In honor of MHacks (which kicks off in a few hours), I decided to break down the different types of team members I’ve worked alongside at various hackathons (including the Bananaflap Hackaflappathon!, Parallel Tracks Hackathon, Reinvent Transit, FreedomHack, PennApps, and HackMIT).
This person is the jack of all trades. Whether picking up new code to fill a hole or covering all the bases from the onset, a Generalist is a vastly useful team member. They always wear a smile and never complain. Generalists are typically skilled coders who love learning skills for the hell of it and helping where needed.
Generalists I’ve hacked with: Richard Higgins, Kunal Sharma, Brandon Gudenius
Get the spec. Zone in. Grind. The Workhorse masters the art of flow, bangs out code, and never sleeps. Never. She is usually seen with headphones on. No matter how long it takes or how many iterations are necessary, a Workhorse gets the job done.
A Hipster brings something unique to the table. When interesting skills are injected into an otherwise common project, teams usually get a creative edge. This is your designer on a web app, your seamstress on a hardware hack, your data junkie, your quant, and… well… anyone who knows Haskell. I relate most here, though the number of designers participating in hackathons is on the rise (!!!).
These are your newcomers, often enthusiastically participating in their first hackathon. With wide eyes, a Learner will spend much of their time on Codecademy or absorbing best practices from peers. But do not count this one out, learners are often the dark horses of hackathons. They provide an invaluable, unique perspective on ideas and issues that leave other team members stumped. In other words, Learners use their naiveté to a team’s advantage (h/t Michael Gubbels for that point). And remember, you always gotta get started somewhere—check back in a few months, and they’ll be tearing up the scene!
Learners I’ve hacked with: Ryan Chow
Experts know their shit. Any question is met with a thorough answer. Experts are specialized in core codebases and are especially valuable for troubleshooting and diagnosing problems. They’re experienced, precise, and focused. An Expert is excited by the opportunity to share his tantalizing knowledge, and will often be approached by other teams who will traverse an entire hackathon floor for some help here and there.
A visionary inspires team members to drive towards a common goal. While they may not touch as much code (or any at all), they make significant contributions through their leadership and marketing prowess. Visionaries keep morale in check and often prepare the final presentation. We often see the entrepreneurial, collaborative type in this category, keeping the team effective.
No matter how you identify, YOU are valuable to a team. At Bitcamp, our team is working hard to boost hacker diversity through a few initiatives coming soon. I’m super excited to see who I meet at MHacks, on the Major League Hacking circuit, and beyond.