My Experience of Competing in an IBM Hackathon

Ever wondered what it’s like to participate in a high-energy hackathon, working with great technical minds in an extremely fast-paced environment? Jay Harrison Tuckey from IBM Australia describes his experience when he joined an IBM Hackathon.

By Jay Harrison Tuckey

If the word ‘hackathon’ is not familiar to you, don’t be alarmed! It is a relatively new type of competition involving a sprint-oriented design and building event for software. Teams of programmers, developers, graphic interface designers, experienced architects, project managers and other experts come together for a day of intense collaboration to improve or modify a product offering. The endgame of this flurry of keystrokes is to create a working version of the new improvement which can then be tested and potentially implemented into the consumer version of the software.

I was lucky enough to compete in one of these hackathons held at IBM’s St. Leonards office in Australia with a congregation of internal developers, external business partners and other technical professionals. During the event I was given the opportunity to look into the world of rapid prototyping for software and subsequently develop an accelerated view of the development cycle. The challenge was simple: “Develop a value-adding function to Watson Content Hub.”


Our software development was aimed at making E-commerce websites more accessible and easy to use for small businesses and organisations. Our ideas were driven by conversations we had with clients about the product – what they thought could be added, and how they would like to use a headless content management system in the future.

Throughout the day we went through various stages of development and sprints to consolidate our ideas, and by the conclusion of the event, we had created a working prototype for presentation.

The most important lesson I took away from the hackathon was to make sure that consumer need drives the development, and that the new iteration can provide more value than the original. It was important to always come back to the questions: “How will this add value to the customer?” and “What can they now do because of this update?” Without this constant focus, we may have lost sight of developing a solution for the customer and instead developed a solution which was simply impressive for the sake of being impressive.

This experience was invaluable in providing me with greater knowledge of the processes behind software development, putting agile theory into practice, and gaining a deeper understanding of one of IBM’s up and coming cognitive technologies.

If this is the kind of environment that excites you, why not join me at IBM where you can be offered the opportunity to take place in one of these events and hopefully you will grab the opportunity with both hands! It can be a challenging and rewarding way to spend a day where you will no doubt come out with an enhanced skillset and ultimately a better suite of software.


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