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Hackathons Study Notes

Hackathon the First

This last week I participated in my first hackathon. What a crazy ride!

Women Hack the Crisis was hosted by The Expat Woman. We called ourselves TeamWHOW (Women Helping Other Women). We chose to develop “BEBO the Benefits Bot.”

It was pure serendipity that I chanced upon a request for team members on the Women in Machine Learning and Data Science Slack channel. As the only Minnesotan on a team of southern Californians, one might think I would feel out of place, but modern tools like Microsoft Teams, Mural and Dialogflow made it easy for me to participate. To Kalai, who extended the invitation, and all the other women on the teamWHOW, deeply, from my heart, thank you.

Here are some notes to myself about future hackathons, because I will be doing more of these:

  • Do not read everyone’s bios ahead of time.
    • Get to know my team members as people and partners. Go into it assuming everyone has something to contribute. Believe people all over the internet who say ‘it is about the process and everyone has something to contribute.’
  • Do what I can, where I can.
    • It is about the project. Everything. The reason I am choosing to participate is to learn and anything that happens along the way is teaching me.
  • Always respect the other people on my team.
    • Respecting them means really listening. It means pulling someone else’s cart to keep the process moving forward. It means not being afraid to toss ideas out while simultaneously letting go of ideas that interfere with the energy in the group.
  • Take a break to find a new perspective.
    • Despite all the reality TV out there, drama is not inevitable. The timeline for a lot of hackathons is tight, but there is always time to breathe some fresh air.
  • Come back. Do not quit. Do not give up.
    • Come back with a smile and ‘how can I help’ attitude. This is a wonderful opportunity to experience a start-to-finish project outside a work environment. Remember, there is always something to learn.
  • Find the humor in the situation (but not the people).
    • Life is filled with absurdity. Absurdity is funny. Laugh with your team mates.

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