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Audrey Kadjar
Audrey Kadjar

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👩‍💻🏆 5 tips for surviving (and winning!) a Hackathon

I recently participated in my third Hackathon (Hack for Impact in Berlin co-organized by Google, On, Adesso, Girls in Tech) and had so much fun! With my team, we developed an AI-powered app that allows users to scan the tags on their clothes to discover their sustainable impact. It was fun to develop a project from start to finish and see everyone's final pitches. In the end, we even won first prize for our project! 🏆

Hackathons are great opportunities to meet people and build innovative projects. Creating an entire project in a tight timeframe also shows you the incredible things you can accomplish with focused effort. Here are my 5 tips!

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Find a hackathon

Before you dive in, research and choose a hackathon that matches your skills and interests. For example, don't sign up for a hackathon for Machine Learning engineers if you lack ML skills. Also, consider the tone and topics of the event to make sure they match your personality and interests. Check out events hosted by tech meetups and tech organizations. Devpost is also a great resource for finding Hackathons.

Set up your work environment

To save valuable time during the event, prepare your work environment ahead of time. Configure your IDE, install necessary packages, and set up boilerplate code. At my last Hackathon, I set up the project's boilerplate (a minimal Node.js backend with a PostgreSQL database along with a React frontend) before the event, which allowed us to focus on our project when the hackathon started.

Build a diverse team

Whether you sign up with a pre-formed team or team up with participants on the day of the hackathon, make diversity of skills a priority. At my last hackathon, our winning team met on the day of the event and had a balanced mix of 1 backend, 2 frontend, 1 UI designer, 1 UX designer, and 1 project manager. This diversity proved critical to our success, as each team member brought a unique contribution to the project.

Develop an innovative, feasible idea

At the beginning of the hackathon, spend time brainstorming and selecting an idea. The challenge is to come up with an idea that's both innovative and feasible within the limited time frame. Give each team member room to contribute, and do your research to make sure your concept doesn't replicate existing applications. Focus on implementing 2 or 3 features well, rather than trying to implement 10 half-baked features.

Prioritize presentation and pitching

Don't underestimate the importance of a well-prepared presentation. During my first Hackathon, we were so focused on coding that we only had 1 hour left to build the presentation, which led to a rushed pitch 😵 While building the application is crucial, make sure you spend enough time preparing the presentation and rehearsing the pitch (I recommend 2-3 hours). Showcase your process and your idea's unique selling point, and include engaging demos of your key features.

Good luck and have fun at your next hackathon! Feel free to share your tips and hackathon experiences in the comments ⭐

You can also find me on Github, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

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