Why Should Attend Hack-a-Thons
Dateline: Medellín Colombia
4 min read
I remember my first Hack-a-thon...
The Bootcamp I was attending was hosting a hack-a-thon event and invited the entire class to attend.
I had always heard about Hackathons from watching Mr. Robot and the movie Social Network, but I never had the opportunity to attend one, being from a non-tech hub city. I signed my name on the "I'm going" rsvp, and the things I learned from that event, I will cherish for a lifetime.
So the Hack-a-thon was a global event where we synced up with other clubs hosting the Hack-a-thon around the world. We all had webcams inside of our location, and we live-streamed to the event's main website. I thought this was pretty cool, and it allowed me to see how many people around the world were solving the same problems we were. This was before COVID19, and it allowed me to see the power in programming. Our work transcends borders, and it can be done anywhere in the world. There were about 12 people that showed up, so it was enough for everyone to have a partner. Our goal was to pair up and solve a series of problems in a certain amount of time. Being so new to programming, I was extremely nervous but I didn't let that stop me. I was ready to take advantage of this opportunity, and boy did I ever.
Finding a Partner
Looking for a partner can feel like speed-dating, or going into a club and finding someone to talk to. When I was looking for a partner, I noticed some people already had a partner, so the options were dwindling. There was someone on his laptop clicking on his keyboard doing something that looked productive. I walked up to the person, and I asked him if he wanted to pair up. He seemed a bit reluctant but said sure in a non-enthusiastic way. While we were setting up, I asked him did he use VScode. He looked at me with horror and said, "You don't use VScode.." In a very smug manner. I told him don't worry about it, and I will find another person to work with. Knowing what I know now, we were probably around the same level. But at the time, I started to feel imposter syndrome, and self-doubt creep in the back of my mind.
"Am I ready to do this?" I kept asking myself. What if this was a mistake, and I just came to embarrass myself. What if I should just go home? All those things were going through my mind, but then I reminded myself. I came here to learn, and to be a better programmer. If I leave now, I'll just be right where I was before I became. So I decided to stay, and what a great decision that was.
We'll call him Tom
Tom was sitting on the couch by himself, nobody had approached him and we were the only ones who weren't paired.
"Hey do you want to work together", I asked with fear thinking he would be just as rude as the last person I asked.
"Sure". So we became partners and it began.
I was a bit scared to ask any questions, but then he asked me, "Do you use VSCode". I told him, yes and I knew we would start off on the right foot. Little did I know, my partner was a Senior Engineer at Walmart Labs who had been doing this for about 7 years. He showed me a million things that just blew my mind at the time. He changed the keyboard and was using VIM.
For those who aren't familiar with VIM, it's that blinking screen that programmers used in the old hacker movies.
He introduced me to Unit-testing and really showed me how real professionals solve problems in the industry. We were flying through every challenge, and he wasn't just doing all the work. He made sure I was involved and not just watching.
I was writing code, giving input, and even explaining some of things I knew. I learned the value of having a senior lead on a project. Someone there to keep everyone on track and providing value no matter the level.
He also gave me a ton of tips on negotiating salary, and the best way to earn what you're worth. Something else I learned also, is that the people who are experienced don't bring people down, they bring them up. When one has the knowledge, people know it and there's no need to show it up.
Going to that Hack-a-thon was a blast and I'll never forget the things I learned. I'll cherish those memories for a lifetime, and I hope you step out of your comfort zone and experience more than I did.