3 Things I Learned at the Braven Bay Area Hackathon at LinkedIn

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By Suzette Sandoval, suzette.sandoval@sjsu.edu

11. Trust

I walked into LinkedIn excited to complete my first Hackathon. After I checked-in and sat at my designated table, I glanced over and recognized one familiar face. I quickly realized I would be critically thinking with a team of strangers for the next 8 hours.

LinkedIn gave us a real workplace challenge we had to solve, so we brainstormed, prototyped, and refined a solution for them. We had to build a team dynamic that was willing to take chances and had positive expectations. We had to build trust. Building trust would encourage risk-taking, enhance productivity, and facilitate information sharing.

Because we built trust, we were able to strategize and blurt out crazy ideas. A team member could express an opinion and we would branch off that idea and the previous idea, until we created the perfect prototype. Though uncomfortable at first, this experience taught me the characteristics that lead to trust.

12. Design Thinking

The prototype we created, UniquedIn, is an added feature on LinkedIn that would allow users to upload video or audio to express themselves on their profile. This feature would create a personal connection to both the user and employer. After going through all 6 steps of design thinking: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test, and refine, my team presented in front of a panel of judges. After the judges deliberated, the winners were announced. Out of 9 teams, our team tied for 1st place!

The simulated workplace experience and added sense of urgency from the time constraint were astonishing. The experience also presented a career path that I did not now was available. Since the Hackathon, I have researched Product Design careers and have become fascinated with the development and process of design. Design thinking amazes me. It is a skill that will allow my team and me to succeed in the workplace.

13. Diversity

Before registering for the Hackathon, I had no idea what a “hackathon” referred to. I goggled hackathon and read it was an event where engineering and science students coded for hours. I thought to myself, I have never even uploaded a Youtube video– I cannot code! However, to my surprise, we were not coding, instead, we were given a challenge question by LinkedIn that many organizations in Silicon Valley struggle with today. The question was, “How might LinkedIn help companies hire people who represent all walks of life, who bring different experiences, perspectives, and points of view to the company?” It was a challenge. It was a challenge to break down the question and grasp every detail. However, after staring at a blank piece of paper for 5 minutes, I recognized I was that person. I am the underrepresented woman of color that is studying at San José State University from a small town. I am the “people” companies need help hiring. It was the turning point of the day. I was determined to create a function that expressed the unique value these individuals bring to companies in the Valley.