Baby’s First Ever #Hackathon!

October was a rush and a blur. I did many things in the past month, but as the title suggests, one of the biggest “wins” was that I participated in my first ever Hackathon! (As a matter of fact, I participated in TWO!)

I have also been working on the #100DaysOfCode Challenge, along with beginning my #3090FitnessChallenge on October 1st.  Along with continued Chemo Treatment meant that I had a really busy month, and not much time to sit down and flesh out a blog post.

I’ve been feeling a bit run-down for the past few weeks, so the comments you guys left on my last blog post and on Twitter were really heart-warming, and definitely cemented my resolve to keep on chugging along with the Blogging.  I hope to be able to go around to read everyone’s newer entries and leave comments/return comments soon.

IxN Hackathon 2017

My first Hackathon EVER! was my company’s first annual Hackathon.

For some reason, the powers that may be nominated me to be the Hackathon Ambassador for our first ever Hackathon, and I happily accepted the role of “hyping it up,” along with a few of my coworkers.

My position in the company is unique in that, because I work in IT, I basically talk to everyone in every market, which means almost everyone in the company knows who I am, and I know almost everyone in the offices all around the country.

So I tried to do my Ambassador-y Duties, and hyped it up as much as I can when I was talking to people.

The Hackathon itself was a day and a half, and the second half of the second day was used for presentations and judging, followed by an in-office happy hour (because what company event doesn’t include happy hour?).

IxN Hackathon 2017 – The Intersection Blog

(My face got featured a few times in company newsletter and their blog post that week!)

I did make a project-idea pitch, but I couldn’t get enough people to join my team, so I ended up joining an already-established team.  Since neither the project manager nor I could code up the back-end, we left that to the single software engineer, and we came up with the idea, and how to execute it.

I made a mock-up using Bootstrap, with my teammate’s help, made the CSS reflect that of our company’s website (marketing approved (TM) lol), and we handed it off to the software engineer to make the magic happen.

We did end up winning “The People’s Choice” Award, and Taco got to party with it for a little while.

Though our project encompassed a “need” in the company, it wasn’t as shiny or pretty as the other teams’ project, so we honestly didn’t think we’d win anything, so it was a great surprise.

I learned so much in the few short days (more like a day and a half) about Product-Designing and Product-Creation within the context of an interdisciplinary team.  It was really exciting, and I’m really gad I got out of my comfort zone and said YES! to the Hackathon.

Hiro of few months ago would’ve definitely not said yes, because she was not “that kind of person in Tech.”

Also, I got a pretty awesome sweater, and got to look really sketchy in it with my mask, so that’s always a plus.

Empathy Jam: UX Hackathon

The second Hackathon I attended in October was Empathy Jam.  Geared more towards UX Research and Design, I was definitely not prepared for what I was walking into.

“At one point or another, we have all wondered what the future will look like when many more jobs are automated. From cashiers and retail salespeople to waiters and laborers, many of our country’s most common jobs may be at risk — and nobody has a great answer for how we can prepare ourselves for the future.

Calling developers, researchers, designers, product people, civic activists, prototypers, data heads, and leaders of NYC! Are you looking for a way to make a difference and have fun doing it? JOIN US!

Come to the Empathy Jam, a research and design event that brings NYC residents and technologists together to collaborate on new ways to feel connected, supported, and excited about creating our future.”

Basically, the premise of the Hackathon was to find an issue in NYC, and then create a solution.  We learned about the UX Research methodologies and concepts, and practiced these ideas to create our project.

I had absolutely no idea what UX Design and Research meant before the 28th, and now I had a small glimpse of it, and I’m at awe! Definitely not a field for me (WALKING UP TO PEOPLE ON THE STREETS AND ASKING THEM TO TAKE PART IN MY RESEARCH? NOPEEEEE), but it was extremely eye opening, and I’m so glad I participated.

As stressful as it was (because it was such a completely new experience for me), it was so educational, and I feel like I learned more from that 1 day of jammin’ than I would’ve with weeks of research on what it meant to be an UX Designer.

#100DaysOfCode Challenge

So, how’s that 100 Days going? Well, I’m on D51, and I’m now officially more than half way through!

I don’t know if I’ve ever kept up something for this long, every day? I’ve missed 3 days (mostly by accident), but taking the advice of the wise sages at #100DaysOfCode, I made sure to not miss that 2nd day in a row, which makes it harder and harder to get back on track.  So here I am, still chugging along!

Because of the challenge, I’ve been able to tackle quite a few projects last month, too.  And it was honestly one of the biggest reasons why I even had the courage to join the Hackathons last month.

It’s one thing to be in front of the computer and be “coding” for “an hour a day” and participate in a challenge, but it’s another thing entirely to go out there in public, and participate in events that require you to embrace that persona.  While I knew I can’t help with anything I don’t know about, these Hackathons were valuable lessons in how in product and project development, “coding” isn’t all of it; there’s definitely a need for different talents and different backgrounds.

And hey, if it can’t be for my coding skills (TM), I definitely have a very original background and knowledge set to bring to the table!

Edit: If you are interested in #100DaysOfCode challenge, you can check out my posts here, and the challenge’s website here!

Burgundy for Life

The first website that got a facelift-re-haul as part of my challenge was Burgundy for Life‘s main website.  I had a WordPress theme on it before, with horribly outdated information, and I’ve been meaning to give it a facelift for years, but never got around to it.

So with my new Bootstrap/HTML5/CSS3 knowledge, I got to making a new web page for it on October 1st.  It was Day 22 of my #100DaysOfCode, so I will probably go back near the end of the challenge to tweak things up and make it look nicer with my 80 extra days of knowledge.

This page is basically the “landing page” for visitors to find links to all of the resources we provide.

Project Hope @ Burgundy for Life

One of the big projects I was working on for October was to reflect on #AVMAwarenessMonth by bringing Our Voices to the public.  Very often, patient and caregiver voices are pushed away, and no one really gets to hear what we have to say.  A lot of rhetoric and words are used to describe us and convey what we supposedly feel or think to the public, but most of the time, no one asks us what we really think.

This also is true when it comes to advice and support we would like to give ourselves and each other.  While I was going through my medical fiasco as a college student, I found it very difficult to find a place where I can “recharge” my HOPE for my future and my recovery.

So at the end of September, I began soliciting my followers on my Facebook Page to fill out a survey for me.  At the time, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with the answers, or how I could best frame the narrative. I just knew I had some questions that I wanted real, raw responses for, and I’ll figure out what to do with them later.

Ironically, though it was the most difficult part of the UX Research Hackathon, I was naturally doing it on my own! Going out to find the problem by asking questions!

While I did spend a month tossing around the idea of a “Random Quote Generator,” I was not sure how the execute it.  I tried to find ways to code it myself, but where I stood at that time with my #100DaysOfCode journey, I didn’t have enough man power to make it a reality.  On an off-chance, though, I found out that Lysianthus was offering a “Text Randomizer Script” to her visitors.

The discovery was all I needed to devote a Sunday afternoon to creating the webpage and embedding the script and the lines of advice I had from 90 responses to my survey.

HIROKO.IO: Portfolio

The project that I have been spending the majority of my time on has been revamping my personal site/portfolio.  I began working on it on Day 8 of my #100DaysOfCode Challenge, and have been working on it for the past month and a half.

I finally uploaded the framework to the domain, but there’s really not much “content” to it (ie: the actual portfolio part).  Honestly, I uploaded it in a frantic because Empathy Jam was the next day, and I didn’t have an updated business card, so I created a really rough “main page” for my old portfolio at and uploaded this one.

I’ve been going through the frustrations and excitement of “Fix one thing and it breaks something else” dilemma of coding world for the whole time I’ve been working on it, and I can only hope that by the end of the 100 days, I’ll have something complete!

Edit: Now it actually has a portfolio for projects!

Oh Yeah… And Happy Halloween!

Hiroko Nishimura
AWS Community Hero. Special Education teacher turned IT Engineer turned Technical Writer. Author "AWS for Non-Engineers" (Manning Publications). Technical Instructor "Introduction to AWS for Non-Engineers" (LinkedIn Learning).

16 thoughts on “Baby’s First Ever #Hackathon!”

  1. Yay! I’m so excited for you. I’m glad you had such good experiences with your hackathons and that you’ve been so on track with #100DaysOfCode. c: Go Hiro Go!

  2. How insightful! Your writing is so on point that I see your POV so clearly! I’m glad you liked empathy jam!!! It’s a different kind of hackathon where co-creating inspires unique results!!

    1. It definitely is! I’m glad I got to do both types right after each other, because both were fresh in my mind to compare and contrast 😀 Thanks for inviting me!!!

  3. Wow, I am excited to see more people joining… which makes me think that I should too. How do I start, btw? Will you be able to kindly give me a link or something? I did a quick search: Is it the official site?

    Your resume / portfolio definitely looks amazing! You just inspired me to make mine more presentable. It’s amazing how programs like this make us want to do better.

    As a developer myself, I could relate to your frustration of fixing one bug and another one is unknowingly born. LOL. Let’s keep debugging and make our works bug-free — sweet success.

    Congratulations on joining 2 hackathons last month. Keep improving!

  4. Yay, that’s so cool that you did two Hackathons recently! Congrats on getting the “People’s Choice” award at your work hackathon! I think the big win is how much you learned in a short amount of time. That experience will be helpful the next time you do it again too 🙂

    I think UX research is really interesting, but like you, I don’t think it’s totally up my alley either. In the past, we’ve done user studies for our products, and the results were always eye opening. They were done in our office, so it wasn’t as stressful as asking random people.

    Wow, go you on the 100 days of code! That’s great that you passed the half-way mark already! 100 days is such a long streak that I wouldn’t feel terrible if I missed a few days. I think it’s good that you don’t miss more than one in a row. Your new designs and sites are looking good! Keep at it!

  5. I remember seeing you tweet about the Hackathon and thought it looked so interesting! Lately I’ve really wanted to get back into coding and really diligently learn PHP and HTML5 because coding has changed a LOT since I last coded a website. The languages are almost completely foreign to me now, which makes me a little sad…

    I think it’s great you’re using #100DaysOfCode to revamp websites and play around with some new languages. Hopefully after the 100 days are up you’ll be a little more familiar with new things and you’ll make progress on those projects!

  6. I’ve never participated on a hackaton before but it sounds interesting 😀

    I don’t think I’d be able to do the full 10 days of code challenge but it certainly looks fun. ^^

    Cool Halloween hat!

  7. I’ve been following along with your hackathon and coding updates and have really enjoyed reading it! I’m so glad to see that you have had taken up the challenges and opportunities in the coding and hackathon communities – it’s super rewarding. This year I had particularly immersed myself in these worlds and I wouldn’t have changed a thing Definitely the most empowering thing I’ve ever been a part of!


  8. That is great the hackathon was a hands on way to learn more about Product-Designing and Product-Creation. Great way to learn. Girl, you have been busy! But all the coding things sound so fun. I remember when I first taught my self to code and would be so frustrated over fix one thing, break another. The darn little semicolon ; can make a WORLD of difference when it’s there. LOL. Okay that sweatshirt is swag. Nice score.

  9. You really amaze me you know. The way you do all this and stay so positive despite all the battles you have been fighting with your body. It really helps me to try and stay more positive. Sometimes on a really bad day I just have to force myself to get up and run a small errand. It might make me exhausted but it keeps me from being depressed.
    That is awesome that you got the peoples choice award! Very cool, sounds like so much fun doing something like that. The only time I ever came close was an AITP conference that I nominated to go to in college. We didn’t win anything but we got some interesting experience and lots of compliments on our work.
    It is funny how you mention that you know so many people in your job because of being in I.T. I was that way with being on the help desk and now I’m a EMR analyst who trains doctors on the dictation system. When I was with a trainer on our dictation system from Cali she was shocked by how many people knew and talked to me. lol
    I wish I had your coding knowledge but it seems my skills in I.T. have gone in another direction. Someday I might go back to college and learn more on programing though. The new look looks great on that website.
    Good luck with all the work on your portfolio.
    I’m slowing getting rid of all my website and keeping just the one so I admire you for working on all of these sites. ♥

  10. Yay hackathons! They really are a lot of fun. You’re really inspirational. I may try the 100 day coding challenge because of you, and I just created a Good Reads account too because of you. You really have a way to influence people, even though we’ve never met. Just saw your portfolio and resume. Love you you present yourself, and the visual way the information is organized.

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