Why I Like and What I Learned from Hackathons?

Andrew Zheng
Jun 15, 2017 · 6 min read

My Hackathons Experience

While competition usually comes from outside, innovation stems from inside. And Hackathon is a great way to encourage innovation.

I am a Front End Software Engineer in ADP. I have been in ADP for almost two years and I have attended all ADPhackathons.

1. AVS Hackathon 2016 in Pasadena

2. UX Hackday 2017

Me and our UX designer Brian

3. ADP {API} Hackathon 2017

ALINE Awards is a reward platform that employee can earn and redeem rewards by posting and participating tasks. It aims to alleviate the resource constraints faced by corporations as well as increase ALINE card adoptions. The cool thing about it it’s available on all platforms (browser, mobile and even Google Home).

The actual demo with Google Home:

And we have won the “Smart Use of API” awards.

4. ADP UX Hackday 2018

And we won the 1st place 🏆.

Hackathon is Hard…

Day 2 when I went back home, I have never slept so well. My wife told me I slept like a baby, even more “babier” than our 7 month baby.

“But Hackathon is also great!”

The following are the reasons why I like Hackathon.

Why do I like Hackathon?

1. Teamwork and Trust

Then on the hackathon day we split the work: I’m responsible for Actions on Google, and my teammates will just figure out setting up AWS Lambda, creating DynamoDB, and building Vue.js single page application from scratch.

I can feel the teamwork and trust there, as I know I can count on them to get their part done and vice versa.

2. Focus

I guess most of the participant, if not all, have felt this “flow” concept in Psychology.

Put it in other words, we are in the “zone”.

It’s an interesting feeling and it promotes productivity and innovation. I have an app tracking my cell phone usage every day, and guess what, comparing to my average usage of >2 hour time, it’s only 5 minutes in one day!!

3. “Move fast and break things”

And that’s exactly how we operate in a hackathon:

- Need a new database field for task category? Done.

- Need a sound effect for completing task? Done.

- Need a design mockup for posting new task feature? Done.

Moving fast makes sure we meet the strict deadline and get things done.

One thing note is, in such a high speed operation, we tend to not write tests. But I can give you my personal promise, we’ll never do this in production :)

4. Learn new things

We learned a lot of AWS Lambda and serverless architecture (BTW the serverless framework is awesome), and I think it will be really useful for future work.

5. “Ship it”

It’s very fulfilling to see that we actually have built something, to see the idea have became reality, to see 0 to 1.

6. “Done is the engine of more.”

And I think this is exactly why people saying “Done is the engine of more.” in the The Cult of Done Manifesto:

Best Justified Visual of the Cult of Done Manifesto by Joshua Rothhaus

What I Learned from Hackathon

1. Do try new tech.

2. Do drink a lot of water

Here is what I use:

64oz water bottle, good for the whole day.

3. Do take some pictures.

Your code doesn’t show feeling, but your picture does.

Here is what I looked like at 2pm, after having some pizza.

4. Do spend time preparing your presentation.

Thanks to Hackathon Organizers

Thanks to ADP for hosting these hackathons and special thanks to all the people for organizing such amazing hackathons. I know while we (the teams) are having fun in the “stage”, a lot of work have been done in the “back”.

What’s next?


Evolving, in a world with software and design