathon, what’s better than that? – You get lots of cool goodies, prizes, and recognition. So, nothing to lose right?
HackerEarth platform has made a name for it through hackathons and online challenges. They run different hiring challenges as well which could officially land you with job offers from different companies. Feel free to go through all the live hackathons and contests on their website.
Keep track of your local communities like Google Dev Groups, Developer Student Clubs, Student Partner communities and more on their social media platforms. They do keep posting about various events and hackathons which are going to organize. In that way, you can always know what’s going on in your surroundings.