Advice to someone going to their first hackathon

My first hackathon I had absolutely no idea what I was doing and I didn’t know anyone there

we didn’t even build a working prototype at the end of it, but I got to meet some great people who I still keep in touch with. I had to get out of my comfort zone since I was there already, so I just went around asking if anyone wanted any extra help on anything. Someone would ask if I knew any HTML CSS or Javascript to edit a homepage, but I was pretty clueless still so I was basically deadweight and watched everyone else do awesome things. I didn’t know anyone here either so social anxiety did kick in but I forced myself to meet people anyways, knowing it’d benefit me long term. I did learn how software was generally made, and how teams got put together, and what a hackathon was, so it was a start

The next time around I went to another hackathon with the knowledge that I honestly don’t know whole alot about coding. I went with the intent of learning someone from someone smarter than me, and my new friend Ryan taught me the basics of git and working in a team. It wasn’t something I was able to pick up from tutorials online, since they don’t teach you how to work with other people. We ended up just taking a premade project online, and adding some new features, I was pretty happy with learning a few tricks of the trade that day. We didn’t win anything but I got to add a dope project to my basically non-existent portfolio

I got addicted to going to hackathons after that. I found it a really fast way to learn alot of stuff. Not just from my own set of experiences, but basically watching other people on other teams build things. One of my favorite youtubers Mr Beast said this quote “You can only learn 1x on your own, but if you are in a team of 5 people who are also struggling, failing, and learning just as much as you are, you come up 2-3xs further ahead than the person who went solo”

A few hackathons later I attended one with my new buddy German. I didn’t know how to use firebase, or write backend code, but I got to watch someone smarter than me build an entire speed dating phone app. We ended up winning first place, I felt a bit of an impostor though since I just edited some HTML on a page. But I wrote the presentation, and helped talk to the vendors to figure out what things we needed, so I still feel like I contributed/

It wasn’t until 10-12 hackathons later that I felt comfortable building things from start to finish on my own. I think with every hackathon I went to, the feeling of impostor syndrome wasn’t as bad as before. I started to realize that even the most senior of senior devs have impostor syndrome, and doing hackathons forces you to deliver something in 48 hours, even if its just an idea on paper. I think at that point I learned that if I blog about what I learn, document my learnings and the projects I did - whenever I had impostor syndrome again I’d just look back and remember how far I’ve come over the years.

I wrote a blog post about it for one of my friends much further in his coding career. It’s semi relevant though about my thoughts regarding impostor syndrome

YMMV though everyone has different levels of social anxiety, impostor syndrome, etc. Everyone is different when it comes to learning, dealing with uncomfortable situations, etc but I thought I’d share my experiences in hopes that it might help you too

This excerpt is from me helping someone going through social anxiety in wanting to attend their first hackathon

Hi 👋

I'm Vincent Tang, a web developer specializing in modern Javascript. This website is my digital garden of notes on backend, frontend, and devops! I'm the founder of Tampa Devs and I also run a coding podcast called Code Chefs