The first hackathon that I joined was not exactly beginner friendly. The description of the event alone is "🚀 SEA’s Largest Hackathon." So, you know that this is a big boy competition.

Despite offering a massive prize pool for the winners, that wasn't really the main reason why I joined. I see these prizes as a bonus for completing a project, you know. I mean, if I didn't win, I can still showcase what I had made as my portfolio. But no, I have other reasons in mind. I came for the glory. For once in my collegiate life, I've not quite won a competition yet. And trust me, I've competed in quite a few.

And at the time, I have this sudden urge to at least win a single competition at least on a national scale. It's really about proving to myself that I could do it if I put in enough effort.

So here I am, ready to compete. I paired up with a good friend from campus, and it's just us two. The guidelines state that we can be in teams of four max, but I feel confident with just the two of us. "Pfft, we already have Front-end and Back-end! What more do we need?"

And so we programmed. We worked tirelessly day and night for 36 hours straight. Out of those 36 hours, I probably only slept for 4 or 6 hours total. But I was proud. We had made a functioning product. The application worked well, it had many features, and it was pretty. HOWEVER... We didn't make an appealing enough video to pitch the product.

You see, we are both engineers. Code monkeys who only know how to write if statements and the likes. We both don't know designing or video editing that well. And as such, while our application works (to an extent), we didn't do a good job of marketing it or making it appealing to the judges. Hence, we lost.

It was kind of expected. The first hackathon, in a competition that big, it's silly to think that we'd win on our first try right?

Anyways, around 2 days after that hackathon, I received word of another one. This time, It's not as big as the previous hackathon. It's still a national-level competition held by reputable entities, but competition-wise should be easier.

What's insane is that the deadline for the registration had passed yesterday (according to the website). Undeterred, I contacted the organizers and asked (begged) if I could join the competition. They said that it was fine, as it's actually extended (they just forgot to tell it, I guess).

I quickly gathered a team for this hackathon. I didn't wanna make the same mistake as last time. I believe that a winning hackathon team shouldn't only consist of engineers. That's why in this case, I gathered 3 engineers and 1 product person. To be honest, these are my friends, and I know a bit about their skills. When I say "engineers," I mean people whose main skills are programming. Doesn't mean that all they can do is code, however.

In fact, we agreed to split our individual responsibilities like so: One person would work on the product/design aspect, another person exclusively work on the video, another would work on the front end, and then there's me at the back end. I felt confident now that with a more diverse team, we would have a higher chance of winning.

And so we worked again for 36 hours. We all each did our part. There are some hiccups and disagreements here and there. But, we managed to submit our application around a minute before the deadline. That feeling of adrenaline is insane.

The next morning, we had to pitch our product. Our prep for this was quite simple, just a rehearsal, and Boom! It's showtime. The pitch itself lasted for about 10 minutes. We mostly got positive comments from the judges. It was actually quite surprising that they didn't criticize our product at all. How strange... Considering that we are the 2nd to last team to pitch, maybe they are just tired?

In any case, the announcement came a week later, and it turns out that we received first place!! I honestly can't believe that we got that far. It was a big moment for all of us. For most of our group, it was our first time winning a competition.

There's a lot more that I could've written in this post. I can't possibly condense a hackathon's worth of experience in just one post, let alone two! But let's just say that I slept well that night.