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Elena Diaz
Elena Diaz

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My First Hackathon: A Journey of Collaboration and Learning

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to participate in a hackathon? Well, let me share my experience from the Women Who Code Hackathon for Social Good 2023. Lasting 9 days, this exhilarating event brought together women from different corners of the globe, creating a supportive and inspiring environment for beginners and experts alike.

Introduction: Overcoming Initial Hesitations and Regrets

Joining the hackathon was an exciting adventure, filled with new experiences and collaborative learning. For someone new to the world of hackathons, the initial steps might seem daunting, but with the right support and enthusiasm, it can turn into a rewarding learning experience.

As someone who has been working as a frontend developer for over five years, I recently embarked on my first hackathon experience at the Women Who Code Hackathon for Social Good 2023. I'll be honest – during my college years, the idea of participating in a hackathon terrified me. I often second-guessed my abilities and were super competitive. Looking back, I regret not taking the leap sooner. I realize now that the learning and growth that come from such experiences are invaluable. This experience taught me that stepping out of your comfort zone brings incredible growth and learning. So, if you are feeling hesitant like I was, trust me, it's never too late to embrace new challenges and opportunities for personal and professional development.

Getting Started: The Joy of Teaming Up

Discovering the hackathon through Women Who Code social groups, I initially planned to go solo. However, a friend from another group reached out, and we decided to team up. We pitched our ideas to the Women Who Code community, and before we knew it, we had an enthusiastic squad of members on board, each contributing their distinct skills and perspectives to the table. With specialists focusing on backend development, UI/UX design, and project research, our team was a powerhouse of diverse skills and perspectives.

The Hackathon Experience

The nine-day hackathon commenced with an energized meet-up, allowing us to strategize and outline our project's key milestones. With our team spread across different time zones, from New York, Italy, London, and Texas, we leveraged digital tools such as Google Meet, Slack to ensure seamless communication and coordinated efforts. Additionally, we used Figma for prototyping designs and Trello helped us stay organized with tasks.

Balancing the intensity of the hackathon, we put in some serious hours while making sure no one burned out. Whenever roadblocks arose, we fostered open communication through Slack, readily sharing resources and helping overcome any challenges hindering our progress.

Despite the short deadline and logistical complexities, the collaborative spirit among like-minded women in the field fostered an enriching environment, creating a supportive space where we could learn and thrive together. This positive vibe and teamwork truly powered our journey, bringing us closer to project completion.

Embracing New Technologies and User-Centric Designs

During the hackathon, my teammate and I focused on frontend development using React Native for Web, uncovering its immense potential for our project. While we were well-versed in React, our knowledge of React Native for Web was initially limited. Nevertheless, with the unwavering support of our team, we eagerly immersed ourselves in the world of frontend development, leading to a series of challenges and victories. I explored the integration of a barcode scanner using JavaScript libraries, adding depth to our project and enhancing its user appeal. Alongside managing authentication and secure routes, my focus extended to refining responsive design, incorporating user interfaces via Material UI, and seamlessly implementing API calls for efficient database access. Each step bolstered my understanding of the dynamic web development landscape.

Reflecting on the Journey

Despite our team not securing the top position and not being able to build all the functionality we had initially planned, the wealth of knowledge and skills gained in such a short span was truly remarkable. The hackathon not only highlighted the potential of rapid application development but also underscored the vital role of teamwork, communication, and adaptability in achieving collective success. Navigating new technologies, troubleshooting in real-time, and collaborating with a diverse group of like-minded individuals provided a profound perspective on the world of coding and development. Overall, this experience has undeniably sparked a newfound enthusiasm for future hackathons and collaborative endeavors.

If you are considering joining a hackathon, my advice is simple: dive in with an open mind, embrace the challenges, and relish every moment of the learning journey. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish when surrounded by a supportive and empowering community of fellow coders and innovators.

Happy coding! 👩🏻‍💻💖

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