Published Apr 15, 2014

Yesterday I attended a couple of talks at this year’s Tom Tom Founders Festival. The first was titled “Why Charlottesville? Founding Stories,” and the second “Scaling Talent from a Small Town.” I occasionally scanned the audience to see who was attending the sessions. Other than myself, I think there was only one person who looked like a student. In the second session, I didn’t see any students. The majority of people around me were at least a decade older than me.

I had to head over to hack.uva right after that. This was my first hackathon, and my impression is what I expected: it’s not for me. There are a few reasons why, but for the purpose of this post I’ll focus on one. I just feel out of place at events like that. I felt like I was surrounded by students who were there to crank out software to just win prizes. There’s this overemphasis on making mobile apps. It was obvious before I even started:

What box does a person interested in distributed systems, analytics, databases, and low-level systems stuff check? I wasn’t sure. I got the feeling that hackathons like this weren’t for people like me.

There are people who can sit, drink soda and energy drinks, stay up all night, and code. I can’t do that. I refuse to do it, and I honestly don’t think I can. I’ve never stayed up all night to finish an assignment. I don’t think sprints like that are useful, at least for myself. I think I’m just slow. I like to take hours, days, weeks, even months to think about how to do certain things. I whiteboard, draw sketches, take notes, read articles, and watch videos. Often times I don’t write a line of code until I know exactly what to do.

The point is, I don’t really see my peers who work that way. Then again, as a math major I’m not hanging out with CS students often. I’m feeling a sense of being disconnected. Where are the other undergrads at beCraft meetups? beCamp? The other conferences I’ve been to? Am I just missing out on whatever everyone else is doing? Feels weird to be disconnected, but then again, blending in is no fun.