Why New Developers Should Participate in Hackathons

If you’re right out of college or a coding bootcamp, there are several things to be done in order to get a job. You’ve got to network, find out who’s hiring, and build a portfolio of interesting projects. I figured a great way to accomplish all three would be to participate in a hackathon. At the suggestion of the brilliant Sarena Bahad I entered NASA’s Space Apps Hackathon.

I was terrified. NASA has a certain reputation for being associated with very smart people. As I arrived, I tried to remind myself that I was probably experiencing impostor syndrome. But much like an incoming sneeze, recognition didn’t stop it from happening. Luckily, in the line to enter the space, I noticed a friend of mine who graduated from the same bootcamp as I did and we ended up forming a team of five Dev Bootcamp graduates.

The weekend was a blur of learning about new technologies and services(Alexa! Twilio! Socrata! Bluemix! Watson!), eating free food, writing tons of code, and meeting fascinating people. At about noon on Sunday we’d finally finished up all the features of our project, Yonder, which included a web app, a mobile app, and a text service. We developed a presentation and at 2:00 we settled in to see what all the other teams had made.

The projects were out of this world. (Yes, that was an awful NASA pun. Please keep reading). It’s incredible to see what groups of people can make in twenty-four hours. It was almost time to head home and get some much needed rest. I learned new skills, built an awesome project, made several professional connections, and had a good time with friends. I ticked several of the boxes new developers are striving to tick and I’d done it all in a weekend. It was a success! There was one more benefit that no one on my team expected. Our project was given the award for “Greatest Galactic Impact”. So I improved my resume as well.

So do it. Sign up for a hackathon, show up, and code! You’ll be glad you did.