I arrived to a very different feeling in the space this Sunday morning - demo day. It is much quieter than it has been earlier in the weekend. Teams are in their final hours of getting their projects together for presentation. They have been told the order they are presenting in (last up Friday evening is first up Sunday afternoon and so on), and are now finalizing their slideshows, their presentation speaking notes, setting up Twitter accounts and practicing their pitches. There is nervous excitement in the air for sure.
Organizers get %^&$ done
The organizing team has been incredible. Everyone, from the Hub staff, to hackathon coordinators Matt and Lisa, to all of the volunteers who have also dedicated their weekends to being here, are as friendly and cheerful as hour 1 Friday night. To me this speaks volumes about how passionate they are about finding solutions to the potential problems brought forth as a result of automation and the changing job market.
Home sweet home
The Hub is also starting to feel a bit like home (but more clean than my apartment!). I really appreciate how innovative and welcoming this space is - from providing organic bins and recycling, to plants and greenery strategically spaced out, to a thoughtful and well-designed sign to remind people to think about the trees as they print - it's a venue that feels welcoming, cozy and inspirational all at once.
Watching teams come together to rehearse their end pitches is intense. You can feel the nerves, and at the same time at this point the teams know their products inside and out – the successes, the pain points, and the next steps are all carefully laid out by each team.
The space got its buzz back as teams wrapped up fixing last minute bugs on their final products and began to assemblein advance of presentations. I started getting butterflies in my stomach and I wasn't even presenting! The amount of work each team put into their product is incredible, and it is really exciting to be able to witness not only the hours of hard work but the products that come out of it at the end.
Show and tell
The presentations were in a word inspirational. I had witnessed how much work had gone in to each one - how many hours each team spent analyzing and re-thinking their potential solution, thinking about and talking to potential users of each of their products, going back to the drawing board on certain areas of their idea if they didn’t feel it was working, and coding the end product. So. Much. Coding. Again, some teams barely slept. But at the end it seemed like it was all worth it – teams projects were well thought out, creative, and ultimately really exciting to see in action. Having never seen this kind of presentation before I was in total awe that I was standing in a room with such brilliant and creative minds, who were using their power to help create social change. These folks are seriously every day heroes, and I am so happy I got to witness this piece of creative history.
I won’t do the presentations justice if I try to summarize them here. All I’ll say is check https://twitter.com/datafestOTT for some of the live updates from the event itself and keep your eye on futureofwork.ca for more information about the presented projects. There were so many great ideas.
The panel of judges were great too. I think the organizers did a really good job of having a panel that represented a wide array of voices – from folks who understand the data, to developers, to people who work with people who could end up being end users of the project – each one brought a different perspective to the feedback given to the teams.
I really liked that the outcome was more about next steps for each project than awarding some big cash prize. Don’t get me wrong, that kind of incentive is great. But for these teams to now have the opportunity to really do some good with their ideas is inspiring. One of the judges, Igor from Amazon.ca, was speaking to a group outside after the event about potential products they may be able to offer to provide their project a boost. This is what it’s all about – bringing the right people together to network and work for positive change. I may be a bit exhausted myself but the only word I can think of to describe it is beautiful.
I’m heading home for some sleep now but will follow up with one last post summarizing my feelings about the hackathon experience in general. And there will be pictures, lots of pictures!!
For now, let me say thank you to every last person involved in this process. You are truly amazing and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Chelsea Robinson-Sharman, #HackFoW Volunteer