5 Stages of a Hackathon

Two weeks ago – April 1, 2016. It’s about 9:00pm on a Friday night, and I am already fast asleep. I have a perfectly reasonable explanation for this. I participated in my first hackathon! So let’s rewind to about 30 hours ago and look at all the ups and downs of this 26 hour event.

1. Must be something in the atmosphere

March 31 – 3:00pm. Seriously, click on the link to see a quick walk-around of Lehigh’s first Hackathon.


The energy of the environment is very unique in the fact that you can almost feel the creativity and innovation flowing through the air. As you walk through the large, open room you can see all the teams working furiously at their desks and whiteboards. Stepping into this atmosphere was an exciting start to the event.

(Above: LehighHacks prior to the start of the event.)

2. Let’s Get Down to Business

March 31 – 4:00 to 12:00am. After the introductions and presentations from our awesome sponsors (like IBM, Wells Fargo, Lutron, Microsoft, and more),the students got into their teams and decided their projects. Sponsors had optional challenges for teams to solve and earn great prizes, or students could work on their own inventions. The real work begins.

There’s a lot of confusion about what goes on at hackathons. Many people think it’s creating code to break into these complex, hypothetical systems. However, hackathons are really events where you can come up with an idea (one that you’ve thought about before or one you’ve just created at the event), and you have the opportunity to crank out the work on this project with the benefit of equipment provided and available assistance from top-notch professionals.

Hackathon - work hard

(Above: Team 18 created a fort to serve as their workspace. They’re just getting started.)

3. Death

April 1 – 12:00am to 6:00am. It’s that time of the hackathon where you’ve been working on your project for hours and all of a sudden you’re faced with this problem that is impossible or you are unable to finish it before the hackathon ends. You’re extremely tired, and you can’t seem to figure this problem out. At this point, all your efforts seem hopeless, and you’re wondering whether or not to abort your mission entirely.

Hackathon - death

(Above: Students take a nap during the late hours of LehighHacks.)

4.The Hack

April 1 – 6:00am to 12:00pm. As you face this huge problem, you realize that there’s a way around it. Your idea is not what you originally planned, but it’s a fast and easy way to get the job done in time for judging. Therefore, you hack your way around the problem. This is why it is called a hackathon. This is the time where you push yourself towards the finish line.

Hackathon - need energy

(Above: Professor Spear and students do push ups for some much-needed energy.)

5. Final Product Presentations and Awards

April 1 – 4:00pm. T-minus 2 hours until you can go home and sleep. But before you look ahead to your hibernation from the world, look back at the past 24 hours and see all that you’ve accomplished. You’ve had your idea, you hit the ground running with your original plan, and you found a clever way around your problems. Now you have your final product which you will present to the judges.

One of the things I appreciated the most about the hackathon was the great, easy networking opportunities. Because you have a project to present, you avoid all the awkward middle conversations. I’m very grateful to have met some impressive representatives of prestigious companies.


Would I do it again?

Without a doubt, yes. Despite my fatigue and the stress that happens during the 12th hour of the event, my first hackathon was extremely rewarding. Not only did I get to collaborate with individuals on a cool project (a resume-worthy experience, by the way), meet professionals within my field, and see some other awesome projects, but I also got to do all of this for free! A hackathon is an awesome event that greatly increases your experience in computer science.

Hackathon - Summary

Photos from http://lehighu.tumblr.com/post/142075466509/these-lehigh-university-students-are-entering-the
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So this is Computer Science

As my first post on Lehigh’s Computer Science/Engineering blog, I’m going to kick it off with the obligatory explanation of how I got into this field. It’s funny to see how I got involved in a major that I never even considered before starting my college career. I hope that reading about my journey may help you understand how your major can quickly change from one to another.

    1. Discovery

      Throughout my time in high school, I took a lot of engineering classes through Project Lead the Way‘s program. Working with CAD and doing many design projects definitely held my interest, and I enjoyed blending my math and science skills with creativity. So I came into Lehigh thinking that I wanted to be a civil engineer, but I remained an undeclared engineer in case another field peaked my interest.

      For some reason, I felt lead to sign up for CSE002 (Fundamentals of Programming ) when I was initially registering for classes as an incoming freshman. I figured that if technology is making up such a huge part of the engineering and business industry that it might be useful to know the basics of computer science – a field that I had zero previous experience in. And it was in this class that I decided to change my major.

    2. The Switch

      Programming definitely did not come easily to me. However, I felt extremely rewarded and satisfied when I completed an assigned program, and I really enjoyed how computer science could be integrated into so many different fields. I figured that if I enjoyed it, was skilled at it, and if it was a growing field, that I would switch my major and commit to computer science.

    3. What did I just do?!

      As I continued courses in computer science, the material became increasingly challenging and confusing. I knew nothing about this field. My first exposure to this kind of stuff was my CSE002 class. It felt like I was being swarmed with words that I had never heard of before and had no idea what they meant. It was clear that the learning curve would be steep. 

    4. And we’re just getting started

      After my mild panic attack :), I realized that college is the perfect place to delve into something that you have no previous experience in. There are so many resources available to you, and there are plenty of experts to help you along the way. Through my own research, asking professors for help in class, and participating in different events, my experience in computer science has grown immensely. I’ve participated in the Lehigh Hackathon, Microsoft programming competition, and mobiLEHIGH competition all within a year and a half. And I can’t wait to see what I’ll do next!


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Other Updates

These other updates will most likely consist of my internship search. As of now, I have been unsuccessful in acquiring a summer internship. I looked at my mistakes from last semester and hope to improve. One of the biggest problems I found was that I was very narrow in my application pool. I had only applied to a few positions that I thought were interesting last semester. Now that it’s spring semester, I can’t afford to be too picky, so I have applied to a lot more varied positions. Notably, instead of trying to narrowly apply to only consulting or advisory, I have been applying to IT and tech related positions. In my current situation, in terms of financial firms I had an interview with Blackrock for IT audit and an interview with Citi for a technology leadership program. The Blackrock interviewing process has already been completed, and I was not selected for the position. As for Citi, I only had the first round interview, so I am waiting to see if I will be invited to the next round. Outside of financial services, I had a few interviews with healthcare related companies. I am still currently in the interview process with these companies, so I will update on these later. Also, while typing this, I remembered that I was also invited to an on campus interview with KPMG for IT Attestation. I have a lot of opportunities this semester, and hopefully one of them will convert into an offer. Wish me luck.

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Spring Semester

It’s been a while since my last post, so I will have a lot of updates to write about. First, I’ll start with the current spring semester schedule and will later discuss other updates. This semester I am taking 5 courses. I am taking 2 upper level FIN (finance) courses, 2 CSB courses, and 1 CSE course. I will list each individually and share my thoughts on the classes so far.

FIN-323 (Investments): This course feels like an extension to ECO-029 (Money, Banking, and Financial Markets). The teacher is very nice and seems to care about the students. The actual course content seems very easy in natures, and the homework we have had so far is easy. We also had a few “quizzes” which were just simple attendance checks. I hear the tests are straight from the homework which means that the class is probably going to be relatively straightforward and easy.

FIN-328 (Corporate Finance): This course feels like an extension of FIN-125 (Introduction to Finance). This class is a lot more math heavy compared to FIN-323. The class definitely seems harder, but honestly I find the class a lot more engaging than Fin-323. I suspect the exams will not be easy, but enough practice should help me through the tests.

CSB-311 (Computer Applications in Business): This class seems like it will be a lot of work. The material seems pretty dry, but because of the relevance of the coursework, I find it somewhat interesting. The class is pretty much about information systems and will likely be super useful given you are going into a career field related to accounting or IT.

CSB-312 (Design of Integrated Business Applications): This is our capstone project. We haven’t done too much yet so I can’t comment too much. The project we are working on is a data analysis systems for a museum using technology called iBeacons.

CSE-202 (Computer Architecture): This is my only CSE class this semester and will likely be my hardest course as well. CSE-202 is notorious for being a pretty difficult class. Some people love the class, and others hate it. Currently, I can’t say too much except that the lab assignments are pretty difficult so far.




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My Time in Chicago

Earlier I posted that I would be in Chicago for an interview with PwC. First of all, this was the first time I had ever flown by myself (I also don’t fly much in general). The entire trip was a new and exciting experience. The greatest part was that I didn’t need to pay for anything. Most of the students I met at the Chicago office were interviewing for management consulting whereas I was interviewing for technology consulting. My interview consisted of a case interview and a behavioral interview. We were provided the case 48 hours in advance and were told to look it over. At the office, we were given 45 minutes to prepare our presentation slides. After the prep time was over, we were taken to our interviewers. Ultimately, I have no idea how the case presentation went; I asked the interviewer how I did, but he said he was not allowed to tell me. I think that besides for the case, the interviews went smoothly. However, I believe that the case is the biggest factor in decision making so I am unsure of how much of a chance I have of receiving and offer. Like I mentioned earlier, I am thinking that Deloitte is going to reject me, so I was banking on PwC. I definitely could have done better at the interview, but at this point there is no point in worrying about what’s done. I should hear back from both firms sometime this week, so next time I write a blog post, I will likely tell you what happened. Stay in tune!

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PwC Interview Process and Etc

Apparently, today is when people heard back from last Friday’s PwC interviews. Also, if my interview process goes like other Deloitte position interviews, I might hear back today from Deloitte for a rejection email. I’ve pretty much been checking my phone to see if Deloitte has emailed me. I think that if I can get through the day without being rejected, there might be some hope for me (assuming offers weren’t sent out right after interviews). I’ve already moved my mind away from Deloitte because my PwC interview is in two days. I am given two days to prepare for the case interview. On the actual day of the interview, at my allotted time,  I will have 45 minutes to prepare slides for the case presentation. I thought that I would need to create actual PowerPoint slides, but apparently, I am just handwriting on blank papers. I heard from a friend who interviewed in NYC last Friday that the interview was quite difficult. PwC is my last chance at the Big 4 (assuming I don’t get Deloitte which I don’t think I did), so I am looking to perform well at Chicago.

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Post Interview Reflection

It has been a few days since my interview at Deloitte. First I should start off by saying that I only interviewed with Deloitte on Friday even though I was supposed to interview with PwC as well. Ultimately, the timing did not work out for both interviews, so I had to reschedule Pwc as I had already scheduled Deloitte’s interview first. Now I have to fly to Chicago this week to interview with PwC. This is not exactly what I wanted to do, so I have some very mixed feelings. As for Deloitte, it did not go as well as expected. First of all, I (and many others) thought that we would be getting dinner on Thursday night, but it was just a reception. Now for the actual interview, the first interview was average, neither great nor terrible. I was hoping to bank it on the second interview because my first one was not spectacular. However, as I was directed into the room, I noticed noone was there. Apparently, my interviewer got caught up in family issues, so he was unable to come to the interviewers. Therefore, I had a phone interview with another director. This was very unfortunate because I feel that a phone interview would put me at a severe disadvantage compared to a person to person interview. The recruiter told me and the other interviewee that a phone interview should make no difference, but I didn’t buy it. Not being face to face with the interviewer cuts out a lot of the impression that you can make. Needless to say, I was pretty upset at the situation, but there was nothing I could do about it. I am feeling that it is pretty unlikely that I will receive the offer, unfortunately. Hopefully, the PwC interview goes a lot better.

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