The Benefits of Participating in a Hackathon

Are you familiar with the concept of the hackathon? During these events, still very popular, programmers are invited to demonstrate what they can do (and do quickly!). But what benefits for your career can be drawn from them?

First of all, what is a hackathon? The general idea is to bring together participants having a variety of expertise to solve problems and find innovative solutions in a very short period of time. During a hackathon, participants are called upon to form multidisciplinary teams and over a weekend, for example, these teams have to dissect and resolve the problem and present their solution at the end. Judges must then choose the best solution, based on predefined criteria.

Andréea Firanescu, an employee of National Bank, and Kim Thoa Nguyen, a volunteer at Quotient Social (an organization that aims to help organizations make better use of their data) helped set up a hackathon arranged by these two organizations on July 19 and 20, 2019. As part of this event, some 130 participants helped several NPOs (including the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Moisson Montréal and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Montreal) to find a solution to some issues that they face.

“The hackathon is for everyone,” says Kim Thoa Nguyen. “We often think it’s just for programmers or those who like to code, but to carry out a good project you need to have several types of profile, because a problem never has just one solution, and it’s important to have several different visions.”

Win-win… win

While the organizations targeted by the hackathon come out with tools and solutions, participants also benefit greatly from the experience, especially professionally. “Networking is super important, especially early in your career,” explains Kim Thoa Nguyen. “It allows those who are very good to stand out and get hired by companies, but it also allows those who are at the beginning of their career to learn to work with real data and real problems.” In addition, in a hackathon where people with different profiles meet up, participants can develop other types of expertise, learn to work differently and think beyond their profession. All these learning opportunities are important for professional development.

Companies that encourage their employees to participate in hackathons are not at a disadvantage. “The company also has a duty to be a good corporate citizen and make a positive impact in the community,” says Andréea Firanescu. By encouraging its employees to participate in this type of community event they will be able to use their expertise for a good cause and add value to their work.”

In this case, it’s a win-win for the company and for its employees. Enough to make you want to try the experience!

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