This article is part of the How to win a Hackathon series.
Let’s take a look at the reasons for participating by looking at it from the opposite direction.
You are so good already, you couldn’t handle being better.
Competing in a hackathon, win or lose, is guaranteed to improve your skills. Whether you are a designer or a developer, the challenges from trying to do so much in such little time are often very different from what we experience in our daily work. The parameters are different. The goals are different.
It’s also a great opportunity to try some of those strategies or techniques that you’ve been meaning to, but constraints at your current work project are such that you don’t have the opportunity to use and try them.
It’s fine to have as your goal to win the hackathon. I did. But, even if you don’t think you have much chance to win, maybe because you haven’t had much experience, haven’t written much code or designed many sites yet, you should still compete. Compete for the benefits that come with trying. Compete to push yourself. Compete because trying and failing teaches us more about ourselves than winning does. In the end, if you try, you win, even when it’s not your name on the trophy.
You’d rather no one knows your capabilities.
Competing and participating in a hackathon will provide you with another piece to your portfolio. Many designers and developers work for companies where they can’t show their work because it’s protected by NDA or other legal restrictions, or simply because the work being done is internal. A hackathon entry can be a fantastic addition to your portfolio because it was all you, and is free for you to share with whomever you choose, including the source code.
Employers like to see that prospective employees have a passion for what they do. They also like to see that you’re willing to continuing the learning process outside the job, even when you aren’t getting paid.
I’ve had many of my client inquiries specifically mention the two Rumble projects when contacting me. I would even say, my two entries have brought more client work than other client projects I’ve been paid to do that are listed on my portfolio.
Whether you are a contractor, freelancer, agency, or full time employee, participating in a hackathon offers you the opportunity to show your community and industry that you deserver a close look during the hiring process.
You love your job so much, you don’t want to waste time doing anything else.
Even when we have a job we love, it can become a grind. We have deadlines, we have to get paid, we have to please the client or boss. We always have concessions to make, we always have people to please, even in a hackathon, but in our daily jobs those often become the driving factors. As well, any time when you do the same thing over and over again, with the same people, it can become mundane. We get into ruts and lose our creativity and ability to see outside the box. Our passion wanes.
A hackathon offers the chance to briefly put all that aside and focus on something new and fresh. The experience can help energize our daily projects as well. It’s a distraction from the normal, and a healthy one.
You have no need for a creative outlet.
Most of us have had ideas when working for a full time job or for a client that just weren’t listened to. We thought we had a great idea, but it was brushed aside, maybe to keep focus on the current project or maybe because of close-mindedness. With a hackathon, it’s your opportunity to let the flood gates open. Be creative. Think outside the box. The only constraints is the time limit and your imagination. Use your creativity, or you might just lose it.
You only live once, why not let it slide by?
Competing in a hackathon can be a great confidence builder. It allows you to step outside your comfort zone and push yourself to new limits. The challenge alone will improve you and when it’s over, you’ll always know that you and your team did it. You risked failure. You stepped up to the plate and took a swing. You’ll never regret that. Not nearly as much as staying silent on the sideline always wondering, what if?
You have no friends you’d like to spend 48 hours with.
A hackathon is an opportunity to work with your friends and new peers, that perhaps you’ve always wanted to be able to work with. Who doesn’t want to spend 48 hours in a small room with awesome people working toward the same goal! It’s an experience for sure, and if you approach it with the right attitude, you can learn a lot from the other members of your team, and they from you.
You are afraid it will be so successful you’ll be stuck reaping the rewards long after the hackathon is over.
Let’s face it. Sometimes we are afraid of success more than failure. We aren’t sure we’ll know how to handle it, or, that when it comes it won’t look quite the way we’d hoped. But ultimately, the real success is the fact that you attempted it. It’s going through the experience and coming out the other side that matters most.
A hackathon can also be a great opportunity to finally launch that startup you’ve wanted to get going. The competition itself gives you a deadline to work toward and can be a great motivator to finally start working on your dream. Or, it might simply be an opportunity to create that fun app you’ve been talking about over lunch for years.
Maybe nothing but the experience comes from it, or maybe you get covered on Mashable or TechCrunch, turn it into a real business, or even get purchased by Google. You never know what the opportunities can be until you give it a shot.
You simply don’t like having fun
More than any other reason, participating in a hackathon is a ton of fun. I’ve had such a great time with the two Rumbles. They are some great memories I’ll cherish forever. It’s an unusual opportunity and one you won’t regret. Just be sure, through all the planning, and maybe even the stress of getting the server set up, fixing that bug that’s driving you crazy on two hours of sleep, and all the other headaches that might come…remember more than all of that, to have fun. Enjoy your time and you’ll reap the benefits of it for a long time after.
The Rails Rumble is a great hackathon to participate in if you are a designer or a Rails developer. Registration starts October 1st. If you decide to compete, let me know. I’ll be helping judge this year and will make sure I take a look at your application.
Interested in hearing more about competing in a hackathon? I’m speaking tonight at the Tampa Ruby Brigade on How to Win a Hackathon.