My First Hackathon

My First Hackathon

Bridget Brevik's photo
Bridget Brevik
·Nov 25, 2021·

6 min read

Have you ever participated in a hackathon? I had not. I've thought about it, I've even gone as far as sitting through the introductory Zoom meeting. However, I've never followed through. Hackathons seem like they are for overachievers who know what they are doing. Seeing as I have imposter syndrome, and most of the time I feel like I'm barely achieving (let alone overachieving), I thought a hackathon wasn't in my cards. Well, as you can probably guess from the title, I did a hackathon!

Back Story

The hackathon I participated in was put on by Mintbean. If you are a Junior Developer, new in tech, or want to support newbies in tech, please check out Mintbean! I had planned on checking this hackathon out, but I was having one of those weeks where every day felt like a Monday, and I missed the opening kick-off. Bummer. However, I happened to also be having a poor-attention-span week, and instead of working on what I should be, I was chit-chatting with my friend on Discord. She is an over-achiever, and she was doing the Mintbean hackathon. Now, something I haven't been very vocal about is that I am working on learning more UI/UX design. New to this hackathon is design. Just like that, I have joined my friend and her existing teammate, and I'm in!

This is my official designer debut. In the past, I have "designed" various things: posters, emails, postcards, websites. I have several friends who are professional graphic designers who have been doing graphic design for decades. My "design" dabbling always felt very amateurish. Heck, I've done most of my work in Canva! To be fair, I have worked in Adobe Illustrator and just starting learning AdobeXD, and I recently completed the first course in Google's UX Design Certification. Since time is short, and I just downloaded my free AdobeXD trial, I decided to continue to use Canva for this app design. Will it be the best design in the world? No, no it won't. Will it help me gain experience and build my confidence? Yes, it will. Will it be a functional, easy-to-use, aesthetic design? Yes, that's the goal!

The Team

How do you find people to work with? You know I'm going to say networking! My team consisted of a friend and a friend-of-a-friend who is now also a friend. You know I love making friends!

What's not listed in our titles? Alllllll of the accumulative background knowledge between the three of us. All of us are 100Devs alumni. We all know full-stack development and are currently finding where we fit in tech. But it's not just our tech skills. As a career-changer and a mom of teens, I often feel like an oddball when it comes to tech. How fortunate, then, that I found teammates in the same situation! As a result, we were all empathetic to what time was being devoted to the hackathon with respect to all the other things going on.

The Challenge

Channel your inner Bob Ross and create a painting app. The app needs to have a landing page that directs users to the actual painting canvas. We decided on something cute and "cartoonish" since it's a fun app for a fun hackathon. The background is a landscape (tribute to Bob Ross, of course!) with an easel and a stock art painting with a start button at the bottom right. I wanted to use free fonts, so I found a paint-looking one on Google Fonts called Monserrat to use.

Let's Paint! (3).jpg

The actual painting canvas page was a little trickier, since it has a lot more going on. As the designer, I pulled some ideas that the developers were talking about and showed me, and I did my best to come up with something cohesive but not overwhelming.

Let's Paint! (2).jpg

We had a week. Thankfully, we were only in two different time zones an hour apart. However, all of us had busy weeks especially with the Thanksgiving holiday coming up in the United States. Coding was going to get done but probably not all at the same time. Throw in some last minute kids' activities including a stint in the ER for one of them (he's ok, mom is recovering and still working on this project), family in town who want to all go out to eat at a restaurant an hour away, and an incredibly busy part time job, things could get iffy. I am very proud of us. We met the challenge head on. This was a side project for us to build our skills and show off and see what we could do. I think, given the circumstances, we did great!

Lessons Learned

  • Communication is key. We probably could have benefited from a Discord call or Zoom meeting at some point to see who was working on what. There was some overlap of code and some worked and some didn't. Maybe we should have come up with a checklist of what was getting done. Nobody wanted to step on any toes.

  • Learning boundaries. I wasn't always sure what I should be involved in and not as a new designer who also knows how to code. As a result, I stayed out of everything except the layout and a bit of CSS. In my professional background, I have met both types of designers: make the layout and step away or make the layout and help implement. In the future, I know to ask!

  • Mintbean Hackathons are great for newbies! This was not some hardcore tech competition! Monarch and Navi even commented on my tweets! Tech is not always the friendliest place for newcomers, but if you connect with the right people, it is amazing and supportive!

  • I would do it again. This is my first hackathon, but it won't be my last! Now that I know an average bee like myself can partner up and create fun things on a short schedule, I will definitely do it again. I have the lessons learned going into it next time!

  • I enjoy design. After several frustrating months not being a backend genius, not getting code to work, and literally having nightmares about Node.js, I figured I was probably in the wrong spot. I have actually wanted to learn/do official design since before I even wanted to learn to code, but I was always too intimidated. You know that quote "Be brave enough to suck at something new"? Tech has shown me that it's ok to suck, you're going to suck for a while, but most everyone does (at least for a while), and that's ok. In fact, it's even ok to go ahead and build in public and show everyone that it's ok to suck at something new, but look at your progress. That's where I am right now, and I'm feeling oddly comfortable about it!

Thank You!

I want to thanks my teammates Jennifer Toops and Meera Ramesh for inviting me to participate on their team! I would also like to thank for hosting and for advocating for Junior Developers. And I would like to thank Leon Noel and 100Devs, because that's where my transition to tech started!

Here is the link if anyone would like to check it out!

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