6 Reasons Hackathons Are Good For IT

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Inviting developers to solve technical challenges can open organizations up to new ways of doing things. Here are 6 IT benefits of hosting a hackathon.

Companies have a variety of options for building camaraderie. And while lavish parties or paintball outings may suit some organizations, IT groups should give serious consideration to holding a hackathon.

IT workers have some affinity for machines, after all. That's why they got into the business. Some IT pros may be garrulous extroverts who shine in social situations, but others may be just as happy to write Smalltalk as to make small talk, even if today they're probably more conversant in modern languages like JavaScript or Python.

Hackathons make geeks happy, and IT managers could do worse than to put a smile on the face of their employees. But more to the point, those in IT can help their organization do better through hackathons.

For example, to help encourage developers to use its payment APIs and to engage the developer community, MasterCard last year held its Masters of Code hackathon, a series of 13 regional hacking events that took place in various cities around the globe.

Sebastien Taveau, chief developer evangelist for MasterCard's Open API group, told InformationWeek at the time, "When you make yourself available to entrepreneurs, you make yourself available to innovation."

In two months, Capital One Canada is holding its Gift the Code hackathon to create software projects that help charities.

In a blog post, Gabriel Couture, manager at hackathon events firm Hackworks, explains how hackathons have become more relevant to a broader set of organizations in recent years. "For most its two decade long history, hackathons were understood as the domain of hackers, bro-coders, techies and startups," he said. "Over the last five or so years, this has changed rather dramatically, but the present-day popular understanding of the term still belies its broad potential as a tool for promoting creativity, community development, and problem solving."

Other upcoming hackathons include the U.S. Bank Small Business Hackathon, Women in Tech Demo Day, and many others.

Events like these go beyond strengthening group cohesion. They open organizations to new possibilities and new ways of thinking.

[See 5 IT Talent, Staffing Fails To Avoid.]

Nausheen Ali, VP of marketing and communications at AngelHack, another hackathon hosting organization, recommends holding hacking events in frontier markets. "Coding has given the global community a way to connect beyond the physicality of political and economic walls and nowhere is the power of code more tangible than in the occupied territories of Gaza and Ramallah," she said in a blog post. "For a real-life primer on how to hack your way out of every possible life limitation go to Gaza and Ramallah and I promise you will leave with much more than with what you entered."

What might that be? Here are a few of the possible benefits of hackathons for companies and IT organizations.

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