5 things we learnt from taking part in the AmCham Innovation Hackathon
The challenge? To create a product or service to ensure that Ireland is the Best Place to Live and Work.
Guest blog from Glandore Marketing Manager, Jeri Mahon. Photo credit: The American Chamber of Commerce Ireland
On Thursday 9 February – Saturday 11 February, we participated in the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland‘s inaugural #WorldofTalent Future Leaders Hackathon.
64 companies were represented by 80 participants forming 10 teams, over 3 intense and exhilarating days at DCU Ryan Academy. 54 hours of back-to-back sessions, design thinking workshops, pitching sessions and 17,000 cups of coffee consumed later, here’s what we learnt.
1. Pitching takes practice (but you’ll be glad you did it!)
On the first evening, participants were encouraged to pitch their ideas in front of a room full of mentors, sponsors, organisers and participants. I did not intend to pitch. I hadn’t come with an idea beforehand and the thought of speaking for 60 seconds on something I wasn’t prepared for in front of a room full of strangers was not my idea of fun. We were, however, encouraged by the supportive DCU Ryan Academy team and the line that originated from 15 people, grew to nearly 50% of the room deciding to give it go.
My voice broke, the stats I had quickly Googled while standing in line disappeared from my mind and I was especially conscious of the ticking clock in the corner. But, ultimately, I was glad I did it. Everyone in the room was supportive, smiling and don’t forget, people are willing for you to succeed.
An insightful ‘Pitch Prep’ session with Andrew Keogh, Startup Pitch Coach on the final day of the Hackathon, gave us the insight and tools to properly prepare. Here are the top tips from Andrew that I took away:
- Invite your audience to buy into the idea you are presenting.
- If the audience doesn’t understand your pitch, it’s not them, it’s you.
- Define what the problem is and how do you propose to solve it..
2. Stretch your thinking
The Hackathon brought us all together, to innovate and collaborate as a team. Participants came from a wide range of industries, background and work experience. Those with similar skills or came from the same company were encouraged to join a team with people you wouldn’t normally work with.
Don’t think that it was easy. It was hard. We were forced to stretch our thinking, managing the flow from ideation to completion, with people you had only met that day.
But it was rewarding. The different perspectives everyone brought to the table pushed you out of your comfort zone, allowed you to see things from an outsider’s perspective and helped make it a fun learning experience.
3. Eating, resting and exercising is important
It might sound silly but 54 hours working in a fast-paced, high-intensity environment can make you forget about your social norms and routines that keep you functioning during a work-day.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner was provided by the fantastic team at DCU Ryan Academy, but half of the time I forgot to eat. I took a bite of a sandwich here then got stuck in to a task. I sipped from a bottle of water there and left the bottle behind at another workspace. Throughout the days, we were encouraged to clear our heads and stretch our legs in the surrounding area. Coming home in the evening, I found myself on such an adrenaline high that it took me an hour to get to sleep, despite having a very early start the next morning.
Fresh air, sufficient sleep and regular meals during normal hours will keep you functioning at your best during a Hackathon.
4. Make friends and have fun
We were going to be spending (in our case) the next 54 hours with each other.
The one thing I told myself early on was to make friends and enjoy myself. I learnt that there’s no use in shying away. Everyone is in the same boat, most people don’t know each other and everyone is there to connect with and meet new people. There can be a clash in characters in any environment so be kind to each other – especially if you’re sleep deprived! I got to meet some amazing people who I may never have gotten a chance to know otherwise.
Hackathons are a fantastic place to learn from others, share ideas, and build connections. Don’t take it too seriously. Embrace the madness.
Just like I’m doing now! In all seriousness, post-Hackathon I was exhausted and exhilarated all at the same time, so I’m only now understanding the importance of reflection. Tell your colleagues, friends and family how it went. The learning and connecting environment was an invaluable part of the Hackathon.
Think about who you’ve met, any new ideas you now have or reflect on something new you might have learnt.
Organiser of the Hackathon, American Chamber Director of Special Projects Katie Keogh said: “where we had great success was bringing together a new generation of leaders to share experiences. They gave us more confidence than ever that Ireland’s future is in good hands to receive, maintain and grow investment.”
The American Chamber of Commerce Ireland Innovation Challenge was held in association with the DCU Ryan Academy and sponsored by Emergenetics, Intel Ireland, Coca Cola, Mastercard Ireland, Temple Bar Hotel, Dublin Airport and Alexion.