Hackathons are hectic. They’re frenzied, sleep-depriving, and above all, fun. It’s easy to forget, when consumed by the mayhem of the event, just how much it takes to make a hackathon run smoothly. This series will delve into the inner workings of Hack Cambridge, a 24-hour hackathon in which students from all over the world will collaborate to innovate, break, and create.
Having taken on one of the most scrutinised roles at an event centred around coding, Henry Mercer, gave us his thoughts on his experience as Hack Cambridge’s development leader.
How did you get involved with Hack Cambridge?
“I wanted to get involved with Hack Cambridge after seeing what a great event the committee put on last year. Near the end of Easter, the committee held a meeting where people could find out more about the roles available, and during that meeting, I took on the Development Lead role.”
What is your role on the committee?
“I oversee the development of our website and a bunch of systems we use to help us run the hackathon, such as our application review and invitation systems. This mainly involves finding out what’s most important to do, scoping tasks, and ensuring we’re making progress towards our goals. I’ve also been helping out with the applications process: managing our invitation process, responding to queries from hackers, and generating data required by the rest of the committee.
One of the most important parts of the role is working on our development process. Having tools such as code review, continuous integration and deployment, and staging environments are critical to our ability to make changes efficiently and gives us confidence in the correctness of our code.”
What are the most difficult aspects of your role?
“Something that’s always difficult when you’re jumping into a large and established codebase is figuring out how everything works, so you know how to make a change. This has sometimes been a challenging aspect for me, such as when trying to find the source of a bug that’s appeared because a browser API or the behaviour of a package has changed. Figuring out how to make it easier for people to get familiar with the codebase is really important so that the next committee can quickly onboard.”
What is your favourite part of the role?
“Being Development Lead is exciting as our projects play a significant role in the applications and invitations stages of the hackathon. My favourite part of the role is working with other committee members and seeing how our work, along with that of the other committee members, contributes to the hackathon — it’s very exciting to see what we can achieve as a team.”
What other projects or societies are you involved in?
“As well as being involved with Hack Cambridge, I also contribute to some open source projects. I’d definitely recommend this, as it’s a chance to explore how the software you use works and make helpful contributions to the open source community. A contribution that I particularly enjoyed making is a bugfix for an issue that I found in the TypeScript compiler.”
What do you do when not at your keyboard?
“Recently, I’ve been travelling across the UK and Germany. However, I also enjoy hiking and reading.”
We’ll be grilling even more of the Hack Cambridge committee over the next month in the run-up to the event. Make sure to keep up to date with all other Hack Cambridge news over on our website.