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My First Hackathon as a Developer

catcarbn profile image Cat Carbonell ・3 min read

Once upon a time, there was a 4-day hackathon.

I signed up as a Frontend developer.

Little did I know, at about the midpoint, half of my team dropped off the face of the Earth.

Well, our PM fell ill and I have no idea where our growth marketer or our other UX designer went.

I'm grateful that all the Software Engineers and one UX Designer stayed, but I had to essentially take over as PM (in addition to being the frontend dev) for my team.

It's how this tweet happened:

Honestly, though, I thought it was one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had as an engineer so far.

Now about the project...

We decided to create a delivery app that caters to listing local businesses-- so you won't see McD's or Target at the top of the app--or at all.
We saw store after store closing in our hometowns due to COVID-19, and now we see how much of a necessity an online/digital presence is today.

Presenting: Us to You

Essentially, we are the Ub*r E*ts for local businesses. The leads recommended that we at least use React and AWS Lambda (which we did use). We also decided to use Django as our backend. We had a fun collective rant about how "Serverless" isn't exactly serverless.

I spear-headed the React frontend by establishing a generic landing with a sign-up/sign-in form. The growth marketer gave me a palette to work with as we were waiting for our UX designers to get back to us with wireframes. I deployed the first iteration prototype up to Vercel so that we can for sure at least have something to show, should we fall short of completion. (Spoilers: we did, sadly.)

To my surprise, I had to guide a couple of my university-based/CS major engineers on how to install git, how to navigate git, troubleshoot their Python dev environment-- it felt like I was already a senior dev. (It also felt very validating.)

We established the backend, and another fullstack dev (and a fellow GA grad) got it to connect to AWS.
We did receive a hi-fi mockup from our designer, but he had a VERY different color palette than what I was given. Thankfully, I used TailwindCSS and VSCode so making palette changes was easy-peasy.

I enjoyed pair-programming with my teammates. I absolutely appreciated how fullstack dev Gavi explained every step he was taking out loud -- something I really should do more (as opposed to constantly verbally threatening my code to work "OR ELSE").

We had to record ourselves via Zoom pitching our idea. Our growth marketer at least left us with a mostly done powerpoint presentation. We just had to re-arrange it. I setup our meeting, did a couple of rehearsal pitches, and then we were done.

4 days--done.


I'll have another post describing my mental process on how to structure a TailwindCSS/React application!! I feel like I discovered part of myself while working on this project.

Despite not winning or making it to top 3, this hackathon solidified my desire to stay in the tech industry and keep to keep applying to places as a full-time frontend engineer.


Thanks for reading!

Check out my other posts on dev.to, and follow me on twitter!
Here's my portfolio if you're curious: https://catcarbonell.dev

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ceblakely profile image
Christina Blakely

That sounds like a lot of fun, I hope to do a hackathon one day soon!

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shubhamrangaa profile image
Shubham Ranga

I had the exact same idea when saw stores shutting down due to COVID-19! But, unfortunately I didn't execute on it. Where do you find these hackathons from?