Hackathons can be intimidating—especially if it’s your first one. In this post, I’m going to share tips and tricks that will prepare you for your first hackathon.

What is a hackathon?

“A hackathon, a hacker neologism, is an event when programmers meet to do collaborative computer programming.” -Wikipedia

Every hackathon is unique. A hackathon can last two days, 24 hours, be technology-focused or have a theme.

A Tableau #DataDev Hackathon is a one-day event dedicated to learning, innovation, and creativity. We take care of the details so you can focus on a problem or idea and collaborate with other participants. The #DataDev Hackathon series is focused on the Tableau Developer Platform.

You’ll receive help directly from the Tableau engineering team, and you can also spend dedicated time with our team of experts and ask for assistance or advice.

Get ready to hack in 8 steps!

1. Brainstorm

Before the hackathon, try to think about your hack and what are you going to work on during the event. What do you want to build? Do you have a challenge you want to solve?

You might want to work on a solution to improve your work or win back time. Think about whether you can improve your routine or solve a challenge that your team is facing.

Take a closer look at your Tableau journey. Do you spend your day juggling between Tableau and a tier application? Are you wondering how to automate this daily or weekly task on Tableau Server?

2. Learn more about your topic

You can do some research on the hackathon. Does it have a theme? Or a technology they want you to use during the hackathon? Be sure to have this information before going to the hack, and try to get as much information on the theme or the technology. No need to be an expert, but having a better understanding is always a good start.

Check our Tableau Developer Tools to learn more about Tableau’s developer tools and APIs. And did you know that we also have YouTube training videos?

You can learn about the Developer Platform before one of our #DataDev Hackathon by joining the Tableau Developer Program. And set up for free your Online Site!

3. Set your goal

What do you want to get out of the hackathon? Learn? Are you coming to win? Get help from experts? Increase your goodies collection?

All these goals are great, but be sure to identify them beforehand. For example, if you are coming to learn new skills, you will manage your time differently than if you are coming to win. Knowing your goals ahead of time can help you prepare for hackathon day.

4. Know your skills and your gaps

You should know your strengths and what you are capable of. Are you a JavaScript god? Or the new Picasso of the web? You should be aware of your added value and be able to pitch it to your team. You can also have multiple qualities or skills, but you need to understand where your gaps are. If you are a JavaScript god, maybe you should find someone with design skills to join your team. A mistake to avoid—that’s made often—is putting together a team that’s all technical people! You might want here to have someone in your team that brings a different experience and different expertise. Who’s going to work on the design, for example?

When we look at our past hackathons, the best teams are the ones with someone that knows Tableau very well and someone with coding skills. The person with the Tableau skills is going to understand the use cases for the Developer Platform, and the coder is going to know how to implement it. If no one on your team has Tableau skills, you might accidentally create a hack that reproduces a feature Tableau already has, or one that doesn’t fit our product.



5. Check the logistics

Check on the event page or contact the organizer to know what you need to bring for the event. If it’s a two day event, you might need to bring a sleeping bag and sleep mask, for example. For most of the hackathon, you’ll need your laptop. And you don’t want to forget your charger!

Speaking of chargers, don’t forget to fuel yourself with some snacks and caffeine. Hackathons can be intense you’re spending the day learning, innovation and creating. You need to take care of you to boost your creativity and productivity. For our hackathons, you need to bring your laptop, but we provide food, coffee, drinks, and snacks.

6. It is all about MVP (Minimum Viable Product)

You have one day to come up with a project. We don’t expect your work to be shippable, but you should be able to talk about it and demo it. So be ready to build a prototype and maybe not your dream application. You can iterate later if you want to.

7. Work on your final pitch

At the end of the hackathon, you need to present your project. You have a few minutes to convince the judges that you are the winner. Keep some time to practice it. The presentation should address the problem your hack addresses, your solution, and a demo. The mentors are here to help you, so feel free to ask for help. Don’t miss the opportunity to highlight your hard work.

8. Be ready to have fun!

A #DataDev Hackathon is a safe space where collaboration and innovation are encouraged. We want you to have fun and have an incredible experience. The atmosphere is relaxed and fun. Prepare your best TREX move and don't forget to take a selfie with our mascot, Flex the TREX!

Winning advice for first-timers

Erica and Claire, Chicago hackathon winners:
Erica: Don’t feel obligated to deliver a project. This is an opportunity to learn. That’s the most important thing. Don’t feel afraid to fail, just do it and experiment!

Claire: You can’t believe how much you can achieve in 24 hours. It’s a great way to collaborate!

Sebastien Henry, Austin hackathon winner: Try to visualize what you want to complete, write down the main steps, stick to the plan, don’t vary.

For the #DataDev Hackathon Series, we’ve planned everything so that you can reach your goals:

  • Learn? We created small projects to get you started, and we have the dev team there to help.
  • Network? Before every Hackathon, we organize a Happy Hour so you can meet the team and the other participants. Before the event, we also set up a Slack channel for the participants.
  • Win? We have the most original trophy you can see out there, and the winning team gets a ticket to Tableau Conference 2019 in Las Vegas!
  • Goodies? We have exclusive Tableau swag for you during the day.
  • Food? Food is provided during the day. No way you will be hungry after one of our hackathons!

Register for the Tableau #DataDev Hackathon in your region—New York, Bay Area, or London! Or, register for the virtual hackathon in August.

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