Hackathons; what are they?

Hackathons

noun, informal

  1. an event, typically lasting several days, in which a large number of people meet to engage in collaborative computer programming.
  2. “a series of 48-hour hackathons to build new web and mobile services”

They’re these cool events where nerds unite to compete in programming competitions. In other words, something every programmer needs to try at least once. I’ve participated in two hackathons, both hosted by UIT. I attended the 2016 Halloween event and another that didn’t really have a theme, but was more fun.

The Halloween event was teams of three. I was paired with Spencer and Bobby and we made a timer that counts down from the time you input and plays a scary sound when the timer hit zero. Obviously, it was designed to be hidden on an unsuspecting victim’s computer to catch them off guard. The team that won made a spooky trivia game that would scare you if you got the answer wrong.

More recently, we had a smaller hackathon where the class was divided into two teams of three, and we had four days to come up with any project that required us to learn something new. My team was with Spencer and Riley. I learned to use Python to make a Reddit bot that went around subreddits replying to certain trigger words with a random Chuck Norris joke from the ICNDB. That account got banned from a ton of subs, got less than -100 comment karma, and was reported ten times on /r/spam. I would link to the bot but people have replied to it with death threats directed at whoever made it. People didn’t seem to appreciate my art for some reason.

How can I spam Reddit without people realizing?

hackathons

reddit loves cats.

I decided to try a new method to shamelessly grab karma, so I set up a new bot to go in /r/CatsStandingUp. In this sub, every comment is just the word “Cat.”, so all the bot does is reply with the same message. This bot has received over 1,500 upvotes and no reports on /r/spam as of May 22nd.  Spencer made a variation of my bot that would grab comments with the word “banana” to reply with Rob in his banana suit. The other team made Wump. A Wikipedia article summarizer that writes in the style of Trump tweets. It’s awesome and they won, but our’s was definitely cooler (not really).

Hackathons are a great way to practice and learn coding. They also get people talking, which can be a problem for a group of nerds. If you have any interest in coding, I can’t recommend it enough just to get out there and try. It’s more fun than you’d think. 

I don’t think I could ever imagine myself as a “boss”. It just seems super weird to me. I like working on stuff, not managing people. But as I think about leadership, I realize that I do really enjoy helping people learn stuff. I really like working with other people to build cool things. It’s a lot better than building something on your own, because at the end you can high-five that person and say “we did this!”. I think I’m pretty good at guiding people along coding projects and stuff. If I were leading people… I would I hope that I wouldn’t be a “boss”, but rather, the guy who likes collaborating and building cool things with a team.

There are 6 different types of leadership styles and I think if I’m one of them, I am “The affiliative leader “. I like working with people, and I like helping them learn. I would want people to feel like they are belong, and know that they are a part of building something awesome. I would focus more on collaboration and teamwork than I would making sure everything is done perfectly. I want people to be actively engaged and not feel like they’re just working a job or working on a particular feature because they have to. If I’m doing something wrong, I want them to be able to tell me. I don’t want to be an authority figure. That makes me cringe when I think about it. I would want to lead people in the right direction.

I think the real difference between being a leader and being a boss or manager, etc. is that one is a job title that you have until you leave that job, retire, or whatever. The other, being a leader, is something that you can only be if you really are leading people. You can call yourself a leader, but if your team isn’t on the same page as you, and they’re not following you then guess what… That’s not being a leader, that’s only pretending! To be a leader you must step down from the pedestal and realize that we’re all in the same boat – you’re no better than your team. Because without your team following you, you’re just kind of wandering off on your own. You can’t be a leader without a team behind you!

Ideally, a leader will help guide their team to success by making sure that each individual member feels like they’re positively contributing and has a meaningful presence in the workplace. They should listen to their ideas and take the time to hear what they have to say. Your team isn’t robots (yet!) so treat them like people!

Reading the StrengthsFinder book said a lot to me. It talks a lot about leading with your strengths, and not worrying about trying to “fix” your weaknesses. This resonated with me, because all through junior high school and high school there were classes that I struggled at… But I would go home and code for hours and make some really cool programs at young ages. It was still frustrating for me though, because I felt like I couldn’t do things that “normal people” could. Now I realize that I just learn differently. I can make up for where I lack, and I wouldn’t change anything…  But it gave me some real insight into attempting to overcome my own weaknesses… Such as: “Why bother?”

I think that rather than trying to push team members to overcome their individual weaknesses, I would pair up team members with other team members who have contrasting strengths and weaknesses. Not only will each team member be a part of something that keeps them actively engaged, they will have also learned something from the other employee that they may have struggled with before.

There is no secret formula to great leadership, and I don’t think there is a “one size fits all” solution, either. Not everyone is always going to like your style but if you talk to individual members of your team and hear them out, you will have a better idea of how to make something work in a way that your team can be successful. That’s why a leader must be able to empathize with their team and see things from all angles before making a decision.

How to Steer?

Leadership is something that can be taught, but most of it is a born quality. That being said many can rise to the occasion to show leadership traits. To me a good leader can look inwards and be objective to oneself. Listen to all sides, and make the right decision for the whole when needed to. A true leader, doesn’t berate others when their opinion contradicts their own, he/ or she, values the input given by others. You should be able to talk to a leader without any fear of being judged. A leader should make you look forward to being around them, or make a chore or job easier, not more difficult.  

 Being a leader can be a hard job. In different careers, and professions it can be symbolic and the requirements of a leader and those he leads can be more demanding and different. The more people you lead the more you can only show so much.

 A General in war may only show as a figurehead to maintain morale, and teach through strength and perseverance when in the face of the enemy. While a teacher should be more accommodating and friendly with an entirely different face and leadership approach.  

  I’ve been working since I was 13. I’ve seen all different types of people in the leadership role. Some good, some alright, and some shouldn’t speaking to people in public. Some are people you could run to with a problem and some are your problem. That’s the business of business I guess. You either bare it or look for another job.

  As a history nerd I have ALOT of leaders of admired. But for the sake of the reader and being relevant i’ll only mention my modern day 19th century leader idols, and my two own personal mentors who have affected my life.

 

Famous leaders

   Henry A. Wallace, a man ahead of the times, who during some of the darkest times in American history stood his own ground. Despite the masses, and often outcried to those who would deface the values of his own democratic party, and most often in his own party.

  As of 2017, he remains the last Democratic vice president who never served in the United States Senate and indeed the last vice president of any party who had not previously held any elected office.

Wallace also famously spoke out during the Detroit race riot of 1943, declaring that the nation could not “fight to crush Nazi brutality abroad and condone race riots at home.”

 After Wallace feuded publicly with other Democratic high officials, Roosevelt stripped him of his war agency responsibilities. Although a Gallup poll taken just before the 1944 Democratic National Convention found 65% of those surveyed favored renomination for Wallace and only 2% favored his eventual opponent, Harry S Truman, it was Truman who went on to win the vice presidential nomination.

 During the 1944 Democratic convention Wallace had a favorable lead on the other candidates for the vice presidential nomination, but lacked the majority needed to win the nomination. In a turn of events much scrutinized, just as Wallace began to receive the votes needed for the nomination, the convention was deemed a fire hazard and pushed back to the next day. When the convention resumed Truman made a jump from 2% in the polls all the way to winning the nomination. Wallace was succeeded as Vice President on January 20, 1945, and on April 12, Vice President Truman succeeded to the Presidency when President F.D.R died.

J.F.K

 My second and absolutely  one of my favourite historical leaders is J.F.K. While his leadership definitely had tough decisions, and may or may not of always been right.. He stuck by them and even while dealing with the U.S.S.R during the height of the cold war, he kept a cooler head than most. His presidency could be said to be the epitome of a modern day tough leadership.

 For example; In a July 1961 speech, Kennedy announced his decision to add $3.25 billion to the defense budget, along with over 200,000 additional troops, stating that an attack on West Berlin would be taken as an attack on the U.S. The speech received an 85% approval rating. And eventually lead to what was known as the Berlin wall. Where East and West Germany wouldn’t see each other till Ronald Reagan’s Presidency in Nov in 1989.

 The bay of pigs where  fifteen hundred U.S.-trained exiled Cubans, called Brigade 2506 landed on the island, and were swiftly defeated and captured. After twenty months, Cuba released the captured exiles in exchange for $53 million worth of food and medicine. He took responsibility for the failure, saying: “We got a big kick in the leg and we deserved it. But maybe we’ll learn something from it.”

 J.F.K’s leadership record is huge, includes the Cuban missile Crisis, intervention with Laos, first President to make diplomatic treaties with Israel. Not to mention his space program, which helped beat the U.S.S.R to the moon. And last but certainly not least his help in abolishing Jim Crow laws and segregation schools still prevalent in the deep south.

  If you’re still reading, thanks for sticking out my lecture. I do wanna just make a quick note that my own personal leaders/ mentors that affected me the most are. My Grade 11 & 12 teacher Mr. Blum. He’s what made me actually like school, through his monotone voice, and punny sense of humor. I remember taking his European History course and liking him so much as a teacher and a mentor, that in grade 12 I took his english class called African Heritage. Where our class of six got a picture on the front page, and the reporter named me Billy Gregon…….

And of course the biggest mentor/leader my dad. Whose taught me all the good traits that embolden who I am I wouldn’t be half the person I’m without his example.

 I think the famous J.F.K quote is where i’ll leave this at. “It’s not what your country can do for you. But what you can do for your country.’

What I take from that quote is,  it’s a two way street when it comes to personal endeavours whether work or other social interactions with leadership in place. When it comes to steering the ship in the right direction. You can be a great captain but if the people under you don’t follow the orders properly or can’t work together then you’re not going to get far. And vice versa if you have a terrible captain you could just be drifting to sea or worse…..

Leadership styles can affect every aspect of the team. Needless to say, it’s important to know what kind of leader you want to be. I graduated high school last year from the French school. Looking back now, I can analyze what kind of leadership styles each teacher had, and it’s interesting to figure out why I may not have liked certain teachers as much as others. It offers an insight as to what leadership style I enjoy most and what other people seemed to get the most out of as well.

WHAT IS THE BEST LEADERSHIP STYLE, FREDDIE?

Well, let me tell you. There’s a lot of ways to define leadership styles. There’s no standard. Psychologist Kurt Lewin developed the Lewin’s Leadership Style Framework in the 1930’s, and it provided a foundation for recognizing different leadership styles. He listed three major styles of leadership:

  1. Autocratic leaders make decisions without consulting their team members. Good to make decisions quickly. However, this style can be demoralizing, and it can lead to a lot of staff turnover. Appropriate for high risk jobs .
  2. Democratic leaders make the final decisions, but they include team members in the decision-making process. This engages people with projects. Not ideal for when you need to make a quick decision.
  3. Laissez-faire leaders give their team members a lot of freedom in how they do their work, and how they set their deadlines. If team members don’t manage their time well, or if they don’t have the knowledge, skills, or self motivation to do their work effectively, this style cannot work.

Each style has their own pros and cons. They need to be well analyzed before being used in any situation. There have been many methods to help determine leadership styles developed over the years (e.g The Blake-Mouton Managerial Grid, Path-Goal Theory, Flamholtz and Randle’s Leadership Style Matrix, etc.). Those three styles from Lewin are usually elaborated on in other, newer lists. For instance in the Path-Goal Theory the list is Directive, Supportive, Participative or Achievement oriented, however the general style of leadership across all frameworks that seems to be most popular is…

TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERS

leadership styles

fact: fire uses transformational leadership.

“Transformational leadership is a style of leadership where a leader works with subordinates to identify needed change, creating a vision to guide the change through inspiration, and executing the change in tandem with committed members of a group.”

source

“Transformational leaders have integrity and high emotional intelligence. They motivate people with a shared vision of the future, and they communicate well… Transformational leaders inspire their team members because they expect the best from everyone, and they hold themselves accountable for their actions.”

source

This leadership style is highly effective in a lot of situations. It has the leader working with their team, it helps keep morale high, and it keeps the leader innovative. Transformational leadership is defined by four components.

  1. Idealized Influence
    1. the leader serves as an ideal role model for followers
  2. Inspirational Motivation
    1. transformational leaders have the ability to inspire and motivate followers.
  3. Individualized Consideration
    1. transformational leaders demonstrate genuine concern for the needs and feelings of followers.
  4. Intellectual Stimulation
    1. the leader challenges followers to be innovative and creative.

This style of leadership is used by many influential people, such as Nelson Mandela, Franklin Roosevelt, and Bill Gates. People will follow a person who inspires them, therefore a  person with vision and passion can achieve great things.

PAST LEADERS 

Throughout school, I’ve experienced a lot of leadership styles. My favorite teachers were all transformational leaders. For example, during my senior year, one teacher was teaching a class he didn’t specialize in. He said that even though the students were more knowledgeable on the subject, he still wanted to learn along with us. He let us help build the curriculum by letting us suggest project ideas. It inspired us to come up with Raspberry Pi projects, building a bow for an arrow shooting competition and disassembling lawn mower engines. It was the most I had learned in all my years of school. Everyday that semester it was the only class I’d look forward to.

However, I didn’t respond well to bureaucratic leadership. Teachers that were so by the book everyone would dread their class, just painfully sitting through useless classes about nothing is not worth the time. Teachers that would just hand out worksheets like candy, not guiding us when we would ask for help (that’s not a joke, one teacher only answered questions with more questions). I had lower grades with these types of leadership styles, and definitely less fun.

By looking back and finding out generally what kind of leadership style I preferred throughout high school, I can better formulate my own style for when I am a multi-billionaire business tycoon (and everything in between). Transformational leadership is the way to go.  I want to have an active role, and help my team members as much as I can. I want to take input from team members, and I want us to succeed and innovate.

Leadership isn’t about being a good person or having good values. It’s about finding a common connection in people and using it to bring them together and unite them as one. I’ve always been fascinated by great leaders and how they can lead people by inspiration to do things they would’ve otherwise declared impossible.

You lead to make a difference, not to be a leader.For some, leadership might mean helping people find their weaknesses, and guiding them to self improvement. And others might prefer identify the strengths of people and help them apply their strengths. Personally I prefer the route of identifying strengths, instead of telling someone they aren’t good at something, you help them identify what they are good at. You show them how to find a deeper appreciation for who they are and inspire them to use those values and skills. Because nothing is more powerful than leading a group of people who fully embrace who they are. Albert Einstein once said “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” I find this particularly interesting because it reinforces that you don’t have to be “book smart” to identify as intelligent.

True leaders don’t only get people to follow, but inspire them to truly believe in their message. During a workshop we had with Ian Mcneil said that a good public speaker is “consumed by the topic they’re speaking about”. I think this form of statement can also apply to leaders. A good leader will be consumed by the domain in which they are leading. I think the greatest form of leadership is by inspiration. When you’re consumed by something you believe in it’s much easier to convey your message by inspiring those around you.

As stated in TheBalance article linked below: “Talking to people about your passion is not enough. To “share meaning” – my definition of communication – you must allow the ideas and thoughts of your staff to help form the vision and mission, or minimally, the goals and action plan.” As a leader you must listen to your followers and understand their stance on things because this allows you to guide them better in the direction they want.

Why do I think that leading by inspiration is the most effective way? Because one of the key elements used in many articles such as the Entrepreneur.com article linked below is: “find the bright side of any issue”. Being able to find good in something and reinforcing that as a drive to get shit done is incredibly inspiring on it’s own. It’s also said that they must have a clear vision for the future, a clear goal. And that might sound stupidly simple, but it truly helps motivate people to work towards a clear goal.

A great leader listens to what people want, and builds a clear vision based on that feedback. Once that vision is in place you can start finding strengths in people and encouraging them to use those strengths in ways they might not have seen to move forward towards that vision. This is my vision of a leader that I would follow and like to one day be.

External References:

Entrepreneur Article

The Balance Article

You Gotta Server Somebody

I’ve had a fair few jobs in my day (young as I am) and have been under the leadership of many people. I’ve had good, bad , and ugly managers who acted the way they did for a variety of reasons. It’s usually pretty easy to tell when you are going to get along with a manager.  Usually those people are ones you like to work with.

I believe its worth explaining the types of bosses I like and dislike. If for no other reason, I feel like it helps identify how I would act in their position.

 

The Good

I value managers who can do the work themselves. Every good manager I’ve had wasn’t someone who sat around the sidelines and directed. They were always ready to jump in along side every grunt and help make sure work got done. Usually these are people who started in low positions and worked their way up, since they know the hardships the minions go through.

Conversely, I find people who are placed in high positions without having been a peon themselves usually are bad bosses.

The Bad

One of my lease favorite traits in employers/managers/leaders/bosses are those who are most willing to abandon their underlings. Throwing employees under the bus to save face is one of the most common things I’ve had to deal with in work. I’m talking about situations where a customer was freaking out about company rules. When the manager is asked to come resolve the conflict they simply give the customer what they want. All this does is make your employee look bad and encourage customers to make a fuss and demand management when something doesn’t go their way.

I’ve also had managers who seemed like bad managers but they simply had their hands tied. That’s not the fault of the manager, and really sucks when a company is structured in a way that forces mismanagement.

The Ugly

The absolutely worst managers I’ve had fallen into this category. They include people who usually acted as a bureaucratic force rather than part of the team. People who actually didn’t show up and then (basically committed fraud) by writing in their own hours as having been their the whole time. They also manipulated the scheduled to give themselves the best days off, take more vacation, and harm the actual productivity of the company.

Ugly managers are also people who are too full of themselves to allow their word to be questioned. Especially on matters they don’t know about. Things like ignoring an employee who was a nursing student during a first aid emergency. Or not letting a person with IT experience work correctly because they believe that something ought to be done a certain way.

 

The Leadership Take-Away

In conclusion, I think the important things that a boss should do are:

  • understand the work that has to be done
  • Know the strengths and weaknesses of your team/team members
  • Know your own strengths and weaknesses
  • Don’t throw those working under you, under the bus
  • Even if you are allowed, don’t manipulate the working circumstances in your favor constantly
  • Involve your employees (I.e employee more Democratic leadership styles)
  • Avoid being autocratic in your leadership

I feel like its hard to talk about being a manager/boss without sounding a little anti-management, or talking like you just want everyone to be friends all the time. However, I do believe having a designated leader is a good idea, and sometimes managers need to take a more authoritarian role to get this done. So long as that is not the regular way things are run it is probably alright.

My hope would be that in the event I have people I need to manage, I would be able to follow this.

(Types of Leadership References come from Here and Here)

Simple leader vs boss photo that can actually mean a lot.

Have you ever had a boss that you don’t like? Or known someone who always complained about their boss? Well lucky for me in my experience of a little over a year now in the workplace the only leaders I’ve had we’re really great ones. However, I’ve definitely heard stories from friends and families about bosses at work who act more like bullies rather than leaders. But what types of bosses make good leaders?

Well, according to mindtool.com an effective leader is someone who creates a vision of the future, motivates and inspires people to engage with that vision while also coaching a team so that it is more effective at achieving the vision. To me, a good leader is someone who can demonstrate to a team an effective plan while also helping and guiding them along the way, also while being a genuinely nice person about it. The manager / leader I’d like to have is someone who can motivate and inspire me to perform my absolute best on any certain task. And again, being a nice person who can talk about or address any sort of problem is a huge part of working in any role in a team.

What type of boss did you have?

On many sites talking about leadership styles, such as smallbusiness.chrom.com, they talk about roughly 5 different types of leadership styles. One of them is called Laissez-Faire (Rough translation from French is ‘let do’) where a leader does not provide direct supervision to their employees as they are already highly trained or experienced. This style gives the power of decision making to the workers as a sort of a ‘self-rule’. The leader is only there to provide guidance whenever requested. Another is Autocratic leadership style has managers have total authority over a team by being able to make decisions alone without any other inputs from the team. (Insert Trump joke here) This style of leadership may benefit some employees who require close supervision however this would severely aggravate any creative employees of the team, including myself. One more style is called Participative leadership, this style of leader values input of team members but has the sole responsibility of making final decisions. This style allows employees to make contributions to the decision-making process, and I think is one of the better styles to use for businesses.

What do I think makes a good leader?

Now, I’m unsure if I’d be a good fit for a business leader but if I were one I’d try to be as transparent and inspiring as I can. I think transparency is needed as a leader so the employees understand what goal the team is trying accomplish, and I think all leaders should be inspiring to promote passion among the employees. A good leader must be confident in their team’s abilities as well as being decisive in case the team encounters a fork-in-the-road problem. I feel that employees thoughts are as important as the leader’s too so the manager of a team must be open-minded and have good communication skills. Most importantly though, a leader must be focused on the plans and goals of the entire team.