“Hackathon” Success!

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By Allison DiDominick, Corporate Recruiter

November 5th, 2012

Students swarming over deep dish pizza, snatching cookies, and furtively grabbing energy drinks by the handful to propel them with the energy to develop the perfect code, was just one of my experiences at Enova’s second annual No Limit Code’Em “hackathon” this past October. Held both on campus at the University of Illinois and Chicago-wide at the Merchandise Mart, each event captured the curiosity of bright computer science and software engineering talent across the state and outside some of its borders!

I was fascinated as I watched the eager students pull out high tech laptops, plug in their iPods, and get to work on “hacking” away to perfect their code.  To say they were in a zone does not do justice to the intensity of their work that was only broken by frantic glances and hand gestures toward our team of developers (or “hackselor’s” as well call them at Enova) who offered words of wisdom.   Once in awhile, I found myself in the unfortunate position of being asked a technical question, in which I could only shrug my shoulders helplessly and call a developer over for an immediate solution.  I envied the ease of which all the individuals in the room communicated clearly regarding their algorithms, inject statements, and the overall state of their “bot.”  For all purposes they were speaking Greek to me, but even though I’m not a programmer I understood their determination to win the highly coveted MacBook Air (1st Prize) or iPad (2nd prize).

As we neared the final stage of the competition, the intensity and excitement in the room was almost unbearable.  Curses and triumphant cheers were one in the same as the competition ran its course and winners rushed to claim their prizes, shake hands with our CTO, and bask in their moment of glory.   When I surveyed the room, all I could catch was a sea of faces flushed with excitement and passion, all fueled by the desire to perfect their code or understand how the winners got so lucky.

Throughout the evening I observed the Enova developers chatting excitedly with students, our CTO jumping in on the front line to assist with coding. Witnessing the knowledge, creativity, mathematics, and brainstorming that had just erupted in a 5 hour period led me to a nagging thought that I should have studied the Ruby language instead of the Spanish language in college!