Rise to the Challenge: Why Hackathons Matter for Developers
October 11, 2023
It's often said that if you've never borrowed code from Stack Overflow or participated in a hackathon, you can't call yourself a developer. While the matter of copy-pasting is a subjective one, let's smoothly transition to discussing the art of thriving in hackathon environments.
These events have become super popular, attracting developers from all corners of the industry. But what's the big deal? What makes hackathons so exciting for developers? In this article, I'll take (or rather our dev team) a closer look at hackathons, the thrills they offer, and why you, as a developer, should get in on the action.
The Thrill of the Challenge
Hackathons are like super-focused coding workshops. They give developers a special chance to learn by doing and get better at what they do. It's not only about the excitement; it's about diving into new tech stuff and unexpected challenges.
Patryk, one of our front-end developers, explains why he got into hackathons:
I loved the idea of non-stop coding, where all that matters is how quickly you can turn your ideas into reality with your team. Your brain works super fast, and your creativity is put to the test. Plus, you know there are many other developers in the same boat, all trying to win.
It's this mix of pressure and excitement that makes hackathons so unique.
Learning and Skill Development
Hackathons aren't your usual coding routine; they're more like thrilling tech roller coasters that get your heart racing. Imagine being on a roller coaster, but instead of simply sitting back and enjoying the ride, you're in control, navigating through loops and twists. That's what a hackathon feels like for developers. It's a unique opportunity to put your coding skills to the test, learn on the fly, and adapt swiftly to ever-changing challenges.
Patryk vividly recalls a hackathon that took place right after he completed a coding boot camp. The challenge was intriguing: devise a solution to help new employees integrate seamlessly into their company. They came up with an ingenious idea, applying a gamification approach reminiscent of popular RPG games. It involved skill trees with various paths to explore, each leading to the acquisition of new "skills."
However, there was a catch. The library they relied on for their project was in a super early, almost experimental, stage. This meant they had to think outside the box and implement creative, sometimes "hacky" solutions to make it work (like ensuring that certain actions couldn't be repeated during a demo). Despite the odds, they emerged victorious, and the experience was nothing short of exhilarating. The rush of emotions and adrenaline coursing through their veins during those intense 24 hours was truly inimitable.
Hackathons aren't just about learning; they're about tackling unexpected challenges, finding inventive solutions, and pushing your boundaries. They provide an ideal platform for personal and professional growth, whether you're a seasoned coding pro or just embarking on your coding journey.
Networking and Collaboration
While coding with time limits is exciting, the teamwork part of hackathons is super important too. Łukasz (Blockchain Developer) explains how hackathons challenge teamwork and creativity:
When you're working with a ticking clock, it tests every part of your creative process, from the beginning to the end. The steps seem simple - planning, designing, coding, and polishing. But because of the strict time limit, you quickly see where things could go wrong. It's crucial to understand how your team thinks and what they're good at. The big idea is to have a clear plan for what you want to make, not just as an individual, but as a team. Every bit of work that's duplicated or conflicts with each other costs a lot of precious time in this fast-paced environment. This process is a lot like how software is usually developed, but here, any mistake can cause big delays. There are no extensions to the deadline; the plan has to be perfect, and working well under pressure can make you a top-notch competitor.
In hackathons, every team member's contribution is vital, and efficient teamwork often makes the difference between success and falling short of the goal. As developers collaborate and tackle challenges together, they not only create innovative solutions but also strengthen their ability to work harmoniously with diverse teams—a skill that extends far beyond hackathon walls and is highly valued in the tech industry. It's this combination of individual creativity and collective effort that sets hackathons apart as unique learning experiences.
Hackathons push developers to think outside the box and come up with unique solutions. Paweł (Formal Verification Engineer) explains how problem-solving works in hackathons:
In a hackathon, there's no time for fancy solutions. The main thing is to make the application work right away! It's like trying to get from Barcelona to New York, but instead of taking the direct route, you have to visit Tokyo and Sydney along the way. It might not be the usual path, but it gets you there. Problem-solving is fun, and when you do it as a team while competing with other developers, it's even more exciting.
In hackathons, creativity shines as developers search for innovative ways to overcome challenges. The pressure of time encourages thinking on your feet and finding practical solutions, even if they're not the most elegant. This practical approach fosters a mindset of resourcefulness and adaptability, qualities that prove invaluable in the fast-paced tech industry. Furthermore, the collaborative nature of hackathons promotes the exchange of ideas and the blending of diverse perspectives, leading to the discovery of groundbreaking solutions that may not have emerged in a solo coding environment.
What should be considered a foundation before starting a hackathon? Michał (Engineering Manager) offers a practical tip for hackathon rookies:
Ensure your coding environment is set up in advance with an IPython Notebook and essential libraries ready to roll. You'll thank me later.
This preparation can be a lifesaver when the pressure is on.
I guess that this could be a good starting point for your career! Being completely serious - in the real world, hackathon experience holds substantial value in the tech industry.
It's not solely about showcasing your coding skills but also demonstrating your capacity to think creatively under tight deadlines and collaborate effectively within a team. Employers highly regard these attributes, making hackathon participation an impressive addition to your resume.
Hackathons offer more than just a chance to win; they are a transformative journey of personal and professional growth. These challenges mirror the complexities of the tech world, and conquering them equips you with the skills and confidence to excel in your career. Whether you're aiming for the top spot or simply looking to broaden your horizons, hackathons provide an exceptional arena for growth and exploration.
ULAM LABS at the European Blockchain Convention
Now that you've experienced the thrill, learning, and collaboration that hackathons offer, it's time to take it to the next level. With all the benefits in mind, we're excited to announce that we're heading to the hackathon in Barcelona.
Join us (and most importantly keep your fingers crossed!) at the European Blockchain Convention Hack' A Thon, where we'll dive into exciting challenges, push our boundaries (of course we all do such things on a daily basis), and craft innovative solutions. It's an opportunity to code, collaborate, and compete alongside a team of experts in the field. How not to be excited?
Pssst Devo, do you want to participate?
Whether you're a seasoned pro or just starting your coding journey, hackathons offer an exhilarating experience like no other. The thrill of the challenge, the invaluable learning opportunities, and the chance to collaborate with the best in the field make hackathons a must-try adventure for every developer. If you're looking to explore exciting career opportunities as a developer and be part of our hackathon adventures, take a closer look at career opportunities in our team!