How I Learned Coding, Life, and People Skills in One Weekend at TechTogether Boston
A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend TechTogether Boston(TTB), a huge virtual all-female and non-binary hackathon. I have attended hackathons in the past but at TTB specifically, I learned so many skills I didn’t even know I needed before entering the tech field.
Everything, no really, everything is online. The skill is learning how to find it.
At TTB, my team and I developed a project that teaches users about investments through a game. The game works by presenting users with common investment scenarios. For the users to win, they have to choose the right investment path.
We added a feature to the game that takes your investment data from your account and creates a score based on how well you’re doing and the decisions you’re making. I had no idea how to create this feature when I first had the idea and I could not find a Youtube tutorial that told me how to build it. I spent most of the hackathon reading documentation on how to build the feature. It took me all night to figure out how to build the feature, but in the end I got it to work!
Computer science isn’t always all about coding; it’s also about making connections.
As I said before, my team and I created a project aimed to help users make smart investments. Before I created this project, all I knew about investing came from Monopoly (yes, the board game). However, I think my minimal knowledge in the subject of my app actually made it better. I was able to make something useful for a beginner investor, such as myself and also integrate ways I would find convenient or interesting.
TTB taught me that you don’t need to be an expert to code a topic you are interested in.
You just need to understand enough of it and be able to present it in a way that’s easy and convenient to use.
Talk to people, they want you to succeed just as much as you do!
Throughout the weekend, I talked to at least 10 different mentors with all sorts of problems like brainstorming, developing algorithms, and debugging. Many times I was reluctant to ask for help. I thought my problems weren’t complex enough for me to bother them or that they would discourage me from doing what I was trying to do because they would think I didn’t know what I was doing.
Whenever asking for help, my impostor syndrome kicks in and sometimes that makes me try to figure it out on my own. I’m here to tell all of you who may have the same issues that hackathon mentors want to help!
(that’s what they signed up for!) All the mentors I talked to were super invested in what I tried to accomplish and gave me all sorts of help, from understanding investment banking, to understanding APIs. Some even seemed more interested in figuring out my problem than I was! If I had not overcome my fear of asking for help, I would never have successfully finished my project, so I’m here as proof that asking for help really does help!
Hackathons are totally worth the all-nighters.
I’m not exaggerating when I say it seems like I learned more on the weekend of TTB than I did in my first CS class. I built my very first Flask backend, successfully used a very complicated API with an SDK (I didn’t even know what SDK meant!), not to mention I learned a lot about finance and investment (pretty useful skills you need as an adult).
Hackathons are kind of like crash courses. The coolest thing about hackathons is that you get to choose what you want to learn.
Flask, the Plaid API, and investment, were all things I’ve been meaning to learn about but never really had the motivation to learn until TTB, and now I’m able to build on what I learned going forward! What’s a better way to start learning something new than by working with a group of supportive girls and mentors from all around the world! (not to mention the awesome prizes).
Would I do it again?
Yes! The coolest thing about hackathons is that no two hackathons are the same. There are always different challenges, people, mentors, and so much more!