Let's start by defining what a hackathon is not. No, we are not exploiting vulnerabilities in anyone's device or software. Hackathon is more like a timed competition where people of different skill sets come together to develop an IT solution. You do not need to be a software developer to participate in it. We appreciate having people with a variety of skills in a hackathon team. They are limited to 4-6 members per team, and you can still hack individually. A team can have an entrepreneur, programmer, business analyst, designer, or anyone keen on solving problems. Software developers need to know a lot about different fields. You only have 48 hours to develop and present your solution. For example, you are designing a solution for the supply chain. You will need people who have more knowledge about that field. That will save you a lot of time researching and developing a solution.
These are some of the benefits of joining a hackathon:
1. Win Prizes
Hackathon organizers always have a prize for the winners and other participants. As a winner, you will walk away with a bigger prize. In other hackathons, they have rewards for different categories. You can get rewarded for just submitting a solution. I remember my friend and I once won cryptocurrencies for completing and submitting our project. As a marketer, there are great prizes to be won by getting your friends to join a hackathon and present their solutions.
2. Network with employers
These events are sponsored by companies looking to solve challenging problems. You can get a job by developing a solution that an employer likes or your presentation. There are hackathons hosted to recruit participants who have specific skills. It is your chance to get a job without going through the tedious process of applying for jobs and internships. As an entrepreneur, it is recommended that you start your business by solving an existing problem. You can use these events to identify challenges in the world and solve them. You get a chance to be noticed and talk to people who have the resources to help you develop your solution further. That would be an efficient way to start your business.
3. Learn how to work in a team
Hackathons are joined by many people, some as a team and others individually. If you already have a team, great! You will build a stronger working relationship with your team. You will learn new skills together with them and apply them in other projects. Those who join without a team will get an opportunity to meet new friends from different backgrounds. You will have friends to build software products with, or start a business together. One good tip is, to be honest with your teammates about your skills and experience.
4. Improve your skills
Hackathon organizers host workshops to help you get up to speed with the technologies you'll use for that event. They also teach you how to create a presentation and pitch your ideas to the judges.
5. Have fun
Haven't you heard? During those 48 hours of hacking, the organizers will provide you with food and drinks. The first hackathon I went to, was hosted by the Technoprenuership center at the University of Johannesburg. Then, I was still following a vegetarian diet. They catered for vegetarians, and we were happy with the food and music. There are fun activities to help you stay active, relax and create new memories with your friends. The fun activities will depend on your location and the budget that the sponsors have provided.
Even though the ultimate goal of hosting a hackathon is to develop a software product to solve real-world problems, there are ways you can use them to advance your goals. Always approach the events with an open mind. It is not that you have to win the main prize to benefit from them. You can use it to build your network, learn new skills and explore the world of software development. As a winner, you will get offers to help you develop your solution further or an employment contract.
Recommended Hackathon: Call for Code Challenge 2022