What exactly is a hackathon?
According to Wikipedia, "The word hackathon is a portmanteau of the words 'hack' and 'marathon,' where hack is used in the sense of playful, exploratory programming, not its alternate meaning as a reference to computer crime."
No, you won't be learning how to hack your crush's computer...unless you want to, of course. #guilty It was a valuable LEARNING EXPERIENCE, OK?! Student hackathons are chill, productive hangouts (with free food) where you learn more about the technology that basically controls your life.
Many of the companies that host these events give away free swag (aka T-shirts, stickers and even phone chargers). Fun fact: I got hired by a startup simply for having hackathon stickers on my laptop. STICKERS CAN HELP YOU ADVANCE YOUR CAREER, I SWEAR.
Here are five reasons why YOU should attend your first hackathon:1. Free tours of cool companies
You'll get the chance to tour places like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Spotify, Dropbox and many more! Several of your favorite companies host hackathons monthly, but not enough students know about them.
2. You get to meet awesome people AND build your professional network.
You meet super interesting people at hackathons, and the best part is that they're friendly, so you can ask them anything. Whether it's interning at BuzzFeed or being your own CEO, the first step to landing your dream internship/job is introducing yourself to someone who can help you. I've also met a few of my best friends at students hackathons. #squad
This is my favorite part. You learn by doing, and let's face it - lecture halls aren't for everyone. Hackathon environments are laid-back (I'm talking Nerf gun wars and midnight karaoke sessions), which puts even newcomers at ease. You can grab a slice of pizza and talk about programming like it's the norm because, well, it is!
4. Prizes and money
I won $500 at my first hackathon. Today I go to hackathons because they're incredible learning experiences, but a little acknowledgement never hurts. Whether or not you place first, you always leave a hackathon knowing more than you did when you walked in. You win, win, win no matter what.
5. There's NO pressure - work at your own pace!
No one pressures you to have a completed product by the time the event is over if you're not ready. Attendees range in level of expertise, so tech experts (mentors) help newbies, and everyone gets to practice a new skill: learning, teaching, networking, etc. Strangers have walked away from their hackathon projects to help me learn coding, so if you're thinking, I know nothing about coding, it's OK.
To learn more about how you can attend your first hackathon, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!