How To Lead A Hackathon Project

5 things I wish I knew before wildly hacking the day away

Billimarie Lubiano Robinson


#LadyHacks2015: old laptop, same glasses.

This past weekend was #LadyHacks2017. An annual fundraiser for Philly’s Girl Develop It, LadyHacks is a women*-only hackathon known for its inclusive atmosphere and beginner-friendly approach to collaborating on tech projects.

My first introduction to LadyHacks was in 2015. As a Los Angeles native who just finished surviving her first winter, I embraced Philly tech events with three simple goals: make friends, connect, and discover new job opportunities.

Flash-forward to 2017. Having dedicated myself to a passion project that is without a doubt heavily influenced by the current political climate, I was driven by a different desire. This year’s LadyHacks provided me with the opportunity to share and build upon a vision. This time was political.

I pitched my project, light-pollution, and managed to assemble a team. My goal was to find and work with women who were interested in open-source, civic tech engagement. I’m happy to report I succeeded.

Here are the 5 things I wish I knew before wildly hacking away at LadyHacks:

1. Develop methods for helping code newbies

There’s always a way to contribute to the success of those around us. Instead of belittling and deriding other team members, keep in mind that it’s easy for more experienced devs to forget the initial intimidation, frustration, and overwhelming fear we encounter when first learning a new skill. It’s through struggle that we build motivation, knowledge, and better learning instincts — internal tools that inevitably make the dev pains a little lighter, the workflow a little faster. Code newbies, never forget: the only way out is through.

(Besides: nothing is more humbling than being the condescending a*hole who inevitably gets put in her place. No matter your skill level, you’re never too good to fail.)

2. Consider ideas and suggestions in the context of scope

Scope, much like this section, should be short and sweet. If you’re the team lead, remember two things:

  1. You can’t do it alone, so delegate tasks…