There’s this myth that hackathons are only meant for junior or mid professionals and that no one else should participate in hackathons. In fact, the more I think about it, especially as a non-technical professional, the more I realize that there are lots of myths about hackathons in general. Another misconception is that hackathons are only dedicated to developers, which I’ll also briefly address further.
But back to the main idea, the one through which we challenge premises, hackathons are, are their core, events created to support the community through crowdsourced solutions. Or so we think here at Bytex.
The list of causes that deserve our attention is simply too long to make. So I won’t attempt to. Instead, I’ll walk you through our process.
A Good Cause Could Need a Good Professional
And that’s paramount. Saying that hackathons should only be dedicated to younger professionals is like admitting that social causes don’t need the attention of experienced professionals. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
I refuse to play the guilt card. Personally, I don’t think that community involvement is for everyone – it’s only for those of us who are so drawn to it that it stops being an option. You live with it like an imperative of sorts. Does it make you better as a person? Of course not. It’s just an integral part of who you are. Being different means having distinct outlooks on society, its needs and civic participation.
However, if you do feel like helping out left and right whenever you think you’re just good enough to maybe make a difference, you should be able to participate without feeling out of place. Just like it’s natural to do this in your 20s, it doesn’t change with age.
Does this mean that the contribution of the younger generation is less valuable? Again, no way. Involvement of any kind at any age and professional stage is more about who you are as a person, which conveniently brings me to my following point.
Bringing Together Professionals of Different Levels of Experience Has Value in Itself
This, too, is about building bridges between gaps. Hackathons being community-powered have this amazing quality of bringing all kinds of people together. Which creates dialogue. If you want to spice it up, I’d suggest mingling professionals with different levels of experience for the sake of communication and collaboration.
A horizontal structure that evolves organically into an MVP is a powerful thing to be a part of.
We’re often led to believe that the quality of our contribution in a professional setting is only as valuable as our previous experience. We challenge this too, because it serves the purpose. There’s no better way (that we know of!) of coming up with out of the box ideas than mixing terrific people with different backgrounds and giving them a common goal.
Senior Professionals Need Their Challenges Too
Having worked in your field for over 10 years doesn’t magically make you a better creator with intrinsically superior ideas. It takes practice. The truth of our neural pathways is that every skill needs to be exercised, creative or not, in order to deliver performant results.
So we challenge this idea that hackathons are about the youth going out to play. In fact, we’ve recently had a team of senior professionals, myself included, participating in a Dev Talks organized hackathon addressing the importance of integrating people of all abilities into the workforce. I think I speak for the four of us when I say that the challenge was as important as the benefits this kind of solutions create.
Ultimately, It’s Also About Setting Examples
The old-fashioned way. There’s no way of predicting how involved the younger generation will be in 10 years’ time. So it’s beneficial to step up and show that civic involvement isn’t just a phase.
Just like I sometimes participate in hackathons out of the sheer stubbornness of showing that having a product strategist can make a difference. And not just in pitching, but in creating and delivering the product, too. It is valuable to have a mélange of perspectives and it builds consistency.
So, What’s Next?
Creating a healthy environment for your team is about a lot more than just ensuring a non-toxic work experience. It’s also about encouraging people to follow their individual paths, which for us is a cornerstone. We encourage our colleagues to participate in hackathons as much as we encourage them to do everything they put their minds to.