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 had the pleasure of asking our volunteer coordinator, Timothy Lazarus, what the key challenges are with coordinating volunteers and what precisely the volunteers will get up to at Hack Cambridge this year.
How did you get involved with Hack Cambridge?
“It was Jacob Moxham, the schedule manager, that persuaded me to get involved. I already knew most people from Hackers at Cambridge but I had never been involved with such a large event, so I thought it would be interesting to get involved. Originally I had only intended to be a part of the sponsorship sub-committee, but after learning more and more about this awesome hackathon, I wanted to help out more so I thought volunteer coordination sounded cool.”
What is your role on the committee?
“I’m the volunteer coordinator for Hack Cambridge, so I’m basically in charge of ensuring we have enough volunteers at the event and that they know what to do.”
What are the key parts of your role?
“As volunteer coordinator, my job is to ensure volunteers are there whenever someone needs them on the day of Hack Cambridge itself. Annoyingly, volunteers also apparently require sleep so I can’t just have them helping out for the entire event; instead I need to create a timetable for each volunteer so that they get enough sleep without having too few volunteers on the show floor.
I’m also in charge of running the Host-a-Hacker scheme for Hack Cambridge. This scheme allows students who aren’t from around Hack Cambridge to attend without having to worry about the costs of finding a place to stay as students from Cambridge will offer up their accommodation instead.”
What are the most difficult aspects of your role?
“Managing so many people! Not only do I have to deal with requests from existing and potential volunteers but also try to find new ways of reaching out to people who may want to volunteer and don’t know where to sign up.”
What big decisions have you had to make during your role?
“One problem that Tom and I noticed was that the committee was largely made up of people from 3rd and 4th year, i.e. people who will have graduated by the time Hack Cambridge 2019 comes around. So we came up with the lead volunteer scheme. Lead volunteers are essentially members of the committee that aren’t tied to a particular role but can still have their say at meetings and are involved with any of the discussions on Slack. As such, they’ll have much better knowledge than regular volunteers inasmuch as they understand how the event works. This also acts as a taster of what it’s like running a hackathon and hopefully they’ll join as full-time committee members next year. It’s basically the Hack Cambridge internship program.”
What exactly do volunteers do?
“Volunteers are there to help make sure the event runs as smoothly as possible. They’ll help out attendees by addressing any problems that might arise, by dishing out food at lunchtime, or by answering any questions that people might have. They’ll also be helping out the sponsors too, as sponsors will want to know where to go or need help setting up their talks and workshops. The job comes with a lot of perks too, not only does it look great on the volunteer’s CV, but they’ll be working close to so many major league companies such as Google and Microsoft. Employment opportunities are through the roof! Recruiters are looking for keen people, this isn’t just limited to the attendees.”
I’m a student in Cambridge and that sounds like fun, where do I sign up?
“We’re still looking for more volunteers, and you can sign up here.
Be sure to also check out the volunteering Facebook group for any announcements.”
What do you do when not at your keyboard?
“Well, this year I took up archery, and that’s been pretty cool. I’m also massively into space, and so I am part of the Astronomy society, occasionally going to their observation nights to look at the stars.”
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.