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A Lookback at the Hackathon

A Lookback at the Hackathon

On a Friday evening in April, Holberton Tulsa, in partnership with CLLCTVE hosted Tulsa’s first Creator Hackathon. If you’re wondering what a Hackathon is, we have an explainer, but Hackathon winner Demetrius Beckham summed it up pretty well saying, “A hackathon is an event where people come together 24 or 48 hours, or however much time, and use their skills to address a real-world issue using problem solving and creativity.” The Creator Hackathon gave teams 24-hours to create solutions specifically designed to address issues freelance creators face when looking for employment.

The event began with a panel of community leaders speaking about their experiences navigating the creative industry, followed by a formal kickoff in which participants were given the competition prompts they now had the opportunity to “hack.” Fast forward 24-hours of planning, ideating, coding, and hopefully sleeping, teams presented their projects before a panel of judges to see who would be crowned the hackathon winners.

"Bringing creatives into the tech space and bridging that gap is gonna transform the industry just as much, if not equally or more, in the immediate moment than the actual product"

Vondell Burns

There were many great ideas from a virtual portfolio platform that would allow people to create a 3-D virtual reality gallery of their work for prospective employers to explore, to a personality matching system that helps companies and freelancers determine if they’re a good fit. Only one, however, could take home the grand prize. A team made up of Tulsa Remote members calling themselves “Good Friday” pitched their idea of Creator Quest: an application that helps high-school students leverage their knowledge and experiences with social media to find paid work with local businesses looking to market to a younger demographic. Creator Quest goes further to gamify the experience, allowing users to earn badges as they continue building their professional portfolio.

Hackathon Q&A

We wanted to learn a bit more about what a hackathon was like: what did they expect, what was it like, and would they do it again, so we spoke with each member of the Good Friday team to hear  their first hand experience.

Do I have to have to be an expert coder?

Good Friday consisted of a freelance animator, the founder and CEO of a creative consultant firm, and a multimedia content producer. The trio relied on their creativity and presentation skills to augment their lack of experience in coding, saying that the hackathon experience would be “good for anyone interested in meeting people on the same page to make things.” Vondell Burns reiterated that, saying people should “recognize how powerful a story is… bringing creatives into the tech space and bridging that gap is gonna transform the industry just as much, if not equally or more, in the immediate moment than the actual product.”

What made you decide to join the Hackathon to support freelancers and employers within the creator economy?

Both Demetrius Beckham and Trae Sjogren attribute signing up for the hackathon to Vondell Burns. Trae was initially interested and teamed up with Vondell, who had heard about it from social media. Demetrius joined the day-of, less excited to pull an all-nighter than to have some new weekend plans. Trae summarized “Working in advertising, I’ve done a lot of 24 hour stints or projects. As far as Hackathons, this is the first real one for all three of us.”

What process did you and your team develop?

The main objective was figuring out the user experience (UX) for Creator Quest, figuring out how to visually represent it, building out the narrative and feeding into the look and feel of the platform. “Divide and conquer was the reason we got that far and had a website to present,” Demetrius said.

“A lot of it was just ironing out the UX workflow, so it started pretty high level,” Trae said, “figuring out our target audiences and how they interact with us, building a website, and building a minimum viable brand with cohesive visuals. The next 12 hours on my part were building a website, [while the team was] getting a brand organized, a lot of copywriting. There was a lot of work on the pitch, Vondell led the story and went through it ten times to really iron it out. This [Hackathon] was pretty open to how teams wanted to run it. The idea is they gave you three categories to pick from so it’s kind of like ‘pick a category here and focus’ and this was unique because it wasn’t so focused on tech or building an app. ‘What can you build in 24-hours, a business plan or a website?’ That spoke to me a lot.” We let discussion and category influence each other, with on demand talent matching as our leading fiber.

Vondell was the architect behind their team’s overall strategy, Trae operated as the technologist, and Demetrius focused on the creative aspect. Each member attributes their success to delegation and collaboration within their group.

Why should someone join a Hackathon?

“I would say it was a creative way of tackling a problem: an unconventional way of finding a solution to a problem that many people have. It provides you the ability to collaborate with new people and bounce ideas off each other,” Vondell said, “and ultimately culminating in those presentations was a testament to these grand ideas and lofty goals; you have a whole business model with three minutes to explain it.”

“If I was a coder/techie I would have done it, but I never thought I had a place there… I’m a nerd to be honest. I’d rather do this than watching Netflix and stuff. So I never did took part in a Hackaton until I saw one that led with creative… I had a place in an ecosystem.”

Vondell Burns

What was your favorite part of the Hackathon?

Demetrius: “Just seeing how the other teams came together. I was so excited by the other presentations and other platforms. I was really impressed by the work that pretty much every other team did. That was the best part for me: if we put our minds together, take time out of our busy lives, we can accomplish good things.”

Vondell: “When we initially got the clear to go ahead and start connecting with the team with what we were going to do the first three or four hours. That was the most rewarding part because that was very collaborative, yes and the culture! We did this whiteboarding thing, and the mind map allowed us all to feel a part of it. Stepping away from the wall being able to see all our ideas was really nice and rewarding. And to get the feedback back from people was admirable.”

Trae: “I think my favorite part was seeing everyone present their ideas. I felt like everyone was so crunched for time, we didn’t discuss ideas with other people before the pitch, so I had no idea what other people were doing. It gave context for what other people were doing within the framework of what we did, seeing how everyone’s perspective shaped out.”

What surprised you about it?

“I’ve never participated in one before,” Vondell said. She was very familiar with hackathons because in her line of work pre-covid, her company hosted them as a recruitment strategy, for exposure to the company with cash prizes. “If I was a coder/techie I would have done it, but I never thought I had a place there… I’m a nerd to be honest. I’d rather do this than watching Netflix and stuff. So I never did took part in a Hackaton until I saw one that led with “creative”… I had a place in an ecosystem.”

Demetrius mirrored this sentiment, “People who aren’t developers aren’t aware that they can go and enter a hackathon. What surprised me the most was honestly just how fun it was! There were Red Bull parties at 1 am. It shows the initiative and energy behind the event. All the people were super nice, and I connected with great people that weren’t on my team.”

There was a common throughline of admiration for the collaborative energy of the Hackathon “I think the surprise was just like taking an idea and discussing it for 12 hours, then going in the depths and finding a new idea arising from that collaboration with other minds,” Trae said.

What advice would you have for future participants?
Each member of the team reiterated the same idea: find teammates that complement you. “Our team was really cool because we challenged each other but we supported each other. There was an open dialogue, a healthy mix of open dialogue and hustle to put the work in because there’s such a short amount of time… find someone who would do the work,” Trae said.Would you do it again?

“Yeah I think I’ve recovered from the lack of sleep. I would even do it with the same project and build it out further. It was a good time,” Demetrius replied.

So what is the future of Creator Quest?

“This is where we’re shifting again,” Vondell explained “Now post-hackathon, Trae shifted into the architect and I’m the creative, deferring to Trae’s lead. I’m down to pursue it, and I think we do have something great and tangible that’s exciting. He’s doing the roadmap and plugging us in where we are needed.”

Trae added that he’s “been leaning toward that kind of audience for the past couple years, mentoring and whatnot. [he’s] invested in building something through this. Creator Quest was the first idea but that may change. Our plan is to push it forward and see what we can do with it.”

So Why Have a Hackathon?

That’s the wonderful thing about this kind of event. While it’s a limited-scope competition, participants have full control over the execution of their ideas. It’s a place for brainstorming, it’s a place of critique, it’s a place that provides a focused environment to see what ideas can develop when great minds have the space to collaborate with one another. The ideas and connections forged here have the ability to grow far beyond the confines of the Holberton campus. We are so glad the members of Good Friday had a good experience, and hope to see more ideas like Creator Quest come out of the Tulsa area.There’s no ceiling to what can be accomplished.

I believe Demetrius put it best, “This isn’t just a hackathon project; it’s a life project.

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