The evening before the Hackathon, I was getting dinner with an old friend of mine who had graduated from Purdue (Industrial Engineering) last year. He was telling me about one of our mutual friends, whom I still see at school, and how she likes to remind people that she’s has never failed before. Nik and I then went into a discussion about how crucial failure actually is to success/learning, and counter-intuitively “never failing” is not something to brag about…
Yesterday morning I woke up excitedly ready to compete for this one event I had been preparing for, for so long. I blared “The Middle” by Jimmy Eats World (a throwback classic), and sang to it as I brushed my teeth and got changed.
I then called an uber to the Hynes Convention Center, and arrived about fifteen minutes early to the registration time. Climbing out of my uber in my black dress and heels, I initially felt pretty confident, then I looked up and I couldn’t even see the top of the glass building. Around me, I noticed many well-dressed middle aged men rushing to their next business endeavor, I guess, and that’s when the feeling of uncertainty crept in. There I was standing there with a backpack heavy with two laptops very uncertain about what was about to happen…
I made my way up to the second floor where I was supposed to register, and one of the guys asked me for proof that I was a student so I gave him my Purdue student ID and he rejected it because it didn’t have an expiration date. I had to pull out my laptop and show him an assignment that I had in school to prove that I was enrolled, which I thought was a little over the top.
Anyway, I entered into the conference room where there were about 20 tables lined up four by five, and I plopped down in a seat that faced the stage. Again, I saw more well-dressed men, but after getting out my laptops there was no turning back at this point.
The organizer of the event gave us a quick spiel about how we should all be proud because we were 20 students selected from 200 applicants to compete. Initially, I did feel a sense of pride, but then he continued talking and told us that’s why they are expecting nothing less than the best work possible and that made me more nervous than proud.
Our hackathon started at 9am sharp but due to slow wifi all the hackers were unable to download the five games of data that we were to use, and so they sent flash drives around the room and emailed all of us to give us the data.
For the next six hours it was just everyone coding in silence, my computer only made noise once when I accidentally clicked on the video of an ad. For lunch we just had these boxed sandwiches and chips, and it seemed like there was only one guy who wanted to socialize during lunch, but it takes two to have a conversation (at least for normal people).
Once time was up for coding, we all submitted our files to a link, and the student panel presented first; I was third in line. Honestly, I was pretty proud of what I had accomplished so I wasn’t nervous for the presentation. The most painful part of presentations was probably listening to some of the student hackers who couldn’t form fluid sentences, or had voice cracks every other comment. The professional hacker presentations were much better and I was actually quite impressed at the work some of them had done that in 6 hours.
Since we were cut off after 90 seconds per presentation, the presentations went by relatively quickly, and so the finalist were also announced quickly. I wasn’t surprised I was not one of the three finalist because there were definitely a few star-studded projects that measured a more interesting aspect of NBA than I did, and also presenters who could articulate their ideas more quickly…but like I said earlier failure is definitely one of the most crucial elements to success and also learning.
I had three big takeaways from not only this event, but all the time I spent preparing prior to competing. I would argue that these lessons are more valuable than winning itself:
1. Ask and you shall find
It was only last year when I sat in my Introduction to Statistics Professor’s Office asking him what he could tell me about sports and statistics. In one year, I was not only attending the conference Professor Liu told me about but competing in it.
I had one of the best professors, and arguably the most brilliant one, mentor me while I was preparing for this Hackathon because I simply sent him a thank you email at the end of last semester, and detailed how I planned to use what he taught us in sports.
All good things come to those who aren’t afraid to ask….
2.Fake it till you make it–it actually works
As an Industrial Engineering Major coding isn’t really my strong suit, but those coding languages are still on my resume, and I applied to this hackathon saying that I was familiar with those languages…
When crunch time came, yes I did do my research, and yes I learned how to code in those languages better, however, I would not have been motivated to actually learn them until I “faked “it first and got an opportunity to use these skills.
Now I no longer have to fake it because I made it!
(Here’s my project)Final SSAC’17 Hackathon Project
3. I have an amazing support system at Purdue
Purdue has truly been the breeding ground of my growth and learning in terms of sports stats but also learning more about myself and my interests.
No one at Purdue in my circles has ever told me my goals were too lofty or that I wasn’t capable…
My best friends Karthik and Arpitha stayed up pretty late with me before I flew to Boston the next morning to spend some extra time with me, and look over my presentation.
My boyfriend, Scott, who is not an avid sports fan himself always helps me proofread my posts and bounce ideas off of him.
My friend Brad was always willing to meet and brainstorm NBA ideas with me.
I received so many supportive texts from my other friends since I’ve been in Boston and all the days leading up to it.
Even a Purdue IE Alumni Andy Burke, whom I met a couple weeks ago, sent me this quote the day I flew in:
“Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone, and as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson
Last but definitely not least, Professor Mario Ventresca answered countless frantic emails from me and made time for my to visit his office hour since the beginning of the school year to aid my success.