I had a blast volunteering as a mentor and pitch coach at the Summer of Tech hackathon last weekend.
About 50 students split into eight teams and spent the whole weekend building web or mobile apps. The rules were pretty simple… basically you could do anything as long as you used a New Zealand data set somehow. Coming as I do from a world of big server software that takes multiple years to build and a whole team to maintain, these little apps were all the more impressive, partly a testament to the kids’ skills, and partly a demonstration of how far the Internet ecosystem has matured.
I showed up on Sunday afternoon to help them with the 5-minute speeches / demos they had to give to win the big prize. More importantly for me and my business, I got to meet some of the talent who will likely be applying for jobs with us in the near future. So, my volunteer effort wasn’t entirely altruistic.
The kids were great, and I learned as much as I taught. I found myself channeling the Voice coaches…. I didn’t really try to tweak the bullets on the slides, but I did talk a lot about passion, connection, meaning. You’ve got five minutes, and you’re an engineering student… perhaps not a native English speaker. How can we make people love you and love your app?
Most of my advice was taken to heart, which was unexpectedly rewarding, and the best teams won, which was reassuring, and I got a nice bottle of wine and a T-shirt.
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