First Hackathon: Impressions by a Rookie

First Hackathon: Impressions by a Rookie

In the first of our guest posts, data engineering student James Cooper describes the experience of participating in his first hackathon.

ProductForge’s “Edinburgh Tourism Innovation Challenge” - an event designed to address a specific set of questions regarding the tourism industry in Scotland.

The event took place in CodeBase, lurking under Edinburgh Castle. I nervously accepted my “Data Scientist” ticket at the door and ambled into a wide hall with beers reassuringly placed around the venue.

My goals

Going in, I had several things I wanted to accomplish.

  • test myself to see if I could remember how to use the various libraries and techniques from the MOOC I completed a few months ago

  • network and learn from others

  • get some experience of working in a team

  • avoid being exposed as a total fraud

To break the ice we did some group exercises which involved splitting into pairs then getting into a circle and reporting back to the group who the other person was, their background and objectives. Then we were free to mill about and form into teams.

Following this, there was a hackathon.

What I learned

Some of my key “learnings”:

  • lack of sleep impairs decision making and attention to detail - sometimes it’s better to sleep on it.

  • being able to predict how long something will take is difficult if you’re working with a new team.

  • being able to predict how long something will take can be tricky, especially if you’re trying out new libraries or techniques.

  • lack of sleep impairs decision making and attention to detail.

  • you need to keep a sense of how what you’re doing relates to the project.

  • fail fast is a cliche because it’s very true.

  • a lot of the things that you take for granted when working at home alone can become very relevant in a time limited situation.

Was it worth it?

Overall, I found it to be an incredibly valuable learning experience. I also got a chance to meet some interesting people, drank some beer, and developed a mighty hunchback from sleeping on a beanbag.

If you’re on the fence about taking part in a hackathon…

…do it!