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Mentoring 101: Lessons from My First Hackathon

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to be a mentor for Technica 2017, the University of Maryland’s all-women hackathon. It was my very first time joining a Hackathon, never the less mentoring for one. In such a short span of time, I’ve learned such valuable lessons that I’d like to share some with you.

Sign in, grab a name tag, put on that Technica shirt, and let’s go!

Be confident in yourself and put in that extra effort — the appreciation is extremely rewarding!

During the Hackathon, one of the teams was having difficulties using React.js, a framework in which I have never had any prior experiences before. My first reaction was to find someone with the right knowledge to help them. After failing to do so, I decided to give it a try and take action. With a bit of fiddling, we were able to fix the issue. It turns out they were having trouble debugging their code on the web browser and renaming variables — something that has nothing to do with the actual framework itself.

Basic programming knowledge, translating API documentations, using excel formulas to generate data, debugging using a browser, googling the right words to find the perfect solutions on Stack Overflow — everything is a skill that might be essential to someone’s project!

Show interest in each team’s project. Listen to their ideas and share their enthusiasm!

I spent a lot of time going around to different teams, learning about their projects, and offering constructive feedback. While I was initially afraid the participants would find me annoying, they turn out to be very eager to share what they’re working on. Never underestimate the power of being a good listener. Despite the fact that I’m merely a few years older, I really do believe in the potential of these girls to join us in the future generation of Women in Tech.

Even though I personally don’t like coding, these girls at the Hackathon may find coding to be their passion. I want to do whatever I can to make sure they leave this room feeling confident and empowered to achieve their dreams.

It’s not all about the hacking, don’t forget to help out in other aspects when you can!

Roughly past midnight, I saw a girl sitting by herself looking extremely tired. I decided to approach her to see if she needed anything — to which I found out that she had traveled since early morning to join this event from out-of-state. She wanted to get one of the air mattresses being handed out to participants but didn’t knew who to ask. After figuring out how the system works, I found out we needed more hands with pumping the mattresses and ended up helping other volunteers prepare them.

Don’t be afraid to step outside the responsibilities of your assigned role. Remember- the collective goal is to provide the best experience possible for everyone at the event!

Enjoying my second cup of coffee at around 12 am. Teams are still going strong!

Needless to say, my first hackathon has been a wonderful experience. I will definitely try to get involve in more of these events whenever I can. Thank you to all the organizers, participants, volunteers, fellow mentors, and sponsors for being a part of this event to empower women from across the world!

I will definitely try to come back again next year!

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