Like A Girl

Pushing the conversation on gender equality.

Code Like A Girl

Things I Learned From Attending my First Hackathon

This past weekend I had the pleasure of heading out to Boston University for SheHacks Boston, a hackathon meant to empower women and femme non-binary individuals in technology to achieve. #makingthenewnormal

It was an amazing experience, and I want to share the things I learned from it:

  1. Make yourself join a team.

This is so important. If you’re like me and are going to be attending a hackathon alone and with little to no experience you’re going to try to talk yourself out of joining a team. You’re going to try and convince yourself that attending workshops and just “getting the feel of things” is going to be enough. Listen, getting to the hackathon is better than not going at all, but forcing yourself out of your comfort zone that much further is going to provide you with a greater learning experience. Also, you don’t have to be a coding wizard to be helpful to your team. Having ideas in terms of content, usability, and design are all things that require no coding experience. It’s how I began contributing to my team, until the next day when I took the plunge and started coding, which brings me to the next thing I learned.

2. The satisfaction you’re going to get by completing your project outweighs any discomfort or fatigue you’re going to feel at times.

Ok, here comes the not so wonderful part of hackathons…barely getting any sleep. It doesn’t help when you’re a total princess when it comes to sleeping; I’m that person that needs complete comfort, silence and darkness to fall asleep easily, all of which are non-existent at a hackathon. I got zero sleep the first night, so by the time morning came around my eyes burned, my back hurt and my brain didn’t want to work anymore. At this point, some doubts were crawling into my mind. If this happens to you, push the negative thoughts out! You’ll catch your second wind, and be proud of yourself for doing so. This is not to say don’t sleep, if you can get some sleep please do your body the favor! But if you find it difficult like I did, don’t let that be your downfall. Get up and stretch, grab the largest cup of coffee you can find, and remind yourself that you have what it takes!

3. Don’t be intimidated by teams that are working on advanced and amazing things, admire them!

I can imagine that at any hackathon there will be teams that are super advanced, know each other beforehand, and have their goals set way before the hackathon begins. If you’re a beginner don’t compare yourself to these teams, if you work hard you’ll get there someday! I felt so intimidated hearing people describe what they were working on, throwing terms around that I had never heard of before, but seriously focus on what you’re doing, learn one new thing, and better yourself for the next time.

4. Pack lightly!

Seriously. You only need your laptop, plenty of underwear, one change of clothes, and your sleeping bag. I made the mistake of seriously over-packing, and it just made me uncomfortable having to shuffle around with all my stuff and I didn’t end up needing most of the things I brought along. This may differ if you’re attending a hackathon where showers are available but from what I’ve gathered that isn’t common.

The most important thing to remember is to stay confident regardless of your skill level, everyone has different experiences that make them valuable to a team. If you’re thinking about attending a hackathon, stop thinking about it, find the next one you can attend and put yourself out there! You’ll be proud of yourself for doing so.