Last weekend saw over 2,000 people participate in the #DigitalDefence Hackathon hosted by Hackmakers, Oracle as the lead sponsor plus a vast range of other sponsors – ITIC, AustCyber, NASSCOM CoE, Cyber Security Centre of Excellence, IBM and community partners – Public Sector Network, Slack, Black Nova Group, Yirigaa, UNSW DataSoc, SLASSCOM, DataCated Academy and DataEthics4all.
This event was off the back on #BuildWithAI Hackathon hosted by Hackmakers. Being a contributor to that event as a Lead Mentor, Sponsor and a Challenge Organiser, there was something there that resulted from what we were able to deliver – another step in the infinite game. (Note – I haven’t read the book, I don’t follow Simon Sinek however from different communities and framework where we focus on growth mindsets, long tail and talking about your why – this is another example of that same conversation).
This is another step in the infinite game.
This was evident in the zoom calls / slack messages / emails that this event was a place to explore, learn, connect and as Franco Ucci mentioned in one of the workshops we ran – “Have fun.” The demographic of the people that I met were all types of people (students, employees, small business, startups) – so normal. This event also drew a crowd from the previous hackathon – it was the next event that we can all get together to be together. A large group of the mentors came back to help out too from across the world. It was good to sit in these calls and “just catch up”.
As a mentor, organiser or a participant, when I’m meeting someone in this context, I do always ask:
Why are you here?
What is your ask?
What is your give?
I also reciprocate in telling them why am I here too. This is all about context and intent. This is all about understanding shared goals and experiences. It’s difficult in-person and more over a virtual experience. However, in many of these community events and hackathons there is a rule (sometimes unwritten) – we want person to act in the top right-hand corner that cares personally and challenges directly – Radical Candor.
With that in mind, we want to give people the space to be open. And that also means that people engage openly. Show that you care and show how we are help each other grow openly in the slack channels. And growing or helping is not through caring without challenging (top-left) or worse the bottom half of diagram. It is through these engagements (between everyone not just mentors and competitors) that we learn something new.
It is through these engagements that we know more about how we can help each other. And through the event, there were different stories and different outcomes. Many hadn’t experienced a hackathon. Many came into the event by themselves. Many hadn’t had much industry experience. In a sea of people, this can be equally as hard. Who do I engage with? Do I wait for the things to happen? How much help will I be given in terms of matching teams? And that is perfectly fine and I applaud people stepping out to do this for the first time.
Different events and organisers have their techniques but when you have 2,000 people in the space each having their own mode of operating – there is not a one size fits all especially when this event was predominantly across about 16 time-zones. That’s a good thing too. Being able to grow in confidence in an area of uncertainty is what hackathons are about. This is not just about confidence in building products, but also personally how you adapt and engage with others in a space of uncertainty. Especially for those that turned up to their first hackathon, there were 100’s of others felt the same way. We are all in this together.
The format of the event is very similar to other hackathons. And this is a high-level (and generalised) view of the flow.
- Pre-Workshops to help people get ready.
- Get people in the same place to start forming teams.
- Team Forming
- Problem Selection and Creating Problem Statements
- Solution Definition and Design
- Development and Execution
- Pitch Development / Presentation / Delivery
And then we can BREATH … All of this from points 3. to 9. all within a couple of days. Imagine this if you weren’t there, what that feels like to work with strangers, forming teams and then working on a problem that you may not understand much about and stitching that all together in a short period of time. AND to finish that off, team need to present themselves to judges. What an intense experience. So many unknowns. So many things that can go wrong. And that’s ok. We are here to grow.
This hackathon is a moment in time. Many of the competitors, teams, mentors, sponsors and partners have gone back to their day jobs. Even for me, there’s work to be done, meetings with customers and other duties.
However what comes after (and as I write this, the event closed only last weekend) is also as important. How to make use of the great work that was done. The end of the event is not the goal … it is a goal, just one. From that, there is a responsibility for everyone to ensure that the work does not go to waste.
So, much these events are have outputs that can be used – to create resumes and digital profiles, to create connections to mentors, organisations and customers, to grow the brand, to advocate new technology, to build a community, to build a product, to think about things differently – all of these things are possible and all of these things happen in such a small period of time.
Let’s not waste the investment we make.
Let’s make the #DigitalDefence hackathon
part of the infinite game.