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HackerX: My experience. Is it worth it?

August 15th, 2018 No comments

This is a long post. Click here to jump to –> Conclusion.

This post is about my experience at HackerX event hosted here in Detroit on 7/31/2018. A week before the event I received an e-mail from the organizers of this event. At that time I was not looking for a job, but in the near future I will be starting my job hunt and thought of using this opportunity to test the waters. I was still debating myself to go for this event, because of the following reasons. The event name ‘HackerX’. Word ‘Hacker’ is now abused so much that you can assume ‘hacker’ as a person with the following skills: such as Arduino if electronics and JavaScript for programming. My current skillset and interests are not as an exclusive web developer even though my previous experience was in web applications. Now slap the name “Full Stack Developer” to it to make it sound cool, but it should be named as a software engineer job for web development. My past jobs were using Microsoft stack (ASP.NET, C#, SQL and so on). Current popular web technologies are built and used around JavaScript and No-SQL. I haven’t updated my LinkedIn in years, so it still shows me as a web developer. And this event is an invite only event, so it made sense that they fished my name from LinkedIn within drivable distance from the venue. The venue was at Benzinga @ Campus Martius in downtown Detroit.

The names of the companies that will be at the event will not be revealed until like 4~6 hours before the event. But there will be free food and beer (not into it). Number of companies were not given either, but from previous events report it sounded like about 20 companies and about 30 participants.

Planning

After researching about HackerX online, I found out that the event works in a speed dating setup where each person will be placed with a potential date/employer and will be asked to switch seats to a different table every 5 minutes. Sounded really interesting, but still it takes time from my evening which I could be doing something else. Since I haven’t posted anything in the blog section in a while, I thought of making it to this event to make a blog post recording my experience into a post. Therefore I registered for the event and immediately received a VIP invite in my inbox (just like everyone!). I thought of using the QLine as my commute for this event since this will be my 2nd time using this new public transportation. Plan on taking my camera and take a few photos and then return home. I planned on making to the event with writing this post describing the event and nothing more.

The night before the event I started working on my resume to make it sound like a “Full Stack developer”. I was not satisfied with the edits and it was too late for bed, so went ahead with the prints. Made about 10 copies not knowing how many companies will be there. Back of my mind, even if someone is interested in me, the chances that my work experience with Microsoft stack will make it look less attractive (got to maintain the date ambiance). Packed my bag with all the required items, copy of my resume, my camera and phone. Forgot to print my invite, but I was pretty sure the QLine ride does not require that.

The QLine ride

I just wore a t-shirt and jeans with a sweatshirt. An email just hours before the event asked to just show up in casuals, so the casuals. Walked down the street to the QLine station and in 10 minutes, there it was, my ride. For any one curious QLine ticket costs $1.50 for 3 hours and $3.00 for full day pass (seniors %50 off).

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It took about 10~15 minutes to get to the place. There was a Tigers game (Detroit baseball team for the unenlightened) going on, therefore it was a little crowded.

The way I planned my time was to spend some time at Downtown Detroit, walk around, take some pics and then get coffee and then walk to the event. But, things did not go as planned, so no coffee. Just the walk.

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The Venue (Campus Martius )

Got out of QLine and there it was, the Campus Martius building with a giant statue at the entrance. Took a pic and went straight in to the building to see what’s in there. So excited, that I did not use the camera to snap enough shots.

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To get to the venue, I had to get a visitor RFID tag/badge. The 1st floor of the building looked like a food court and it very well might have been. Once I reached the 2nd floor, there it was, Benzinga. Benzinga is a software company in the building that loaned the space for the HackerX event.

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I was able to see the pizza boxes stacked on a table at the entrance, sponsored by Little Creasers, who were also one of the requirters at the event.

The Event

At last, the event. There were about 20 companies/tables and about 30~40 attendees. Instructions were given on how this thing works and candidates were placed at a table with a potential date/employer. Was given 5 minutes to sell yourself. And I was part of the 1st round and was placed with Autodesk! Yes, Autodesk was there and their table was at the entrance. Did not expect to be placed at that table for my 1st shot because I haven’t prepared my sales pitch. Oh well. Was a nice 90 minutes event. Some big names I was able to recognize were Autodesk, Little Caesars and Quicken Loans (of course the last 2 are Detroit based companies). There were free pizza and beer at the end of the event. I got out of the place around 9PM with broken voice. For me, it was really a nice socializing experience.

I was surprised that most of the requirters were interested and had their/client products built around .NET (C#/ASP.NET). A few pics of the event below

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Conclusion – Is it worth it?

YES! – Perfect for an entry to mid level programming job.

No – For mid level and above.

This was a good event for candidates with 0-3 years experience. Anything beyond, I am not sure how you can fit in.

I got a follow up from 2 companies. So, yes it does work. Since it was in Detroit, may be we did not have as much as you would get something along Bay Area. But I cannot comment on that. This event is for people who wants to have a change in job or trying to break into job market. Most of them were contractors. So do not expect big names to be present. That said, there will be at least a few big names to keep this event going. Like in this case we had Autodesk.

And my ride home

I was hoping to have a walk and explore Downtown Detroit, but it was getting too late. I will have it for some other day. The QLine stations was right in front of the building and there was my ride.

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This post went longer than I expected. Also this is my proper 1st blog topic. Will try to limit the size next time.

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