post featured image

Hackathon Day at #HackTheHub

Decorative squiggle, background element
Written by Laura UzcáteguiSeptember 19, 2016

This is my first post ever and still don’t know if it will be the last one since I don’t consider myself a good writer, but I decided to do it for few reasons:

  • Step out of my comfort zone of reading, speaking but not writing too much in English apart from code, since I’m not a native speaker.
  • Share my experience with others about how awesome and cool hackatons are.
  • Compare my first hackaton experience (2015) from this one would be a good thing to do.

Alright, everything started over July (2016), when I received one of the thousands meetup email notifications and this one particularly got my attention because it says: [ Women Who Code + Hack ] :-D My first thoughts were “Oh yes, an opportunity to jump in into the community again” (after moving jobs I was kind of away trying to settle down in my awesome new position ), then my next step was who I could ask to join and form a team who wanted to have fun, build good stuff and go to Belfast. I asked @sofiatzima, Miuki Miu and Hyrla Miranda, 3 members from Women Who Code Dublin who I knew were really geeky, nerdy and passionate to say yes straight away, and guess what I wasn’t wrong because they accepted. We were looking for a new member but couldn’t find someone so we just created our group and after submission of the group regarding our personal details, We were almost ready to Hack but and here it come the things to overcome.

As Non-EU national, If I want to travel to the UK, I would require a visa to enter, which I usually have but it was already expired for this year, [ ok, ok think quickly what are your options and don’t let down your team ] , here a list of what options I had:

  • Easy : go to Belfast without visa, since Ireland and U.K have open borders and there is no visa check once you arrive. To be honest even if It sounds easy, it is not the right thing to do, respect the immigration law and all the laws is something that comes by default whenever you leave your country and as values that also were glued to me by my parents since I was born.
  • Less easy, but sad: let down my team and retire so they could find a replacement for the team.
  • Ask and try to solve: get in touch with the organisers and ask them if there was any problem if I joined remotely, which to be honest, seems pretty crazy and extremely boring since one of the cool things from hackatons and community events is get to know the community around you, but I didn’t care too much about that since nowadays technology is everywhere and even if I couldn’t meet them personally I probably could do it over social media ( twitter, slack, skype).

The solution I picked? The third one obviously, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to be there, fortunately I received pretty good feedback from the organisers Conor Graham and @gecol (Gillian Colan) and they said to me if my team didn’t have a problem to have me remotely they were cool about it.

Prehackaton team meeting

Ok , first problem or issue was solved, now move on to organise our team to make us awesome and prepared to hack.

We had a hangouts group created since we created the team, and with only 3 weeks away from the day, we gathered together to check out our skills, advantages, disadvantages and ideas for what we wanted to built, how many hours we have and how to get to the venue + miscellaneous chats about how our days were going [ believe me, living in Ireland and working on IT is a signal your days could be passing really fast without realising it ].

We just met at starbucks and as you can see neither of us are living at Northern Ireland, and the team for the hackaton was “Code for making NI Better”, I started thinking about similar events here in Dublin, and I remembered @codeforall_ire initiative, so I decided to apply:

If the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain.

First idea: my boss lives in Belfast, so I asked him in one of our meetings if he could help with ideas about how to make Belfast better, what problems he encountered for the community and so on, and he suggested I better talked to his wife who was coming to our Work summer fair, which I did, and she and himself spent a little of time explaining cool things that they would love to see in Belfast. ( Yes, our idea came from asking the community about their needs).

Back to our meeting at starbucks, I explained the girls the idea, about creating an app that would allow people from the community or new people who are just moving to Belfast to learn about the community, the culture or certain topics of interest through check-in the app and attending to meetings. Cool ! We had now an idea that liked us all :-) and we decided to make it awesome, interesting and easy to use through gamification.

We didn’t code any single line of code that day, just did some drawings over paper and put a name to our app : BelConnect ( Belfast + Connection ), and why we didn’t code was pretty obvious, it was not ethical and fair with the other teams and ourselves.

That day, we left the coffee shop knowing few things:

  • We had within our team a full stack team ( Application Engineer ( Sofia), Software Engineer / Backend( myself ), UX Designer and Front-End Developer ( Elizabet ) and QA Engineer ( Hyrla), what else we could ask for ? :-)
  • Idea about what we wanted to create and name of the application
  • Our skills, programming languages and resources where to look at if we wanted to learn something before the day listed over Google Docs.

My own personal work.

Over the meeting we talked about trying to create a REST API and as I love self-learning and get curious about new things, I said to myself it was a good time to play around with REST frameworks and as all of us has experience with Python but not with its frameworks and integrations with AngularJS or Ionic as an example, it seemed this was a good opportunity to get dirty and learn it. So I started researching about Python REST Frameworks and I found this post which led me to ideas.

I decided to start using my Code School scholarship awarded by Women Who Code (few months back), for learning Django and spent my following weekends doing this course and its screencast which led me to create on github almost successfully the projects given over the course. If you are curious about the result take a look to the repos linked below. [ It’s not perfect , but it covers the essentials of Django that I need for the hackaton] .

TreasureGram and TravelTracker

code - Try Django Code School

Directory App

TeamDirectory - Django Application : Build a Directory App with Django and Deploy to

Lessons learnt from this:

  • Even if you don’t know anything about it, plenty of online resources are over there :-) Go, try yourself, don’t be afraid of looking out there. [ Codeschool, Django site, stackoverflow are your friends ]
  • If you are working I know it can be difficult to deal with the fact of arrive from work and sit and get back to code, but if you really want to learn something and create, knowledge and skills don’t come by granted, spending 30 minutes of your free time per day or twice a week is enough to have a good outcome of what you want to learn even if It’s just by reading an article that clarifies something.
  • Don’t give up when an error comes, I never deployed something before with Heroku, it was 2 a.m and Heroku was shooting out to me with errors I’ve never seen, but I knew someone else probably had same issues, ha!, yes again : stackoverflow is your friend. I found the error and solved (Yaiii) … Take a rest, is important too.

Hackaton Day finally arrived !!

Girls left really early for the hackaton ( 5 a.m or so ), I woke up at 7.30 made some breakfast for myself and sit down into my table as comfy as possible, after all We were about to spend 10–12 hours coding.

Quick timeline:

  • The night before: we agreed that just as they were arriving to the venue, I would create the repository and Django skeleton app for starting working as soon the bell rings.
  • 9 a.m Repository and app skeleton were created.
  • 10.00 am We joined a video call to check out on what our responsibilities, tasks and goals were supposed to be.
  • 10.10 am Started coding, we wanted to have our 1st endpoint done by 12.00 pm.
  • 1.00 pm Our first endpoints were working but we were less communicative based on the fact we were too busy coding :-)
  • 1.00 to 6.00 pm Coding, coding … merging …. coding and more coding.
  • 6.00 to 7.00 pm Presentation and pitch preparation.
  • 7.00 to 8.59 pm Coding, pings on slack, merge + more merging + coding.

Countdown is 0. We are done. :-)

We ended up and our results were:

  • We have our 3 main endpoints and authentication done.
  • Our UI registration and search page were pretty much completed.
  • The girls had done an awesome and good pitch.

If you are curious about our work, you can of course go to our repo and take a look and even better if you feel good, collaborate we don’t bite :-) there is still lots of work to be done.

belconnect - Make NI Better - WWCDublin

To be honest, I didn’t expect to have as much fun as I had, working remotely could have ended up horrible and messy or awesome and terrific experience ( which it was ) If I look back and do a retrospective over my first experience [ Facebook Hackaton — Hack for Equality, which wasn’t as productive as this one, I only would say:

  • You can always grow, but only if you want and really have the aim for it.
  • First experiences can be a little bit overwhelming and frustrating, but is only the first one I promise, after FB hackaton I knew where I failed and what to improve for the next ones to come.
  • Subscribing to hackatons always bring good things and good friends :-) Don’t be afraid of click Register.
  • Apart from all the winning of attending, learning and participating with others, you also can #win prizes sponsored by the companies and the hackaton.

I hope you like my first post. See you around when the muse of writing comes to me again ;-).

Best ,


Original Post
Laura Uzcátegui on LinkedIn
Laura Uzcátegui on Twitter
Laura Uzcátegui on Medium

Donate to Women Who Code

Related Posts