First, if you don’t know: a hackathon is an event where computer programmers and others involved in software development, including graphic designers, interface designers and project managers, collaborate intensively on software projects. They provide an opportunity for startups to try out new ideas or to bring in fresh perspectives to vapid ideas. Even large organizations can benefit from these events, where their products can be revamped to take on a completely new dimension.
Choose the relevant hackathon: The sole objective of hackathons is to produce some useful software, though some may be purely arranged for educational purposes to impart knowledge to the software world. But these “hack days” or “hack fests” (aliases of hackathons) have a central theme or a focus area for the session, where it might revolve around the programming language to be used or for that matter the operating system that a product needs to be developed on.
The focus area can also be based on the subject and demographic group of the programmers who will be attending. Some competitions focus on creating games, while others focus on mobile or tab apps. Talk to various organizers or people who have attended similar events previously and ensure that you attend the most relevant hackathon.
Know your product: Take into account which development works best for your business. Once you know which software solution suits your project, you can choose the most appropriate event you may want to attend. Hackatopia and Meetup.com lists many such events to help your choose. Google sponsored technology meetups such as Google Technology User Groups is also a good place to search for the appropriate event.
Learn the language: Get yourself up to speed with the programming language. If you have zero knowledge on the subject then the best place to start is to refer to written guides on the software topic, such as The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Programming Basics or specific books like ‘SQL for dummies’. Some online resources to get you started on the basics of common web programming languages are w3schools & Codecademy.
Having a grasp of the programming language will also help you gauge the knowledge and competence level of the software engineer, enabling you to make the right choice.
Focus on making as many connections as possible: 82 percent of the people who attend hackathons want to meet other people. When this is the objective of the majority of the crowd, it pays to capitalize on it. Network and network well. Build a rapport with hackers and programmers. Ask questions, inquire into their interests, offer some advice, and share some knowledge. But don’t stop there. Connect with them even after the event. Don’t focus on only looking for the right candidate. Talk to everyone, even if it is a student. Take notes and maintain contact. Social media will be a good way to keep in touch with your new connections.
A person not necessarily looking for a change presently might be up for a job, 2-3 months down the line. Network and stay connected.
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Pay good attention to the organizers: Keep in touch with the organizers. Get on the groups that they are part of and build a rapport with them, so that you are on the invite list for all their events. Go a step beyond to ensure that they think of you first when they come across an interesting profile.
The organizers are the ones who are usually plugged in and can point out the most interesting talent. Plus, they have the contacts of all those attending, so they are a warehouse of information.