Hackathon, Semi-Finals

So there’s been an internal “Hackathon” happening at work all this week. Our team got to put a hold on our regular priorities, and spent the first few days working on a project we thought might be a worthwhile entry.

(Monday – Wednesday)
The overall event was termed “Hackathon Week,” but it ultimately only provides for a few days of work. I was nomimated to present the concept, and with us still ironing out details and doing last-minute fixes… only began stubbing out some things (roughly) yestrday evening (Wednesday).

Kicker is: we didn’t hear much on the specifics until yesterday. The original plan was to have Finals on Friday. But there were so many entrants, the company decided to hold Semi-Final rounds on Thursday for each city. So our timeline got bumped up.

Anyone can participate in the Hackathon, but to win any prizes… you had to present.

I heard we had anywhere from 3-5 minutes. And so I started to create an outline that went a little heavy on the storytelling, for the opener.

Come today (Thursday), I learned that there would be a hard cutoff of 4 minutes. Which then changed things up for me. And I also hadn’t had the full outline mapped out yet.

The way I prepare for presentations/talks: I practice a ton, beforehand. It helps with the nerves. For this thing though, we were still working out bugs and details up to the very last minute. And to have all that in a state of flux made for… well, a very a-typical workflow for me.

This morning, I popped awake around 4:00 AM and couldn’t go back to sleep. I kept thinking about the presentation, trying to map out what to mention, what to omit.

Overall, there were 75 projects shared during the Semi-Finals. As we were waiting for our turn, I realized the WiFi was totally slow in the room, due to all the other folks who had their laptops going nearby. And so the idea of a “real time demo” kind of went out the door.

I had to quickly fire up multiple browser tabs, and pulled up the views I needed for the presentation. And instead of walking through each step, I decided on shifting to the next tab. Couldn’t risk burning time for a slow connection.

When our turn came, I got to take the stage solo. Which was a bit awkward because I had to lean in to the microphone stand, while both of my hands were occupied with running Google Slides, and then exiting out to show the demo, then back again.

I ended up heading out a bit after 5:00 PM (while the Remote presentations were still ongoing). A bit after 6:00 PM, I saw the news: we were one of the 10 Chicago projects to move on to the Finals (25 Finalists overall).

It was exciting news. But to be honest, there was a part of me that was utterly exhausted. And the idea of doing this all over again tomorrow was pretty daunting.

That said, having seen what the presentation process was like… I think I put a lot of unneeded pressure on myself. The whole feel of the afternoon was very jovial. Everyone was in competition with one another, but there was a lot of support as well. There was also a bit more informality to things, whereas I think I mapped onto things a kind of “job interview” level stress. Which was not needed.

So having done it once, and gotten a pass under my belt, I definitely felt more comfortable about tomorrow.

[photo via Kane Reinholdtsen]

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