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October 22, 2019
How a non-techie turned a coding hackathon into a job offer
By: Zoe Delaney

Zoe never saw herself in a technical role until she attended an Accenture blockchain hackathon. Her team didn’t make the finals, but the experience inspired her to take a new career route and put her on the path to being offered a job at Accenture.

I never intended to sign up for a coding hackathon. As a final year student doing a joint Bachelor of Engineering and Commerce, the only coding I’d ever done was a uni subject in Python. So definitely not a tech head. But I was interested in consulting.

I’d heard that hackathons were a great opportunity to get your name out there, meet industry people and get a foot in the door. I kind of like to put myself in situations that challenge me. So, without really knowing what I was getting myself into, I registered my interest in Accenture’s blockchain hackathon.

It was an intense but extremely rewarding experience!

Coding a new feature for the MyWizard chatbot project Coding a new feature for the MyWizard chatbot project

What to expect at a Hackathon
It started deceptively calmly – introductions, a presentation from the myWizard chief, Luke Higgins, on machine learning. Then they split us into groups.

Our challenge was to brainstorm a problem that could be solved using blockchain – and write the code. Eeek! With the help of our Accenture mentors, we narrowed down an idea. And then we were off. Two coding wizards in my group were super keen to tackle the back end, leaving me and my new friend Grace to take on the HTML and CSS coding for the web front end – which neither of us had ever used before!

So there we are watching lots of tutorials, frantically trying to get up to speed so we could build something presentable. At that point I realised we were going to be coding long into the night.

Discussing new directions for the chatbot project Discussing new directions for the chatbot project

The next day, our idea got some traction, but we didn’t make the final pitch. It really didn’t matter. I met some great people – both in the groups and from Accenture – and the whole thing inspired me to apply for an internship at Accenture.

At my interview, Luke recognised me, which was cool – and I got the gig! Turned out, they weren’t looking for a super coder. What they wanted was my willingness to learn and my excitement about machine learning.

The hackathon opened my eyes to how cool this technology is. Machine learning will be integrated into everything around us. It’s the next frontier – as profound as the rise of PCs or smart phones. And I want to be part of it.

Some of the MyWizard team attending Mini Golf after work Some of the MyWizard team attending Mini Golf after work

Having never seen myself as a coder, now I’ve discovered I really enjoy it. I’d always thought coders sat isolated in a dark room building stuff from scratch. I didn’t realise how much of it involves teamwork, problem solving, connecting ideas and being really creative.

My advice if you’re considering a hackathon

  • Be prepared to drink a lot of coffee!
  • Network like crazy. Grab everyone on LinkedIn. You never know who’s going to be a valuable connection later.
  • Don’t worry about your coding skills or winning – this is about learning, networking and finding out about what’s going on in the industry. I discovered the best languages to start learning and heap of stuff no one told us at uni.
  • On the weekends, I love to get out of the city and go on bushwalks On the weekends, I love to get out of the city and go on bushwalks

    Finally, if you go and find out it’s not for you – it doesn’t matter. You’ll have learned this isn’t your path – and you’ll have met some great people. So, even if you’re not a coder and you’ve never seen yourself in a technical role – have a crack! It’s put me on an exciting career path I’d never previously imagined I would go down with my degree.

    Interested in joining us at our next Hackathon in Melbourne? Sign up here! To find out more about Zoe’s team, read Luke Higgins’ blog.

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