By Veronica Ramos
Editors’ note: This is a guest post from a participant at the 4th Annual Houston Hackathon, which was May 14-15, 2016. Many thanks to Veronica for sharing her perspective! – Sarah Rigdon
Allow me to paint a picture for you–it’ll give you some context. Promise. Ready? Read on.
The night before the Houston Hackathon–Friday, May 13th, scary–I absolutely regretted RSVP’ing to the Meetup page and mentioning to my friends…that I was going to a hackathon. Which, honestly, no one really understood because none of them are coders (just a bunch of yoga teachers). I had visions of a late brunch the next morning and binge watching Orphan Black on Amazon Prime. This all lasted about a second in my head. I needed some motivation. It was my first hackathon. I clicked my way over to the landing page, that took me to the Meetup page. After reading all the comments, I realized there would be a few newbies there, too! Done. Convinced. Convincing myself was way easier than I anticipated.
The next morning the early risers were a little shy or sleepy (guilty). That was an easy fix for Xela Coffee Roasters (shout out to Xela Coffee, you guys rule!), as they hand-brewed some delicious coffee for everyone to enjoy, Jeff and Sarah welcomed everyone, and excitedly played team match-makers as they introduced themselves. We were off to the races! More participants made their way into the main meeting room and started striking up conversations about their ideas. I quietly sat behind Carla and Christa (who were there to represent the Human Trafficking project) and curiously poked my head between them to ask what they were interested in.
That was the very beginning of something big. We began talking about human trafficking, specifically sex trafficking–and what the statistics are for the city of Houston. We quickly drew a crowd of interested and passionate hackers. Our project was centered around deterrence, investigation, and awareness. The next 24 hours taught me so much and just exactly what I want to share with you.
5 Reasons Why Hackathons Are a Must
- They Create Risk Takers.
Your first step to collaborating with others is striking up conversations. This is possibly the easiest step, though it can seem intimidating. Starting conversations with complete strangers is a risk, but in this kind of environment, it is never a bad thing. One or two things will happen, you’ll get answers to your questions and/or you’ll find your team. Win, win.
You’ll Find a New Community.
Usually, you’ll walk in by yourself and leave knowing at minimum 2+ people who are passionate about (or interested in) the same things you are. Shared passions and interest easily lead to friendships. Thank you Houston Hackathon!
You’ll Gain New Perspectives.
Hackathons are diverse. People here have different education backgrounds and are well versed in their area of expertise. You are guaranteed to learn about a different skill and or perspective. This environment is full of information waiting to be used to its fullest potential.
It Will Inspire You. Period.
A lot of the inspiring happens while you’re working side by side with your teammates. However, it doesn’t stop there. After the 24 hours is up, presentation time is upon you…the next few hours is filled with admiration and hope. You begin to see the people in the room differently and are in awe of how brilliant everyones idea is!
They Empower New Passions You Weren’t Aware Of.
There may be a way of thinking that hackathons are ONLY for those who code and love code. AND maybe they have been up until recently. I do neither of those things, currently. I’m a designer. I love design. After spending 24 hours with majority coders and developers, I found myself interested in what the developers were doing. Me? A developer? Why the heck not. You never know what ideas, skills, or beliefs will empower you to try something new while at a hackathon.
One last thing, if you haven’t made it over to the Houston Technology Center, go! What an awesome space to have access to for this event. They kindly opened their doors for all participants. I can’t imagine my first hackathon being any different or any better.
See you next year!
Veronica Ramos is a creative who has a passion for yoga and humanitarian causes. Her design projects have reached global to local audiences in government and politics, academics, and startups. In her spare time, she rides her bike and catches up with her loud Mexican family.