How to Become a Canadian Hackathon Champion

The whole idea of a hackathon—the frantic, sleepless, foodless quest to build a tangible product in a single weekend with just a couple of teammates—is a daunting one, even to true-blooded programmers and designers. Many assume these events are only for the extreme coders and that only experienced teams with chemistry can pull it off.

But all of these misconceptions are just that—misconceptions. Hackathons are surprisingly welcoming and don’t demand amazing skill or seasoned experience; it’s more about trying your best (the lack of food and sleep, however, is not a myth). Toronto’s HowToBecomeTV dove into North of 41’s Mobile Hackathon to offer hesitant would-be hackers a glimpse from the inside.

“There’s no way to prepare for it,” confesses Prerna Chandak of North of 41. All that’s required is “the ability to shut yourself out from everything else and challenge yourself.” The situation is high pressure, she admits, but that’s what produces such great results. By the end of a hackathon, “you realize a lot about yourself,” she says.

Her ultimate advice for those considering participating in a hackathon? “Just keep an open mind and be ready for a challenge,” she offers.

Jeff Musson, also of North of 41, says it’s perfectly okay to join with a team of close friends you’ve worked with before—but also hints that coming in alone and collaborating with complete strangers is a good idea too. “That is a cool time,” he says, “to make friends and collaborate with a purpose.”