What the hack!

Providing solutions

What the hack!

Don’t be surprised if you run into professionals working in a caffeine-ridden environment with keyboards chattering away from dawn to dawn.You could have just stepped into a hackathon! Clearly, such events are increasing in number in the City and are held in college campuses, software companies, college festivals, co-working spaces and even five-star hotels.

Portmanteaus of ‘hack’ and ‘marathon’; hackathons are events where computer programmers, developers and designers collaborate and create usable software to find solutions for various issues. While some hackathons are theme-based and range from issues like technology, urban planning, demography and music; others can be broad and general topics.

Marcel Hoover, the Partnerships Director at TechHub explains that hackathons have become popular as they are one of the easiest ways to find out talented professionals.

He says, “TechHub has conducted various hackathons; from social enterprise, marketing to tech-related events. There are many hackathons in the City as we speak, such as weekend hackathons, and as events in college. It has the potential to grow further in an IT capital and start-up city like Bengaluru.”

Peter, one of the organisers of a hackathon that was held at IBM says that there is an increasing awareness about such events. Improved facilities in Bengaluru have made it easy for organisers to conduct hackathons.

Ravindra, the co-founder of Bhive, which provides the space and a conducive environment for hackathons, has seen a growing trend in tech-related events. “Such events prove to be an alternative way to find talent and one can build a strong data base through hackathons.”

He adds that apart from innovation and solving issues; hackathons nourish team work and promote competitive spirit. Mohan, an engineer cites focus as the key benefit of a hackathon as one is always thinking of ‘out-of-the-box’ solutions when confronted with unfamiliar situations.

But apart from being stand-alone events, a growing trend is that hackathons are seen as primary recruitment tools too. Instead of campus placements, companies conduct hackathons and identify potential employees.

   Akhil Sharma, founder of Bangalore HackrSpace Council, a company that conducts seminars, conferences and workshops on hackathons, says that companies trying to hire through hackathons is a positive trend since professionals will understand the requirements of the industry better. “Such events are great platforms to look out for local-based solutions.” 

However, most participants are pressed for time here, especially in 24-hour-hackathons, and need to manage it effectively for the hackathon scene to grow.

    Lyle Rodericks, a compulsive hacker and one of the judges at a hackathon held at PESIT recently, says that  resourcefulness is a key quality that is required to be a good hacker.

 Mahendra Liya, a professional and the winner of the recent OLA hackathon, which was held at the OLA office faced time constraint as well.

   He says, “Our team came up with an elastic on-demand enterprise employee transport system. It was a hackathon during which developers can build apps to book OLA cabs. In other words, they could book cabs without using the OLA app. Our app name was “ComMute” which aimed to “mute the complaints” of people using existing company provided transport.”

He adds that they wanted to build a live tracking system of the cab after the booking which couldn’t be completed. But there are other challenges that one needs to steer through. Hackathons in Bengaluru are mostly male-dominated. Lyle adds that he has seen many girls walk out of hackathons as they can’t stay out late and come back in next morning to finish their code, due to which they lose out on time. 

But to see an organic growth of hackathons rather than a haphazard, quantitative increase, Vijay the CEO of Fracktal Works, a 3D printing company and a judge of various hackathons sheds some light on the issue. He says that people should be aware of the differences between hardware and software-related hackathons.

   He adds, “While software hackathon is more scalable, hardware hackathons can’t be completed in 24 hours and require at least 48 hours. There is still a lack of understanding in the end-user product and no connection between the problem and solution. There should be more discipline and an ability to learn how to use equipment. One should understand that random robotic projects can’t be built when they are faced with a problem related to agriculture. It’s as simple
as that.”

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