I am not an engineer
Must read:Is there a real future in data analysis for self-learners without a math degree?

Hey, I won a hackathon!

The day before the hackathon, I was wondering. Should I really go to this hackathon? Wasn’t I supposed to focus on my data project instead? For once, I made the right decision. Here is how it happened and what it changed in my life (and in this blog!).

Real questions, no bullsh*t
Back in September I took over an association, which helped students get in touch with young professionals. We made young people meet up to share their experience in their respective fields. How is it really like to be a business consultant? What are the drawbacks of your position? How many hours do you work per week and what is your salary, etc.? We basically offered a safe haven for real questions. Questions one cannot ask easily during interviews and networking events, at least in France and most of continental Europe.

Should I really go to this hackathon?
When the hackathon came up I was struggling to keep up with my high-paced self-training on statistics. It took courage to leave my previous job “only” to study on my own. I definitely felt guilty at times being “jobless”, even though I did not loose my job and was not looking for any either. After all, I have been working all my life, even before going to high school. Starting with small jobs, on holidays first, then on weekends, part-time jobs, voluntary internships, etc. So, there again, should I really take off time from my self-training and go to this hackathon? If only I knew…

The hackathon came at a time where I was asking myself tons of questions about my career choices. Typical for someone who leaves his job and field of study for the unknown world of data analysis. So I came upon this article about how to get into Harvard. It surely sounds ridiculous, but hey it was worth it. In a nutshell, the post gives hints on what kind of profiles get through the Ivy League selection process: if you are among the best in one activity, you have better chances to get in than if you try being good at everything. This competition clearly offered the opportunity to test this approach.

You could feel that you are on the right track
I have not won many competitions in my life so far. The only time I remember winning a public event was a running competition where I did not climb the podium because my (then) girlfriend, who did not bother showing up, harassed me on the phone. It was an interesting experience all the same. When you lead the race, you know that your are going to win unless you make a big mistake (lowering the pace, making a detour,…). Well, it was the same at this hackathon. A set of observations made it clear to our team that we were on the right track.

Suddenly people started coming back
When I first presented the project we were five people around the table. There was one project per table. An hour later, most participants moved over to the tables with the “important” people of the “establishment”. At one point I was just with another person, but I kept going, explaining and sharing the basic idea. All of a sudden, people started coming back. There was a growing interesting in my project, which became a shared project by all participants around the table. Even the organizers started showing up, including members of the jury.

No feedback is negative feedback
This does not mean that you have to connect with the jury or the organizers to win a hackathon. No, it is purely about understanding the signals coming towards you. It is like a positive feedback for which you have not explicitly asked. A strange phenomenon. Once you have witnessed it, you can get a sense for it. As I have never felt it so clearly, I can now feel the lack of it in all kinds of situations. This experience exposed the power of the unsaid. No feedback is negative feedback. But if you force it, you will never know.

At the end of the day, it was clear to us that we had serious chances to win the next day. From this point on, we prepared for that moment and this is how we got through the final stretch as a team.

Hop on the Angular train!
If you still read this, you might have noticed that my posting frequency has slowed down drastically. Since the hackathon, I have indeed been focusing on my associative project and my freelance activities (translations and web development). After introducing myself (finally!) into the JavaScript realm, I am now developing a website in Angular4 and will document my learnings about this powerful frontend framework on this blog. I am not an engineer, but hey, I am developing a fully responsive website from A to Z, and you can too! All non-engineers aboard the Angular train!

I will of course keep documenting any interesting steps made in data analysis and focus primarily on the people behind data in the Data Stories section.

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