skill building, hackathons, learning new skills
NO CATEGORY / 14 December 2016
Hackathons - A Place of Innovation, Skill-building and Making Connections
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Tim Elkana

Sometimes the best decisions in life aren't the most practical or logical. Sometimes you have to do irrational things to get smarter.

Last weekend I took a trip to San Mateo to attend the world's largest education hackathon: HackingEDU. If you're new to hackathons like me, they're weekend-long competitions between teams to create the coolest tech invention. At this event, students from all over the world (I met a few guys from Ireland and Israel!) gathered together to fix the inefficiencies of higher education.

Here's a little backstory on myself. I'm a business major with marketing and project management skills. I'm not a hacker. I've hardly touched lines of code in my life. I can't tell the difference between Swift, Ruby on Rails, or any other whimsically-named coding language.

So why the heck did I think I could compete with Silicon Valley programming geniuses at a hackathon?

As Victor Kiam eloquently put it, "Even if you fall on your face, you're still moving forward." Since I started from the bottom of the programming ladder, there was nowhere to go but up. Over the course of 3 days, I made damn sure that I wasn't the worst coder to leave the building.

On Friday, I stayed up until 3am learning the basics of Python, HTML, and Javascript. I woke up at 7am on Saturday morning to the feeling of someone stumbling miserably over my legs. Oh yeah, I slept on the floor with the other 2000 attendees. My entire Saturday was devoted to learning about network structures, coding a wildlife-awareness website, networking with fellow hackathon-ers, and drinking literally gallons of coffee.

When the demos began on Sunday, I finished my masterpiece: an HTML website with the design quality of a preschooler's crayon drawing. "Not bad for a first attempt", I thought. In that 48 hours, I learned a bit of beginner coding knowledge, met so many like-minded students, bonded over the smallest things, and got record-low levels of sleep. And it was all worth it.

Why wait for a hackathon? Join a projectship or training series right from your dorm, where you can show off your skills to recruiters and hiring managers in real time. If there's anything I learned, it's that stepping out of your comfort zone leads to amazing results. College is the perfect time to learn new stuff, meet people, grow professionally, and do crazy stupid things you have no business doing.

It is never too early to start thinking about your future and working towards your career, register for a project today!