Attending a hackathon as a non-developer

Successful teams at hackathons need a variety of skills. Sure, it’s important to have teammates who can programming and design, but it’s more important to have a well-rounded team that can bounce ideas off each other, and delegate work for the final presentation.

First and foremost, a team needs a good communicator. In “How to survive a hackday,” Paul Bradshaw explains it well: “At the start it is key that you can communicate your idea succinctly and clearly: it should not be too complicated. At the end, however, you need to wow your audience — especially if yours is the 10th presentation and everyone is tired.”

Those are two very different skills! Being able to articulate your idea succinctly will help keep the team focused, while the final presentation is all about drawing the audience’s attention.

While this blog post is not about hackathons, in “6 essential non-coding careers in open source” Nithya Ruff does a great job explaining the importance of skills outside of development. Here are the three most applicable to a hackathon:

Community management: The ability to pull the team together and keep everyone focused on the agreed upon goal is important! Especially because it’s easy to get distracted by an unforeseen hurdle.

Marketing: At the end of the day, you need to sell your solution to the audience. A good marketing person can help articulate the importance of your work.

Documentation: As much as programmers wished everyone just read their code, that’s not realistic. Someone needs to document the reasons behind the decisions, or no one will want to continue working on the project after the hackathon is over.

I’ll add one more of my own, in the spirit of DataWork’s theme of making business easier, we need business people! Whether you’ve worked in a large organization for an entire career, or you’re an entrepreneur, we need the experience and drive of local business leaders.

DataWorks takes place on June 4, at 1313 Innovation in Wilmington, Del. We hope to see you there!

Written on May 20, 2016 by Chris A. Williams