Mentoring @ Hackathon

Recently I had this opportunity to be a mentor at a hackathon. It was a Health & Fitness hackathon which took place on 14-16 October, 2017. The hackathon was organised by Geek Girls Carrots Berlin and my employer Zalando was one of the sponsors.

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I was contacted by the employer branding team within Zalando to participate as a mentor and I had an amazing weekend. Although I wanted to participate as a participant at this hackathon, the idea of being a mentor was overwhelming and I jumped in to volunteer.

My colleague Andra accompanied me on Day 1, Day 2 and Iuliia accompanied me on Day 3.

Day 1: 14.10.2016

It was Friday evening but I was gladdened to watch out the participant turn-out. It was a decent number of audience. The evening was meant to meet & greet mentors and participants. After a formal welcome, mentors introduced themselves and participants were asked to brainstorm on their Health & Fitness related hacks for the weekend and build teams.

I met couple of women who were very enthusiastic about their participation. Me and Andra tried to give them insights about being able to use the Zalando Shop API for this hackathon.

The evening was accompanied with good, healthy food and we were hosted at the Native Instruments, Berlin office.

Day 2: 15.10.2016

It was a pleasant Saturday morning and the previous evening made sure I had my motivation level turned on to show up at the venue on time.

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I was excited to talk about the Zalando Shop API. Since it was a health & fitness hackathon, Zalando’s fashion reputation was less enticing amongst the participants. Our pitch was to lure the audience by asking them to come up with ideas which involved a little bit of shopping. After all, you need new clothes, accessories etc. for a healthy start at the gym 😉

We offered them 20% discount code for shopping at Zalando. Here is the voucher code for all the readers – ZRNN48454E. Happy shopping!

The API briefing session was followed by a VR workshop using the Unity Framework and the hands-on-hacking session followed thereafter.

One of the teams reached out to me and Andra asking for some help in getting started with React.

We were hosted at the Axel Springer, Berlin office. The food served was delicious. The rest of the day was intense hacking session and the participants were engrossed in their hacks. True to the hackathon’s theme, there was a Zumba workout session in the evening 🙂

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Day 3: 16-10-2016

Mentor participation was required only during the second-half of this day for the jury discussions and voting. I decided to quickly run my weekend errands at home. Meanwhile I was helping one of the teams remotely with their React doubts.

Around 2:00 pm, it was jury time. I and Iuliia were quite excited about this. Being one of the jury member was one of my best experiences.

There were 7 teams all set to present their hacks. The source-code of all the teams can be found here.

I was amazed at the energy level of all the participants. There was no drop in their energy, inspite it being a Sunday. The presentations were excellent. I enjoyed listening to every detail. Me and Iuliia were silently making our notes and voting them based on code, idea and potential behind the hack.

After the presentations, all the jury assembled in one room. We were voting and it was interesting how the votes differed based on different evaluation criteria.

First criteria – potential and uniqueness of the hack.

Second criteria – presentations and team-spirit.

Third criteria – Implementation (working prototype)

It was surprising that looking into the source-code was the last criteria and the team ratings varied when this happened.

We had the winners listed at the end and this whole experience was elating.

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Last but not the least, it was a weekend well spent 🙂 Mentors and participants had this as a take-away gift!

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Here is the short-video featuring the hackathon