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.
In this edition we sat down with ourselves, Charlie Crisp & Peter Scharrer, to put metaphorical pen to metaphorical paper about our thoughts on organising Hack Cambridge.
How did you get involved with Hack Cambridge?
“A couple of years ago, I switched subjects from studying Natural Sciences to Computer Science. I was feeling hideously under-skilled in comparison to the other people on my course so I decided to throw myself into as much extra-curricular stuff as I could.
Hack Cambridge is a huge event, and whilst I wasn’t sure exactly how I would be able to help, I knew there would be something I could turn my hand to. I sent off an email and voila!” ~ Charlie
“Much like Charlie, I studied NatSci in first year and really enjoyed the CompSci module. While I didn’t end up switching courses, I still wanted to be involved in computer science and the Hackathon seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so.” ~ Peter
What is your role on the committee?
“There are a few different sides to my role. Firstly, I am in charge of making sure that people are aware of the event. Whether they are based in Cambridge, the UK or the US, students need to hear about HC, and it’s my job to convince them that it’s an event worth attending.
Secondly, I’m here to answer any questions that people may have about the event, their application etc. Whether this is on Facebook, Slack, email or in person, I’m here to help!
Finally, I’m here to build hype. Prizes, swag, food, sponsors — there’s a huge amount of really cool stuff and the event, and it’s important to let people know what they can expect at the event.” ~ Charlie
“Charlie and I have the same overall focus but we’ve had some individual differences in the areas we concentrate on. Charlie has done a lot of outreach to different tech societies at various Universities, whereas I’ve focused on outreach to potential female and non-binary applicants as well as trying to promote the event within a lot of non-traditional CompSci subjects. Additionally, early on I took the lead with writing this series of blog posts but, in general, we share the workload quite evenly.” ~ Peter
What are the most difficult aspects of your role?
“Although social media may seem like a very straight-forward thing to operate, this is far from the case. If you want people to be interested in the event, then this involves much more than just paying for Facebook boosts.
For example, if I want to get people to come to the event from Oxford, then I have to find out about what tech societies operate at the university, get in touch with members of the society and convince them to advertise the event for us. This can be a lot of work, and rejection is very common but it can be very rewarding when you get to see all the people who you’ve reached.” ~Charlie
“Personally, I’ve found the most challenging aspect of promoting a hackathon is ensuring that we have effective communication within the committee. While the committee is stacked with talented people this year, trying to organise everyone to like and share posts when they’re published or to coordinate having a graphic ready with various other deadlines can be really challenging. In the words of one of my supervisors from first year, ‘It’s like herding cats’.” ~ Peter
What is your favourite part of the role?
“As a social media manager, my role is effectively the ‘secret-keeper’ of the organisation. I get the final say of what we make public, and when we make it public, and it’s super awesome to know things that other people don’t.
During the run-up to the event, we let participants know about most of these secrets but one thing that we don’t release until the event itself is the winner’s trophy. I can promise that this year, it’s a stunner!” ~ Charlie
“For me, it’s the engagement that I get to experience with lots of new people, all of whom are equally excited for Hack Cambridge. For example, on a daily basis, we get enquiries from interested speakers and attendees who are based all over the world. Hearing just how keen they are to be involved with Hack Cambridge is contagious. Additionally, when we choose to post something really cool, like our festive teaser for the winner’s trophy, it’s really satisfying to see such positive reactions from everyone we reach.” ~Peter
What other projects or societies are you involved in?
“As well as being involved in Hack Cambridge, I’m also heavily involved with its sister society, Hackers at Cambridge. We like to run smaller scale events like workshops, HaC Nights, mini-hackathons and more and it’s been super rewarding seeing the society grow over the last year.
Additionally, I’ve been a Microsoft Student Partner for over a year now, and that’s given me the opportunity to organise a few MS specific events, as well as attending talks, conferences, and being able to travel to Seattle!” ~ Charlie
“In addition to Hack Cambridge, I’ve been involved with Varsity Trip as a college rep for the past two years. The college rep role is similarly social media based, it’s actually what got me interested in taking up a larger social media role at Hack Cambridge.
Last year I was also briefly involved with a payment-processing startup called ‘Cashew’. While I only worked with them for a single term, it was a good experience and I certainly learned a lot.” ~Peter
What do you do when not at your keyboard?
“I’m one of those people who likes to try lots of things, so I have lots of hobbies, but none that I’m particularly good at! Amongst the things I’ve tried, are Cello, Guitar, Climbing, Table Tennis, Football, Drama and helping out the welfare team at my college.” ~ Charlie
“I’m on the JCR committee as ‘Services Officer’, but people only really talk to me when they need to complain about something being broken! I’m also vice-president of the college bar which is a very rewarding, if time-consuming, job. Lastly, I’m a member of the university powerlifting society, it’s a really friendly and welcoming society, despite the fact that some of the people involved are scarily strong.” ~ Peter
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.