Runner up at LA Hacks

I’ve gotten less than 2 hours of sleep since 6:30am Saturday morning. I love programming, so spending 24 hours straight doing something I love was going to make for an interesting weekend. It came together better than I could have possibly imagined.

The Hackathon was called LA Hacks [1], was powered by AngelHack, was hosted by HR Cloud and took place at Cross Campus in Santa Monica. I was about as anxious as I’ve ever been as people mingled at the start of the event. I did meet a few attendees that I kept up with over the 24 hours and will keep in touch with after the even. Most importantly Richard, who initially suggested I attend, introduced me to his HR Cloud buddies and made an AWESOME teammate.

We took one of the sponsor talks to heart:

  • Use data that exists.
  • Don’t be married to your algorithm.
  • Schlep so the user doesn’t have to.

Possibly other things were said, but we took those to heart.

I went to the event with the ambition to pitch Replacing Goodreads as the inspiration for a project, but I chickened out when the mic was open for pitches. I was agonizing over not having a group and frankly near a panicky feedback loop when one of Richard’s friends suggested the idea that Richard and I teamed up on. Use skill data from linkedIn to create score jobs that show up in a search. It met the 3 points above to a tee. (1) it uses existing data. (2) we could implement a 100% working example with a trivial algorithm that we could improve on as we had time. (3) The entire point of the project was to make it the job search process just a tinier bit easier, which is a massive schlep for way too many people.

After brainstorming for a bit, we settled on building a purely client side JavaScript application using a small number of APIs. Richard and I broke the project in half. I worked on the LinkedIn API and Richard worked on the Careerbuilder API. We pulled the pieces together around dinner and then started ironing things out. Ironing led to improvements and we roped as many of our neighbors in as test cases. Everyone has a linkedIn account and everyone managed to break our app in ways that helped us make it pretty airtight.

I caught a couple hours of sleep. I loved the food, particularly the ice cream sandwich truck. I got a massage. I paced. We coded. As the sun came up, we had everything in place and continued to tweak the algorithm. We actually continued to adjust the algorithm until the time limit and only really discussed the presentation at the 11th (actually 23rd in this case) hour.

There was an interesting hiccup in the presentation … my skill set scored me VERY highly for a job as a nurse … I’m still looking forward to dissecting why that happened. It was a simple presentation and a simple app but watching people’s reactions it seemed like it resonated. Everyone has wrestled with the problem we were solving. I was impressed with ALL of the presentations in our initial judging and was truly surprised when we were chosen as one of the 6 groups that got to present to ALL the judges in front of everyone on the main stage.

I could barely hold the mic still during the presentation, but as I said, it’s a simple app and a simple presentation. I asked the audience if anyone had ever applied for a job. I asked who had a linkedIn account. As I discribed the APIs and how we implemented them the app cycled through job searches and my scores (including the infamous ‘nurse’ search). No questions from the judges and I figured that was the end of things for me.

It clicked with me later that the lack of questions more than anything indicated how clearly we’d explained our project. When the prizes were given out I didn’t expect any of the sponsor prizes as we didn’t use any of their tools. I REALLY didn’t expect to hear the name of our project mentioned at all.

Out of 41 teams we were announced as the runners up for the hackathon. I’m still floored. Amazing weekend. Amazing people. Amazing Opportunities.

  1. All the sponsors, hosts, etc were quite visible. The unsung heroes that put the even on were UCLA Sigma Eta Pi.
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~ by mentatjack on April 28, 2013.

4 Responses to “Runner up at LA Hacks”

  1. Any ideas on how I could teach myself to hack?

  2. I am so proud of you and your abilities. I look forward to trying out your app.

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