10 Tips for Conquering a Hackathon

Ariel Deschapell aka @NotASithLord graduated Ironhack WebDev program in 2016. He has gone on to work as a developer in the South Florida Tech industry. Recently, Ariel placed 2nd at the Miami Bitcoin Hackathon.  Below are his tips on how to conquer a hackathon! 

Ariel Deschapell Ironhack Hackaton

Tip 1: Dress for comfort!

Hackathons are long! You’ll want to use your brain to think about maximum productivity. I’ve found you can’t be productive if you’re not comfy. Plan for the fact that you’re going to be up all night. It’s going to be hard so you better feel good doing it.

Tip 2: Be realistic with your skill level

Be realistic with your skill level and what you can do in 24 hours. If you’re lacking in some area find someone who can compliment. If you’re junior, go for the experience instead of the win. Also showing up without a team is totally fine!

Tip 3: Be realistic with your scope!

When you’re thinking of your project, be realistic with the scope. Assume whatever can go wrong will go wrong.  It’s better to do something well than not finishing something that was ambitious. I’ll let you in on a secret, most wins go to complete projects even if they’re simpler.

Tip 4: Have your supplies ready

  • Bring snacks
  • Blanket
  • Pillow
  • Energy drinks
  • Laptop/Chargers

Tip 5: Understand the benefit of a hackathon

The benefits are putting yourself under pressure to execute code that doesn’t’ allow you to slack off and procrastinate. Hackathons allow you to do cool things and experiment outside of your norm.

Tip 6: UXers… Be familiar with front end development.

As a UX designer, it’s important to have some front end dev knowledge. Even if you’re not good at implementing you will be able to slide into the workflow a lot easier.  You will be able to hand off work easier and know when you’re getting in the way. Start with videos, tutorials, just try and make basic web pages to familiarize yourself.

Tip 7: Avoid being a team just to be on a team.

Only join up with people that you are a good fit for. It’s better to be on your own than force yourself on a team that’s weird because you’ll short yourself on the learning experience. Don’t be afraid to go SOLO. Make sure personality fit and a talent fit.

Tip 8: Know the difference between Hacking vs Hackathon

It’s a common misconception that “hacking” means you’re BREAKING into something. Hackathons are not that. The traditional definition is piecing something together in a novel way by using creative thinking in a way that hasn’t been done before in a short amount.

Tip 9: Find the low hanging fruit!

Low hanging fruit are easy implementations that wow judges and can help you place at Hackathons. If there are API sponsors, utilize their software! Even if your app sucks, you can still win sponsored prizes for including them in your work.

Tip 10: Don’t freak out!

Tensions get high at a Hackathons. Late night and hours can cause anyone to break. But trust me, you don’t want to be the one that freaks out at the Hacakthon. Remember, this is all for fun and learning. If something doesn’t work, use your best resources to troubleshoot.


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