#TechTuesday: The Hackathon Survival Guide for New Parents

shutterstock_194124851.jpg

High pressure, high intensity with serious rewards. Parenting and hackathons have a surprising amount in common. By Liberty White (Executive Director, ATLWebFest @ Georgia Tech)

This post originally appeared on Medium.

This past weekend I had the audacious, impromptu, like, “really what was I thinking” idea to participate in the Sears Retail Hackathon which took place at Atlanta Tech Village.

Though, if you are or know anyone in the start-up or tech scene, you are aware of the insurmountable time and effort that it takes to excel in this industry, let alone attempt to develop and build a product, which for some reason I wanted to attempt to do in 24–48 hours.

Now, add an extremely active…teething…infant! Gutsy, eh?

I figured that one of two things would happen. First, it would be a horrible experience and I could share my learnings with new moms or dads who have never been to a hackathon, or startup weekend.

Second, it would be a great experience…and I could help new moms or those with young children not to dismiss the opportunity to network with other talented developers and sharpen their skills, just because they have a little one.

Either way, my weekend case study would result in a win-win.

So, without further ado, I present my Hackathon Survival Guide for New Moms:

Don’t Let Anyone Discourage You

Have you seen the statistics on the lack of diversity in the tech industry? The more that we can do to help women of all ages and ethnicities to get hands-on-experience (for which hackathons or codefests are a perfect environment), the more that we can affect change.

Depending on your child’s age, my Director of Innovation and Technology (aka my daughter) is less than a year old, people will stare.

Mental Toughness

Hackathons are hard work, high intensity and can be very stressful. You’re a mom. You were born for this. So come ready.

Bring Snacks

Lots of snacks. During the fireside chat with Sear Holdings’ DVP, Mobile & Community Experiences, Andy Chu (which was fantastic), my DoIT started to get real fidgety and noisy. Gerber Graduates and Cheerios did the trick.

Also, do not be afraid to leave the room if you must. It’s okay. Consider it an extended washroom break.

Find a Flexible Role

The most critical part of any 24–72 hour codefest is at the beginning and the end. Typically, once you walk through the doors, you network, create your teams (if you did not come with one), your hosts will go over the rules and regulations, and you start working on your project. On the tail end, as you get close to the cut-off time and prepare to pitch or demo your solutions, it is ALL HANDS ON DECK.

If it is your first time attending an event of this nature and you have any apprehensions, I recommend that you find a task that still allows you to have an amazing experience, but it does not require an exorbitant amount of attention. Should anything happen and you need to step away, or worst case scenario, you have to leave, you do not want to put your team in a difficult situation.

What kinds of positions you ask?

Try leading or working on strategy, project management, operations, logistics, design, research, or coding. Anything that can be done virtually is a safe bet.

Get Support

If you have a friend or relative that can come with you and give you a break, that will ease some of the pressure. Otherwise, feel free to step away as needed so that you can woo-sahhhhhhh! I found that worked well for me.

During our brainstorming sessions, I asked my husband to watch our daughter for a few hours, which enabled me to be free to focus on ideation with my team. Once my team established our responsibilities and tasks, I drove home, picked up my daughter and she remained with me for the rest of the evening.

Find the Right Team

While I did not have this issue (my team was AMAZING), be prepared to take some heat. People who do not have children, or are not around children, can be less accommodating.

Find a team that is willing to work with your schedule and priorities.

Have Fun!

Whether you take home the prize or not, hackathons are a great way to network, stretch yourself, hear new ideas, all while staying on top of your game.

Are you a hacker parent with tips to share with others?

Photo credit: KPG Ivary via Shutterstock.


About the guest blogger: N. Liberty White is a Digital Marketing Strategist at CHOZEN MEDIA and co-founder of ATL WEBFEST, the first web series festival in the Southeast. A native of Toronto, ON, Canada, Liberty strives to build bridges and create opportunities to tell the stories of women and people of color in the areas of technology, business, and media. Follow her on Twitter and connect with her on LinkedIn.