I’m back for another post in my “What I Learned” series … I’ve been learning a lot lately laugh/cry emoji.

Not sure where I got the idea to participate in a hackathon, but I added it to my list of “things-that-might-make-me-uncomfortable-but-I-should-probably-do-anyway” for the experience list. So when I received an email about DCFemTech’s #HackForGood event I immediately signed up. It didn’t hurt that the event included free tickets for “beginners.”

This hackathon is different from other hackathons, according to everyone I’ve spoken to. I say this because it’s my first and I have nothing to compare it to but I’ve always imagined hackathons as all-nighter coding sessions reminiscent of college nights spent crashing for a test or paper – except at the end of this one there is a program and cash money??

dcfemtech-hackforgood16-screenshot

It was a two day event but I was only able to attend the first day and it was a great learning experience, although I didn’t do much coding. I plan to attend other hackathons in the near future. Different project ideas were submitted and explained and participants were able to select what they wanted to contribute to based on skillset or interest in the subject matter. Since I am interested in improving my front-end skills, I joined a project where an application was built but they needed to beautify it on the front-end with HTML/CSS/JS.

Day one went something like this:
  • The group leader spent a significant amount of time staging the application for us so that we were clear on application requirements and high-level functionality the application would need – also referred to as MVP, which is minimum viable product. This is very important given the varying skill levels, but it definitely took up almost half the day, but it’s vital for those working on the site to know how it works.
  • The group separated into teams working almost exclusively on either the backend to tighten up of the code and the front-end.
  • The front-end team then split into groups based on various components that would allow everyone to continue working on project without interfering with the other groups.

Although I was not able to see the final product I’m glad I at least had the opportunity to work and interact with other developers with a range of expertise. There were recent bootcamp grads, interns, junior developers, and newbies (like myself).

It also gave me a glimpse into how a team might collaborate on developing a product, the brainstorming process, and why team dynamic is so important (too many cooks in the kitchen or not enough people with different ideas can always be problematic).

I was able to see others coding with frameworks I’d opted out of learning. One thing I walked away thinking was that we always have room to learn and also to help. During the event I was able to show someone how to use the Chrome Developer Tools to inspect psuedo-class rules like :hover. It is something I figured out by playing around and trying to figure things out with navigation menus. While that is not coding per se, it was just a reminder that I do know more than I give my credit for, especially with my lack of a portfolio at the moment. I’m sure there are other tips & shortcuts I could definitely teach folks who spend all day coding and consequently might overlook.

I was inspired by someone else (who I can’t name because I can’t remember) to attend my first hackathon and I hope that my experience can also inspire other code newbies.

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