My first time being a hacker


Written by Judith

02 Apr 2019

When you move to another country, your Facebook feed is not about your friends, some memes and your biggest idol anymore. It’s about all the stuff you had before plus people selling second-hand furniture, groups where they offer accommodation or people looking for a place to live, and more importantly, all the events happening around you. I mostly use Facebook to check out and join fun activities happening in Stockholm.

One day, while in a study break, I was scrolling through my FB feed and I this event popped up:  Sustainability Hackathon in Uppsala. Interesting! I’ve always wanted to do a Hackathon, to be a Hacker. In addition, I found it ideal to participate since I’m collaborating in the Sustainability Campaign for Study In Sweden (Do you know about it right? Otherwise, check this post and stay tuned for the next Sustainability Week). In short, I registered for the Hackathon.

What is a hackathon?

In my words, a hackathon is an event where different companies collaborate together to provide different challenges related to a specific topic. Then, people in teams elaborate a solution for one of the challenges within a limited amount of time determined by the duration of the event. That is, you register for the event, the day of the event, in situ, you choose a challenge. You team up with other people interested in tackling that problem, you and your team brainstorm, discuss and come up with a solution. At the end of the event, you present what you have.

Last Friday I was at Sustainability Hackathon, the one-day hackathon focus on solving sustainability challenges. At the beginning of the event I felt a bit lost, I didn’t know anyone in there but looking at my surroundings, most of the people went there alone, and therefore they were in the same situation as me. In the very first hours we were introduced to the challenges: how to improve the stormwater management in the cities, how to hack growth for a sustainability encouraging platform, how to get more people to leave their cars at home and how to get kids to be more active, and how to promote a sports complex in order to make people more active, and last, design a business plan for a solar sunflower that can be installed in the cities to provide electricity. All of them with the focus of becoming even more sustainable.

I chose challenge number 3: how to promote a sports complex in order to make people more active. Honestly, at first, I wasn’t motivated by the chosen challenge but as time went by and the solution kept improving being more clear and having more sense, I started gaining motivation and liking our approach to the problem. By the time to present, I was proud of what we elaborated in just 2 hours.

In summary, taking part in a Hackathon is to…

This skill is a practical and convenient aptitude to have in life. Live has obstacles and problems you have to overcome. It’s also nice to be challenged and test your creativity, imagination and technical skills.

The topic was sustainability, but, was everyone studying something related to sustainability? No. In my team, just one out of six was studying Sustainability Engineering and Management. Other three are studying Industrial Management, another is becoming an anthropologist and me, a student in Interaction Design. The only thing in common we had, was our interest in sustainability and the willingness to contribute to the world.

Since the team is formed by people with different backgrounds, each of you plays an important role as an expert in your area. It’s time to apply all these concepts and things you’ve learned in school so far. I have to note, that it’s a very nice and motivating feeling to see everyone supporting your ideas, and suggestions when it comes to your field. For example, as a designer, I was ensuring we were following the design process step by step, instead of jumping straight to a solution.

During the hackathon, we started discussions that could last ten, twenty or thirty minutes. But we didn’t have the luxury of using that many minutes. In order to use every minute and make it meaningful, we agreed to make discussions no longer than 7 minutes. Therefore, an alarm was sounding every 7 minutes, indicating time’s up. It’s time to close the discussion and start a new one about another aspect. Time is limited and constrains your solution, and therefore time management is important.

A male and female colleague who communicates and plans a project.
Photo: Susanne Walström/

You work in teams and collaborate together to elaborate on an idea that solves the problem. Other teams will be working on the same challenge as you, and you want to present the best solution. Depending on the hackathon, you can get a monetary reward and the opportunity to go further with the solution to launch it in the real world.

Conclusion: check out your Facebook for fun events and opportunities like this one. And if your FB feed doesn’t notify you with interesting activities, Google is a good alternative.

I hope to see you around at the next Hackathon!


Written by Judith

02 Apr 2019