My first hackathon experience was the first Marcato hackathon in 2014. At the time, I was seventeen years old, and the youngest person there. I went in not knowing what I was going to make or how I was going to do get it done within two days. At this point in my life, I was working on a 3D game built with Java, but most of my time went to balancing high school with recording my own music. The goal I had in the back of my mind for this hackathon was to make something simple and useful.

I really enjoyed being in an environment where I there were so many other coders like me in one space. But also, I have to admit I felt totally in over my head. I didn’t know anyone there! At the time, I was super quiet and even more introverted than I am today. It just felt like everyone had much more experience than me, and it was overwhelming. So I kept to myself and observed from a distance. Baby steps.

The guy who was sitting in the spot next to me probably noticed that I didn’t know anyone, and he chatted with me about programming languages and tools. At school, I didn’t know anyone else who was nearly as interested in programming as me. So it was a great experience having someone else with the same hobbies to talk to. This is why more kids need to get into programming at an early age!

days[0]; // coming up with an idea.

I spent most of the first day playing around with Java and just trying to come up with something to build. I got started with the Twitter API because I was comfortable with it. Before the hackathon, I had used it to build a simple program that would help me find potential fans for my music, based on the followers of similar artists.

While I was trying to figure out what to build with the Twitter API, I decided to check out JavaFX and it seemed like a pretty cool way to build user interfaces. I noticed it had a chart/graphing library built in so I played around with that and got the idea to use it to display some sort of data that gets pulled from Twitter. Boom, Tweetographics was born.

Tweetographics was a simple program that lets you view the geographical demographics of a Twitter search. I started trying to pull the geolocational information from the Twitter user’s profiles but that provided to be too imprecise as users would enter inconsistent information (example: “My Room”, “Mordor”). I knew that Google Maps sanitizes all this information and corrects it when you type a location name into their site, so I checked out their API to see if it could handle this for me, which it could! I added it to the chain of APIs I was using my program was starting to look like something useful. Perfect!

days[1]; // presenting it.

By the end of the first day I had a working demo. I spent most of the second day tidying it up and adding different chart types. I also chatted with the CTO of Marcato, Morgan, and I showed him my game I was working on. Showing what I was working on to something with experience gave me a boost of confidence because I really didn’t show too many people what I was working on at this point.

Then it came time to present. Oh man. I hadn’t ever presented my programming stuff to a room full of people before. I almost backed out, but finally worked through the anxiety, and got up and got it done. It went better than I expected. Once I got up in front of everyone, the anxiety just kind of disappeared. The hardest part was working up the courage to stand up in the first place.

days.slice(2); // every day after.

Those two days definitely marked a milestone where I started spending more and more time coding with a different outlook than I had before. I started taking it more seriously and changed from my idea of going into music production as a career, to computer programming.

Not long after that, I picked up PHP and started taking a closer look at web development because it’s the most streamlined way of getting software to another person’s computer letting them use it. I wanted to start building things that other people could use, rather than just building things for myself.


  Before attending UIT did I know what a hackathon was? No. Do I imagine most people no what one is? Probably not. But, that being said I think they’re definitely on the rise, and in the next few years, who know maybe many more will.

  The first time for me seeing one was during the movie, The Social Network. I didn’t really understand what was going on when seeing the hackathon in the movie.

     The scene when everyone’s hacking to get a spot into FaceBook. They have ten minutes to get root access to a Python web server, expose it’s SSL encryption and then intercept all traffic over it’s secure port.

   Then every tenth line of code written, they have to drink a shot. And hacking supposed to be stealth, so every time the server detects an intrusion, the candidate responsible has to drink a shot. There’s also have a program running that has a pop-up window appear simultaneously on all five computers. The last candidate to hit the window has to drink a shot. Plus every three minutes they all have to drink a shot.

   One of the best scenes of the movie. And something most people can relate to, drinking game. Plus Eisenberg really portrays the hackathon as a really cool nerd moment. 

     The first know hackathon was a development event held in Calgary (yay Canada) on June 4, 1999,where 10 developers came together to avoid legal problems caused by export regulations of cryptographic software from the United States. Since then, a further 3-5 events per-year have occurred around the world to advance development, generally on University campuses.

It’s been almost 2 decades since then and the tech world loves hackathons. Nowadays if you can hack it at a hackathon you could walk away with great prizes, cash, or a new job. Many major companies, like Google, FaceBook (ofcourse), and salesforce. Just to name a few, all do hackathons.

Every month or two, Facebook asks its engineers to take the day off from their regular duties to tackle any project they want. For Facebook, they often lead to important products, including its first video player, its developer platform, and its chat system. After Facebook’s engineers prototype their ideas, they present and vote on them among their colleagues. The highest voted ideas get presented to CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the rest of the executive team.

As Facebook product chief Chris Cox puts it, “This is like our ‘American Idol.'” But for developers. Great way to keep things fresh and fun at work!

Here are some of the cool “hacks” that Facebook employees created:

  • Hand controllers for the Oculus VR headset that get physically hot and cold: An employee from Facebook-owned Oculus demoed modified hand controllers for its headset that simulate the feeling of heat and cold in virtual reality using embedded thermal coolers. “This is quite warm,” remarked Zuckerberg while warming his hands at a virtual fire.
  • Location requests in Messenger for when a friend is missing: If you can’t find a friend and become worried about their safety, Messenger could one day let you send a request to see their location. A timer would begin on the friend’s phone that gives them a chance to approve or deny the request. If the timer expires on its own, their location would be sent to you automatically.
  • Offline messaging: A Facebook engineer demoed offline messaging in the company’s stripped down Messenger Lite app for emerging markets. Once implemented, the feature will allow people without internet access to message each other using the WiFi signals in their phones. Zuckerberg seemed to really like this idea during the demo and even said that “this is something that I’ve thought we should build for awhile.”
  • Shared photo and video galleries based on what people post in a person’s comments. Facebook engineers demoed the use of machine learning to automatically create shared photo and video albums based on what people share in the comments of a post. So if you ask for photos people took at a wedding, what your
    friends share in your comments would be turned into a shared album for everyone to see.


Hackathons; what are they?


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?


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.


 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.


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…


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.”


“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.”


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.


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 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