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How Hackathons Can Help You Kick-Start Your Coding Career

Coding challenges can help college students impress recruiters at companies like Tata Consultancy Services.

For programmers of all experience levels, most coding is done solo, privately chugging away to build something new behind your own screen. So, naturally, it’s a pretty special moment when the opportunity presents itself to publicly showcase your skills. Enter: the hackathon, a challenge-style event specifically designed to help aspiring programmers make a splash in their future industry—and win prizes, to boot!

Why compete in hackathons?

Hackathons, like the TCS CodeVita coding competition, are an excellent way for students to make valuable connections in their prospective field. By simultaneously showcasing your skills in real-time and letting your personality shine, coding events present the chance to make a good impression on the recruiters who might want to hire you in the future. Just ask this Handshake user who landed a full-time software engineering role with JPMorgan Chase after participating in their hackathon event! 

Joe Leos Jr., a Campus Recruiter for leading multinational IT services company Tata Consultancy Services who helps organize the annual CodeVita coding challenge, believes that more students should consider participating in hackathons as a way to impress recruiters like him. The benefits, he says, are threefold:

  1. These competitions allow students to test skills they’ve learned in the classroom through a more practical application. 
  2. Hackathons can be a valuable resume highlight and discussion point while networking in your future job hunt. 
  3. Participating in challenges show a demonstrable commitment to nurturing and developing your talent. This tells recruiters that while you’re a great coder now, you’ll also continually strive to learn and improve!

How to prepare for coding events

Every hackathon is different, so it’s important to do your homework (sometimes literally) before you dive into the competition! Here are a few simple tips for success:

Research the event to see if there are example problems, questions, or scenarios that might be highlighted during the event. You might want to check out recaps of past events in the same series, or scope the hackathon website for indicators about the theme or emphasis.

Read the rules, and ask any questions as they arise! Coding event organizers want you to have fun and feel set up for success, so they’ll be happy to clarify things for you if needed.

Pre-install any new software or dev environment that you might need to work with during the event. 

Prepare to network. Have your Handshake profile, resume, and/or personal website handy in case the chance presents itself to connect with a recruiter or another industry professional with whom you’d like to maintain contact. 

Share the love. If you’ve got friends, classmates, or other peers who might be interested in the hackathon, let them know about it. If the chance to work in a team setting arises during the event, you’ll be glad for some familiar faces to code with. 

Remember to have fun! While these events present some cool chances to connect with potential mentors, recruiters, and more, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Enjoy the event and have fun while you gain more practical experience.

Hacking at TCS CodeVita

Tata Consultancy Services provides code-loving college students with the chance to put their skills to the test every year through its massive, international challenge called TCS CodeVita. This event brings together 230,000 students from 3,500+ institutions in 89 countries around the world, creating an international community for college students to code, build, and compete. 

For the ninth year running, CodeVita will give the next generation of coders a chance to test their skills in common languages—like C, C++, C#, Java, Perl, PHP, Python, and Ruby—against their peers when it begins in December 2020. Each question in the competition is created by programmers based off of real-world problems that they’ve encountered while working for TCS. (Click to check out examples of the types of questions participants will encounter!)

The event will consist of three rounds, during which student participants will choose their preferred coding language to solve six problems in six hours. The pre-qualifier round takes place on December 5th; those who make it out will move on to round two and face off against other top performers from around the world. Finally, the best 25-30 competitors will compete in the grand finale round in February 2021.

While there are some incredible cash prizes at stake for the top competitors—$10K top prize, $7K for the runner-up, and $3K for third place—the exposure to the industry and job opportunities are an even bigger lure. “You don’t have to take home the top prize to gain exposure to our team,” says Leos Jr. “Top performers in each geographical area may be offered a summer internship or a job offer. Along with the experience, participants will also receive rankings that can be added to their resume.” If this shot at money, networking opportunities, and resume-boosters has you convinced, look for CodeVita postings on Handshake or register directly by December 1, 2020.

Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels