My First Hackathon Experience

My First Hackathon Experience

And how it made me hungry for more...

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Are We Ever Really Ready?

"You'll never really feel ready to just jump in."

This is the most invaluable piece of advice that I found helpful before deciding to join what would be my first ever hackathon.

Hello, reader! I'm Kristen; nice to meet you! I believe that this is the first time you've stumbled upon my post. After all, it is my first ever article on Hashnode.

I present my most recent achievement: I completed a hackathon!

Not only am I proud to be able to say that, but I am also very proud to share my personal experience about how I ended up participating in my very first hackathon as a woman in the Web3 space.

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Where it All Began...

A brief bit of a future-superstar-developer-to-be(me)'s backstory: I've been typing on a keyboard since the early 90s when I was just a kid. I grew up as an introvert during the era when many websites were hosted on GeoCities. I also spent my fair share trying to edit my Neopets' websites back in the day. A lot has changed since then with HTML and CSS. Back then, all of the CSS was in the index.html, nested inside a style tag. Now, we generally put CSS in its own file (or use things like Tailwind CSS).

For those of you who were born before the Neopets craze. This is what a default, unedited Neopet "Pet Page" looked like (Not to be confused with the Neopets homepage, which has gone through a massive overhaul over the past several years). Just to give you an idea of how dated the HTML is:

A display of what a default webpage looks like for a Neopet, from the popular website neopets.com

Snapping Back Into Reality

Moving back into the present-day version of myself: In 2021, I decided to dive back into learning web development. I remembered how much joy it brought me as a kid. It felt like I was a wizard because, in reality, coding feels like magic.

This image reads: Coding is magical!

I spent many hours on YouTube, Twitter University, and Udemy - especially near the end of 2021. Also, in September of 2021, I decided to dive into the NFT (non-fungible token) space. As such, learning about the blockchain became something I pursued over the following months. Is this a craze? Is this the next era of technology? These questions are constantly looming on the minds of people who have yet to enter the crypto and NFT space. It turns out, entering the world of Web3 would be one of the most fulfilling decisions I've ever made in my entire life.

Now…

Fast forward to the current year (2022); it has since been several months since I started learning about the Web3 space and all of its glory. I was scrolling through Twitter when I saw a tweet from Camila Ramos appear on my timeline. This tweet would be the first significant step into what turned out to be a fantastic experience. In her tweet, which I saw on February 28th (several days after it had been posted), she asked:

Any women in @developer_dao looking for a team for the hackathon? I would love to have a woman join my team. Even if you're a jr or learning how to code, hit me up; I would love to support you in building something dope :)

I ended up seeing the above tweet through a quote tweet that Cami had posted a few days after the initial tweet:

A tweet from user @[Camila Ramos](@camiinthisthang) where she talks about how one tweet that she issued ended up evolving into 35 women reaching out to find teams for the hackathon.

This piqued my interest immediately. I noticed that I did not need to be a member of developer_dao to participate in their hackathon: web3con. I looked down at my introverted fingers and then typed up a reply to her tweet, wondering if she was still searching for more women for the hackathon. In my initial response, I expressed interest in joining.

The very same day, I had a direct message on Twitter from her. It contained a link to a Discord server that would later become my online home away from home: the Web3 Builders (name still TBA) discord.

Team.exe

I started browsing through all of the channels, where I found a link to a Google doc that contained all of the information for team signups. Once I found an open slot on a team, I signed up. Over the next few days, our team had amassed a total of 5 members who identify as women.

Team B was the original placeholder name for the team that I joined. We had Ana, Afoma, Brenda, Rike, and myself: Kristen. At first, these were all just our names. We met up online and used voice chat for meetings. Our time zones were all over the place since most of our team members were from different countries. We did not let this stop us; we were all very determined! We held team meetings almost daily; this way, we could hit the brainstorming hard in the early stages of the hackathon. With each and every meeting, it seemed like we were becoming less like strangers and more like friends. Everyone was encouraging and helpful, ready to do what they could to help each other out.

We needed to find a team name, which was fun and exciting! Although there were a few suggestions, we went with Team Maxima, as suggested by Afoma. It sounded catchy, cool, and a bit suave.

Outside of coming up with a name for our team, we had to figure out what kind of project we would be building. This process took the longest in terms of discussion time, but we ultimately decided to create a Wordle that would allow users to mint their results on the blockchain. Not only would this then issue that result as an NFT on the blockchain, but the player could also choose from a list of organizations to donate the proceeds to. Our idea for this project was to make a game that people were already enjoying playing (plus, Wordle is open source as well!) and add Web3 elements that can be used for social good.

We tried to assign different tasks to each Maxima member based on what they were interested in working on. I was personally interested in working on the front end, as that is what I am most accustomed to (despite still being 'new' to web dev after a massive hiatus). The app was more frontend heavy than backend heavy, so many of us vowed to do some frontend work.

How it Went

On the very first day, I was so nervous. I felt like I might not know enough, but I also remembered the tweet that mentioned that the hackathon was open to people of all skill levels. My nervousness improved during the second day and continued improvement with each subsequent team meeting.

Each day that passed, the project grew closer to completion. The final night of the hackathon arrived. I had one final role: presenting our project. This is the video I recorded to showcase our completed project. The video's script was developed by both Brenda and myself; here it is:

After our designated team member Brenda submitted the project, I felt hit by a wave of emotions. I was overjoyed, excited, but at the same time, I was dealing with imposter syndrome. Like, did we really just do that? Yes, we did! It was such a fantastic experience that honestly brought tears to my eyes. From joining a group of people who, one week before the event, were complete strangers to each other to completing a project with a group of friends, it was such a unique and fulfilling experience. I am thankful to each and every one of my teammates. You all made this such a wonderful experience.

Truth be told, the hackathon was a quick one! It lasted around a week-long, and for my first ever hackathon: that's kind of scary! But, I had a team of amazing women who rocked at keeping team morale at an all-time high every time we had a meeting. This would not have been possible had Camila Ramos not brought us all together through the power of social media.

Conclusion

This hackathon taught me that, with the right community, I could have fun while learning. It taught me that, even though I didn't necessarily feel ready, other people feel the same way. It's a common feeling not to feel like you're ready for something. Don't let that be a reason to hold yourself back from participating in a future hackathon.

Although I didn't personally go in-depth about the technical aspect of our project, I just wanted to share my story and feelings about my first ever hackathon experience. The results for the hackathon should be in at the end of this month if I am not mistaken.

If you are interested in reading about the in-depth, nitty-gritty details like the technologies used to create our project: New Wordle on The Block, make sure to check out Rike's article titled "Hack the Web3: Building a Wordle on the Blockchain". Her article eloquently details the creation of our project in-depth on a technical level.

The final thing I'm happy to say is that I am now a part of a growing community of women and non-binary people who want to help build the future of web3. We are working on many exciting things to come, some of which I might discuss in a future article. For now, however, we are a budding and blossoming community! Stay tuned for more articles regarding my journey throughout the web3 space in the future! (and maybe my struggles with CSS or something silly).

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Needless to say, I'm hungry for more knowledge and more hackathons. I love the community I am in. Thank you for reading my very first article on Hashnode. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it!