Anyone who has ever participated in a hackathon knows that it can be an intense activity, often playing out over 24 hours, with a problem statement presented the day of, and working with a cross-functional team that you often are meeting for the first time that day. If you've ever done a hackathon, you know it can also be a great way to collaborate with people of different backgrounds and learn how to work under pressure with one of the biggest constraints we face in the tech industry: time. It's an excellent way to exercise your creative and communication muscles and learn how to adapt to working on a team, some members of which are remote. In other words, a fantastic way of building skills to succeed in the future of work.
This is why when the Associate Director of Education Experience of BrainStation, Mel Greene, reached out to me, an alumni of the program, I knew it was a fantastic opportunity for TELUS Digital to get involved.
We decided to challenge the students -- 3 groups of designers and developers from the summer cohort -- to think about a problem that's very much relevant to customers of our Digital TV service. Our problem statement: How might we help users to create a TV package that has all their preferred channels? I was joined by Full Stack Developer, Daylen Mackey to evaluate and give feedback on the the students' work.
Photo courtesy of Henry Bellman, BrainStation teacher
Not having been a part of the hackathon process itself until the last step, but having participated in hackathons in the past, I can say that the biggest challenge is finding a feasible solution in just 24 hours. It's crucial to work closely with your teammates to find solves that work for both design and development, which meet the project requirements and put the user first. Students were challenged to think and act quickly, iterating to come up with their final solutions. The pressure is immense...but it's also part of the fun!
Photo courtesy of Philip Ledingham, hackathon participant
I was really impressed with the work the students were able to produce in such a short period of time. Each team had a very different approach to the same challenge, which showed how vast this problem statement was and the variety of solves available. One of the teams really demonstrated how they had both the user and business needs in mind, which is a truly difficult balance to find, especially as designers because sometimes business goals are not aligned with the best user experience. The challenge becomes finding a solution that helps both the business and the customer get what they want.
Photo courtesy of Kayle Robson, hackathon participant
As much as it was a valuable learning experience for the BrainStation students, I came away having learned as well. Having to give design critiques in front of a much larger audience than I'm accustomed to challenged me to adapt my vocabulary to people earlier in their careers. It was an excellent reminder for me to be inclusive in how I communicate, ensuring that everyone is on the same page when it comes to the information being conveyed.