Using Hackathons to Your Advantage!

May 21st, 2012 | Articles, Job Search | No Comments »


Imagine tables of people engrossed in their laptop screens, alternating between lines of breakneck coding and fuel sources – be it pizza, takeout Chinese, or cylinder after cylinder of liquid lightning – as they develop and design towards an ever-approaching deadline. Sound like a programming thrill rush? If so, you have the exciting world of Hackathons.

If you have never been to a Hackathon, you are missing out on a great opportunity. Programmers, developers, & software engineers get to leave the confines of their offices and homes to compete, code, and generally just have a good time with fellow code junkies. For anyone in the market for a new job, there are countless reasons to get involved!

Increase Your Coding Speed

Hackathons offer structured, tight deadlines where teams compete to meet challenges with their creative innovations. To succeed, participants learn to concisely brainstorm, divide up tasks, and streamline their coding processes. All time wasting goes out the window. Every minute has to count for something – even if that minute is taking care to catch quick shut eye or eat – so losing your focus on the edge of victory can be killer. Nothing teaches you to make split-second decisions like a 24 hour deadline hanging, like a sword of Damocles, over your head.

Increase Your Network

As a dedicated programmer, chances are you’ve frequented a forum or chat room to gather the latest information and impart your own wisdom. You may have chatted with some users or even shared a meme or two, but chances are, you wouldn’t be able to identify lizi3lite or JavaMonster237 if they smacked you in the face. Hackathons offer a social, physical space where you can meet up with programmers, share some work, and put a face with that name. Plus, for those people you haven’t met, there are opportunities here to network, start up outside projects, and learn about employment opportunities firsthand. Plus, the host organization often uses the Hackathon as a way to scout out new talent!

Add to Your Resume

When writing your resume, Hackathon experience can pay off in your favor. If you are currently employed, it shows you are passionate about what you do and are continually looking for new and different challenges to put up against your knowledge base. For those who are unemployed, Hackathons are critical ways to keep your skills fresh and even add to your portfolio. It’s a good way to boost the appearance of your work history during any annoying employment gaps.

Do Something Awesome

Hackathons offer a variety of challenges dependent upon the host’s agenda. Some Hackathons are free form with no concrete objective outside of a finished product while others are geared toward improving a language, developing mobile games, or even benefiting regions where natural disaster programs are in dire need. Regardless the challenge, you’ll be doing something cutting-edge that you may not have a chance to do anywhere else.

So the question comes down to where these events can be found. A good starting place for Android, iOS and web developers is through Dice. Beyond that, with groups like Google, Microsoft, the Illinois Technology Association, and countless others offering events worldwide throughout the year, your best bet is to get involved with a digital community. Reach out to your peers, keep up with forums, and check out community events in your city to catch on to the right buzz. When you find one, jump on it because spots fill up fast and you don’t want to be left on the sidelines.

So what are you waiting for? The clock is winding down toward the next Hackathon. Where will you be?

By James Walsh