Entrepreneur

7 Reasons Why Joining A Hackathon Is The Plugin Your Career Needs

Smart individuals convening together for a weekend to come up with ground-breaking solutions for daily problems we face.

That’s just a general gist of what goes on at a hackathon, in case you’ve ever wondered.

Having attended one as a spectator, I can say the hectic pace and intense discussions that happens during these events are a unique experience in their own right.

Imagine a bunch of people spending 2 to 3 days discussing important topics with experts, and feeling like you’re actually doing something that can have impact beyond when the hackathon itself ends. Walking home with cool prizes is a nice bonus too.

But there are some people who might hold back from ever joining a hackathon, and some of their concerns may include:

  • What if my team’s too small?
  • What if the project I do doesn’t fit the theme completely?
  • Can I join if I’m more of a developer instead of an entrepreneur, or the other way around?

To that, we can only say: You’ll only really know if you apply.

If you’re still having doubts, here are 7 reasons to join a hackathon that could help boost your career for the long term, as compiled from the great knowledge resource of the internet.

1) You’re mainly involved in the building process from scratch.

So a hackathon’s all about innovation, meaning it’s not enough to just come up with an idea that’s disruptive.

There’s a lot that goes behind it, like getting validation, compiling data to really contextualise decisions, how scalable is it, what’re the technical requirements, the ease of user interface and so on.

It’s thrilling in a sense to be able to see your project come to life, from its ideation stage to an actual prototype. The outcome’s usually much sweeter too.

2) Your eyes are on the prize, and we’re not talking the monetary one.

Hackathons in their essence are all about collective thinking, ideation and quick prototyping.

It’s basically a rushed proposal of a solution to an existing problem, so your head’s gotta really be in the game.

The awards and prizes are nice for recognition but they’re not a must. Being too focused on competitiveness could cost you at the expense of the experience and the learning.

A hackathon trains you to be present, with a clear mind and ready to create—and that’s a pretty good mindset to try and stay in no matter where you’re working.

“Some of our most-loved products started at hackathons, got props at prototype forum, and made it to your computers and phones, including Video, the Like button, Chat, Hip Hop for PHP, and even Timeline,” said Facebook’s then Engineering Director, Pedram Kiyani in a post entitled “Stay focused and keep hacking”.

3) You get to explore the different kind of talents under one project.

Hackathons are not really a one-man show kind of thing.

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They combine a range of different skill sets so you’ll meet people like data analysts, strategists, UX experts, designers, developers, marketers and so on.

It’s a good way to cultivate a strong sense of team spirit and to capitalise on everyone’s strengths to make the theme work. Similarly, it’s about recognising a group’s flaws and avoiding them on the idea prototyping.

“The moment they were given the task, they brainstormed and pitched ideas to come up with innovative solutions. Working with strangers from different backgrounds and putting together ideas can result in fantastic ideas,” said Cheang Lin Yew, the head of The One Academy School of Multimedia after the success of their TecHack event.

4) You can take a break from the usual routine.

Sometimes you just need a different way to come up with creative ideas.

Inspiration comes from all places. In a hackathon, it comes from a new context which is taking a stance and viewpoint that presents no boundaries to what’s possible.

Breaking a routine can also allow you to discover aspects of your skill set that particularly excite you so you can bring them to your daily work.

“The best hackathon projects come about when someone in the company identifies a problem, and recruits others to work on it with them.”

“It’s a mental break from the daily grind, a chance to meet fellow employees, and an opportunity to drop everything and fix whatever needs fixing. Regardless of your job title, or your seniority level, you can join a project or create one,” said Deb Liu, the Vice President of platform and marketplace for Facebook.

5) You can share the knowledge you have while gaining some.

Learning and sharing is always part and parcel of life.

Sometimes, we can be a little full of ourselves that we forget to share with and learn from others. Hackathons are not the type of events for that.

Each interaction you make is a humbling experience. You start to realise the strengths and weaknesses you have while also noticing others doing the same. The entire event boils down to the basis of great teamwork, good communication and an all-around positive vibe.

6) You can be part of a vibrant community.

If you’ve felt like you’re just another employee at work but you have ambitions to disrupt things around, hackathons would be where you’d find like-minded people.

Those who usually participate in these events are those who share the same point of view; people with high ambition and are passionate about innovative technology.

The community’s always a welcoming one, with hackathons known to allow those of any age and gender to be a part of it. There’s no such thing as “not fitting in” during these events.

The CEO of Shutterstock, Jon Oringer, spoke back in 2013 about how hackathons are great and powerful, so much so that they have internal hackathons within the entity, which he describes as “pretty fun”.

“It’s pretty amazing what people can get done in 24 hours. Sometimes we talk about a new product feature and it can take three months to build. Then someone will prototype it overnight,” Jon said to NY Times.

7) In the end, some of the sponsors could also become clients.

There’s a reason why companies come on board as sponsors for hackathons.

Companies are always on the hunt for innovative solutions to complete certain areas of their business. The rise of the startup concept has also intrigued them enough to see more.

Hackathons are actually one of the best avenues for these corporates to look at young talent and find the right fit to their business.

As for you, what other way is better to scale up as a startup than by acquiring a large corporation as a client? It’ll be a pretty cool addition to put in your portfolio.

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Hackathons are intense but unique experiences. You don’t come across the same vibe in your everyday working life.

What you can learn from these type of events helps keep your creative juices flowing, pushes you to the idea of collaborations and it’s a good way to start out the success of your future projects.

If you’re keen on trying one, the first ever Selangor Smart City and Future Commerce Hackathon will be held from 8 to 9 September with themes surrounding “Smarter, Safer, Sustainable, Frictionless”. A total pool of RM13,000 in prize money will be up for grabs.

It is said to be one of the biggest hackathons ever organised in Malaysia with enough space for up to 300 participants.

You can find out more about this hackathon (and register yourself) here.

If you’re just interested to be a spectator, tickets for the convention are still up for purchase priced at USD250 (RM1,000) for 3 days but SITEC is currently offering a 50% discount where the tickets are now RM500 for ALL 3 days.

Specially for Vulcan Post readers, SITEC is giving out 3 tickets that will give you entry for the entire convention. All you have to do is just share this article with the hashtag #SITECxVP and make sure your settings are on public. We’ll pick 3 winners and inform them via their Facebook account. Contest will end 7th September.

For more information, you can head over to their official website here.

This article was written in collaboration with SITEC.

Feature Image Credit: govinsider.asia

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