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How a Product Manager can contribute to a Hackathon

It is a common misapprehension that hackathons are only for developers or coders. I want to disabuse you of this notion!  As you are aware, hackathons are a cruicible of innovation where people from disparate backgrounds and skill sets come together to build a product.
It is often the case though that many teams tend to bite off more than they can chew. In many of our hackfests, we have seen many instances where obviously talented teams try to do too many things at once, and end up doing not much at all. Also, teams are required to demo their solutions to the judges, and so developers’ attention are divided between building the product, and how best to pitch their ideas. So teams require “a certain someone” to give them the edge over the others. But who could that “certain someone” be?

Enter the product manager.  The importance of a good product manager in a hackathon cannot be OVERSTATED. From the ideation and the conceptual stage, to the development stage, and to the final pitch, the product manager has to play an important role in each. Also, a hackathon is the closest thing to mimic a real world production cycle, and as such a product manager is indispensable. Here are some of the ways a good PM (if I am allowed to use an acronym) proves useful:

  • In the ideation and conceptual stage, the PM, with discussion among his or her team-mates, determines whether the intended product really solves the pain points it is intended to solve. If the strategy is wrong, no matter how much of an effort you put in, you will NOT achieve the desired results.
  • As the product is being developed, unforeseen issues arise. Sometimes, it is clear, that many of the features discussed cannot all be developed. Here again, the PM’s skills are brought into focus. He or she prioritizes the features deemed most important, and leads the developers into incorporating these into the finished product. (Of course, if there is enough time, you can add the other features too!)
  • A great PM knows how to gets things done! At the end of the day, all that matters is whether you have a product to demo or not. The PM’s time management skills play a very important role here.
  • As you know, in our hackathons, the team has to demo their product to the judges.  Here again, the great communication skills of the PM are brought to bear.

I could go on and on about how and why PMs are indispensable individuals to have in a hackathon winning team, but I think you get the point. These often unsung heroes of the hackfest, are now coming into their own, and ultimately, a hackathon team without a PM will become unthinkable.

Are you a great Product Manager thinking of attending a hackathon? But are not really sure where and when you can showcase your talents? Worry no more! Our Hikeathon, coming up this weekend, is a great place to test your skills. A little later, we have our Gainsight Happy Hack. We hope to see you mini-CEOs there!

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Why should a Data Scientist take part in a Hackathon?

[…] They are not all coders. One team member might be very good at product management. (Here’s why a product manager should attend a hack.) Another team member might be a hacky type of coder. And so on. You get the […]

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Bharat Ramakrishna

Blogger. Part-time mathematics enthusiast. Loves esoteric and quirky things. Bibliophile. Has a wide range of interests including playing chess and pool, juggling and creating puzzles of fiendish difficulty. Grammar Nazi.