Personal Victories: Lessons from Winning a Hackathon “We Won!”

January 18, 2019
Aug 11, 2022
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Personal Victories: Lessons from Winning a Hackathon “We Won!”

When I saw these two simple words in my teammate Beau Herndon’s LinkedIn post the day after our latest Hackathon, I thought of what the words didn’t describe explicitly: the subtle, personal victories we scored along the way.

Our team began Hack Autism two weeks after we participated in GlobalHack VII, which was a tougher competition. Hack Autism, after all, featured only three teams and a rather simple prompt: to build a website based on existing designs for Life Binder, LLC to augment their physical PATHbinder, a life organizer and document filing product that helps individuals with autism to work toward independent living.

At first, we weren’t quite enthused by the challenge presented to us. But after my teammates Andrew Ulrich, Brett Miller, Beau and I met with competition founder Vicky Kahn and others at LifeBinder, we realized there might be more to uncover about what would truly improve their product. With domain knowledge from Brett, the parent of a 27-year-old son with autism, and also from my previous career partially spent assisting individuals with autism, we entered the ideation phase. Here, the technical and architecture planning expertise that Andrew and Beau provided helped fuel the several initial hours of workshopping through ideas. Soon, we landed on an idea with surprisingly big potential.

We became energized. Throughout the competition, we’d eat together, take walks and eventually return to work, only to watch obstacles fall as one of us would yell “I got it!” after a break. Among the lessons learned: taking mental breaks enables clarity.

We ultimately built a way for PATHbinder users to access and interact with the life management tools digitally, and possess that data themselves in a SQLite database on their own cloud drive. This simultaneously protects Life Binder's IP and liability through a HIPAA compliant encryption process, which encrypts the database before saving back to a user’s drive. I believe a good term for what we enabled is Data Empowerment.

We produced something we were truly proud of. This was the real victory, and it’s what I believe each of us found true in those two simple words: “We Won!”