Usually when our team lead walks up to our workspaces, it's because something has gone wrong.
"Can you take a look at this?" is a question we hear a lot. "We have a problem" is another favourite.
"Do you want to go to Las Vegas for a hackathon?" was definitely something we hadn't heard before.
The offer came with one caveat: "Don't bother coming back if you don't win." He claims he wasn't serious, but we did wonder...
Of course it didn't matter in the end, because win we did...
There's not much you can do to prepare for something like a hackathon. You can't write any code beforehand, because that goes against the spirit of it. But you can think, and involve people who aren't going, and start drawing up design mock-ups for how it can look. So we spent a few days doing just that, packed up a couple of laptops and prepared ourselves for a long flight.
We arrived in Las Vegas around 5 PM local time. Plenty of time for some sightseeing. Neither of us had been to Las Vegas before, and after a brief stop at the hotel to dump our luggage we set off, exhausted but determined to make the most of it.
Las Vegas is a stunning city, especially at night. The grand hotels along the strip shine merrily, giving it a festive air. There's something to see wherever you walk – stunning buildings, curious replicas of monuments in other parts of the world, and even some short shows. We wandered past Paris, briefly stepped into ancient Rome, and paused at the volcano that was due to erupt.
But eventually even we started to feel the weight of the long day we'd had, so we trooped back to our hotel. It wouldn't do to start the hackathon with only a few hours of sleep under our belts after all.
The hackathon took place at the Expedia offices in Las Vegas, some distance from the heart of the city. We arrived there in a couple of buses and were shown to the area they'd set aside.
First order of business was to set up our laptops so we could get to work as soon as possible. That's when we ran into the first problem.This is the most important tip you will ever read: when going to a hackathon in a different country, make sure your laptop plugs fit into the converter before you step on the airplane. We'd both brought converters along, knowing that the plugs in the USA would be different from those in The Netherlands. But we'd also both assumed the laptop plugs would fit normally.
Another tip: assumption is the mother of all screw-ups.
So there we were, 8 hours of battery between us and 2 days to go. Failure seemed evident. Luckily, techies tend to stick together. Between a couple of helpful rivals and the wonderful Expedia team, we managed to scrounge up a working converter and a cable for the laptop. The day was saved, and programming could proceed. The mood in that room can only be described as productive. The teams were all focusing on their own work, barely pausing to grab something to eat or drink or sometimes stretch. This was going to be it. Something great was going to happen here. You could feel it in the air, an expectant mood. Of course, there's nothing like some extra incentive to bring everything to a boil. At the end of the day, Expedia revealed the winners would receive Apple Watches. Then they said, "If we were you, we'd work through the night."
We looked at each other and wordlessly decided division of labour was required. So while one of us headed back to the hotel to burn the midnight oil, the other went to see Le Rêve...
Please find Expedia's blog here: https://techblog.expedia.com/2016/01/04/our-first-partner-hackathon/
Next part will follow soon...