I recently attended my first hackathon event hosted by Microsoft at the Microsoft Reactor in London to help Make-A-Wish, a UK foundation, overcome its challenges using Microsoft’s Power platform.
Going into the event I had no idea what to expect, however, I left feeling joyous and inspired. After the 2 days, I’d had so much fun and it was the highlight of my year so far, but I was left pondering “Why had I never been before?”.
“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” — Henry Ford
During the early stages of my career when I started out as a developer, I wasn’t in touch with the wider developer community. Since then I transitioned to a functional consultant where I can apply my passion for technology and personal skills in a different way leading me to think there’s no place for me at a hackathon. How wrong was I!
Every team member brings something different to the table. The key to a successful hack is the story, often an overlooked aspect of most presentations and projects. You should keep referring to “Why are we doing this?”.
What to expect
From the moment I arrived at the event, there was a relaxed atmosphere. After we checked in, like many others, I headed straight for the coffee machine to fuel up for the hack! I and my colleagues sat down and took our place as team purple. We proceeded through the formalities of the event and then Make-A-Wish presented 5 key issues they faced which set out our goals for the hack. They played us videos storytelling some of the wishes that had been granted to children which touched the hearts of many at the event. Suddenly, I felt a rush of importance about what we’re here to do whilst having fun.
Let the hack begin! What an atmosphere, everyone working towards a common goal, trying to innovate, music blasting, which had us singing along at times! Lunches were indulgent with the densest treats which were sending me to an afternoon lull. As day 1 came to an end, we closed with a pub quiz, drink and pizza; a winning combination to say the least. Sadly, we didn’t do so well with the quiz — I blame the over indulgence in the food and drink.
Day 2, more hacking, yay! However, we were certainly feeling the pressure with only 2 hours to pull everything together, presentation included. I also managed to get my hands on a Hololens for the first time — what a cool piece of tech! In-between the hacking, short presentations were done by several experts, providing us with ideas about how we could incorporate other technologies into our solutions such as PowerBI and IoT. 2 hours later, hack complete, then each team had to present in 6 minutes to everyone at the event. For me, presenting is a big fear I’m trying to overcome — what better time to challenge myself. So, I stepped up to explain the demonstration to help sell a story, however, that felt like the quickest 6 minutes of my life. I did it though!
Although you have 2 days, it doesn’t feel very long to produce something complete, but the power platform provides the best opportunity to do exactly that. Through this platform we can create solutions that previously weren’t possible, whilst saving time and increasing the maintainability of solutions.
Hackathons provide a great platform to develop new skills. Walking into this event I’d not dabbled with the power platform too much as it’s yet to really find its place in the big scale project world. This, partly due to the lack of ability to import between environments and share flows as two examples. Our solution was composed of the following technologies:
· Canvas Apps
· Dynamics 365
· Twitter — Create Post
· Video Indexer
· Sentiment Analysis
It was great to see a wide variety of Microsoft Partners and people with different skillsets under one roof contributing and working towards a common goal.
Step outside your comfort zone
The hackathon event was a fantastic thing to be a part of. To think I could’ve easily not attended for multiple reasons, the nervousness of new situations or not thinking I belonged.
Nerves don’t mean you’re afraid, they mean you care
This got me outside of my comfort zone, but if you get the opportunity, please take it. You will learn a lot from events like this, network with new people and it’s a chance to get hands-on with bleeding edge technology.
For even more information please show some appreciation for the winning team. You can find out more about them and their app here.