Hackathons aren’t just for engineers…

Growth Hackers are key to success, and here’s why.

Advancing airline retailing at the IATA NDC Hackathon

By Madeleine Quinn

I recently attended the IATA NDC Hackathon in Dublin. The hackathon is designed to be not just for developers, but also designers, innovators, and marketers. Despite this, most attendees were developers. So, I want to share a list of roles that are critical to a successful hackathon, and can be taken on by anyone that wants to get involved.

  1. Idea manager: Ahead of and/or during the event, you will need to identify a problem to solve and how to solve it in a new and creative way. As a non-engineer, there are many ways that you can contribute here. You can give pain points from your own experiences, you can help to come up with ideas and you can develop them. You can also use experiences you have in the industry, such as knowledge of commercial relationships, to input into the feasibility and potential success of the idea.
  2. The leader: The success and/or failure of your team is unlikely to come down to the idea itself. It will be largely dependent on how the team is managed. With limited time to produce your outcome, it is key that someone is there to divide the work, ensure clear communication and avoid duplication. Additionally, when the time comes for tough decisions to be made, it is helpful to have a more ‘neutral’ party.
  3. The moral supporter: A large part of helping your team through the hackathon will be keeping their energy levels and spirits high. There will be times where achieving the end goal feels impossible and it is important that there is someone there to cheer the team on and keep things positive. Order in food, sing songs, tell some jokes. Just keep things light and fun — because that’s what hackathons should be!
  4. The outside of the box thinker: Once the team have begun hacking, they will become heavily immersed in their solution. What I mean by this, is that they will develop a tunnel vision and feel that things must be done in a specific way. This is fine, until time, resource, or capability get in the way of achieving their solution. At this point, it helps to have someone that can stand back and think about how to tackle the problem in a new way. Perhaps you can change the user flow? Perhaps you can narrow the scope? It is likely that there is a way (not related to the code) to solve the problem that the team is facing.
  5. The presenter: Whilst the engineers in your team are busy coding, have a think about your pitch. It is important to keep your message simple, though executing your pitch in a new and creative way will help you to stand out from the crowd. You will also need to consider the strengths and weaknesses of your team — who is comfortable speaking, who will handle the demo? All of this takes time, and is extremely important to get right.
The Skyscanner team at IATA’s NDC Hackathon

While I’m sure this is not an exhaustive list, it shows just how much work it takes to do well in a hackathon, outside of the coding and the designing. The outcome is a result of much, much more.

So why not sign up to the next NDC hackathon, or join one locally to get a taste for it? You might surprise yourself with just how much value you can add.

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About the Author

Hi, I’m Madeleine, and I work within the Partners Growth Squad at Skyscanner, which helps to communicate our latest products, services and news to our commercial partners through the full range of growth channels: PR, social media, email marketing, etc. I am lucky to have been able to tap into my personal passions of travel and technology at Skyscanner, and work with innovators and entrepreneurs that challenge conventions, develop solutions and improve Skyscanner for our users and our partners every day.

Madeleine Quinn, Skyscanner