You’ve probably heard the term “hackathon” before and if you’ve ever been involved in the tech industry, you may have had a chance to attend or even participate in one. Many people join hackathons when they’re still students and even though they have no idea what these events are in the beginning, they gain practical knowledge and crucial industry skills after participating in a few. Now, this may not have been your experience and you’re likely wondering: What does a hackathon entail? And why is it important?
Hackathons have become a modern tool for generating new ideas, solving real-life problems, and driving innovation in companies today; it’s easy to understand why they seem to be all the rage for tech enthusiasts, especially software developers. Here’s what you need to know about what a hackathon is, what to expect from a hackathon, and why every software developer should participate in hackathons.
What is a Hackathon?
According to Major League Hacking, a hackathon is an “invention marathon” and any person who is passionate about technology attends a hackathon to not only acquire industry knowledge but also build and share their creations and ideas in a relaxed and welcoming environment.
Simply put, a hackathon is a competition-style event, usually organized and hosted by a tech organization, where programmers, designers, entrepreneurs, and other interested people get together to develop an innovative solution or collaborate on a project in one to three days.
It’s important to note that hackathons aren’t just about coding competition as they also host guest speakers and workshops that allow participants to network and connect with seasoned mentors.
How Software Developers Can Benefit from Hackathons?
Innovation and New Ideas
Hackathons are so successful because they have become breeding grounds for new ideas and innovation. The time limit in these coding events forces participants to collaborate with team members and distill their ideas down to actionable solutions. And this is why leading tech and software development companies send their teams to participate in these events.
Participating in a hackathon will stimulate your creative thinking and foster risk-taking and problem-solving in a relaxing atmosphere. The fact that such an event attracts programmers of all levels and seasoned professionals guarantees a multitude of ideas and perspectives on finding innovative solutions to persistent problems.
A Fantastic Opportunity to Learn New Skills and Solve Real-life Problems
Hackathons present software developers with an opportunity to work on real-life problems. And there’s no better time or environment to test a new skill or framework than when solving pertinent problems at a hackathon. If you’re a beginner software developer, you’ll learn how to build a program from scratch, work with precision to buff out any problems, and enhance your presentation skills. You might learn how to use Go proxy, how to make your software more secure, or how to manage and document your packages. In general, a hackathon teaches you how to collaborate with others on projects and equips you with the industry experience needed to tackle coding challenges.
Networking and Connecting with Key Industry Players
Another benefit of participating in hackathons is that you get to meet with developers, entrepreneurs, designers, and other professionals from the industry. Imagine attending a hackathon and, as you work together on a project, you meet another person with whom you share the same vision or goals. Suddenly, you find a developer co-founder to finally launch that start-up you’ve been planning to have. Even if that’s not your goal, you can make a ton of friends and contacts at these events.
Recruitment and Raising a Developer’s Profile
It’s not uncommon for companies to run hackathons to gain exposure, garner interest from the developer community, and attract top talent. Hackathons can, therefore, help you market yourself as a developer to potential employers since many companies use these events for their recruiting. Even if you don’t win the hackathon, just being part of one of the teams that get noticed for their work can raise your profile and possibly open doors for you.
Cash Prizes and Free Stuff
Who doesn’t like free stuff or cool prizes? Hackathons often feature cash prizes, awards, trophies, and, in some cases, job opportunities. At the end of the event, the winning teams are given these prizes. Participants are also given memorabilia such as computer stickers, coffee mugs, t-shirts, etc.
How Can You Find a Hackathon Near You?
It’s important to note that hackathons happen all the time across the world. So, if you’re looking for one near you, consider following online platforms and websites that post upcoming hackathons. Some popular websites include Devpost, Major League Hacking, Hackathon.io, Hacker League, and Hackalist.
Once you find a hackathon you can participate in, take the time to research the theme or subject area beforehand so you know exactly what you’re getting into. Remember you’ll be collaborating with other participants and working on a team to develop new solutions, so you’ll need to be committed to the end.
If you can’t find hackathons in your area, especially during this COVID-19 period, take advantage of virtual hackathons that allow developers to participate from anywhere around the world. Some of the most interesting virtual hackathons that happened in 2020 during the COVID-19 outbreak include The Global Hack, EU vs Virus Hackathon, 2020 Call for Code, Hack COVID-19, and the MIT COVID-19 Challenge.
Whether you are a beginner software developer or a seasoned developer, participating in hackathons will provide you with valuable field experience, enhance your team collaboration skills, and help you work more efficiently.