Hackathon tracker secrets: how to lead your team to victory?

Ivan Morschagin is an experienced tracker of the project “Digital Breakthrough. Season: Artificial Intelligence,” whose teams regularly win prizes. Ivan shared with us his advice on what aspects are important to consider when working with a team and how to motivate it for further participation in events.

Ivan distinguishes three main directions in his work as a tracker: interaction with participants, work with the task, and pitching. Each direction has its own features, which allow the tracker to lead his team to victory.

Interaction with Hackathon participants

When interacting with the team, it is important to understand that participants are complete strangers. Before you start working on tasks, you need to build communication between the participants and find an approach to each of them. In order to achieve the right atmosphere in the team, you need to know what kind of personalities are on the team, what their hard skills are, what each participant’s strengths are, and whether there is a distribution of roles.

“Not only do you need to not alienate them, but instead you need to bring them together and help them come to the finish line,” Ivan notes.

It’s worth paying attention to the experience of the team – whether it’s a national team or already “melded.” If the team has already participated in competitions, it is more likely to have a well-established distribution of roles with a recognized leader. In this case, the tracker can automatically determine with whom the main communication will go throughout the hackathon. In the case of a combined team, it is necessary to take into account the psychological state of the team: confusion, lack of intimacy between participants, and a lack of understanding of how to structure the work. The main task of the tracker is to help such groups to distribute roles and create team spirit.

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Working with the task on Hackathon

During the task work phase, you need to bring in technical and industry experts, engaging participants in conversation with them to energize the team. The key value of experts is the specificity of their knowledge, which can give the team new insights or provide more insight into the problem.

If the team is unable to find a solution, it should brainstorm as quickly as possible in the presence of the experts before the team loses motivation. At such moments, participants have a clear understanding of their work and new subtasks to help find a solution.

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Preparing for pitching should start with the first checkpoint, as it is an important and culminating part of the hackathon that requires a special approach. In the initial stages, the tracker needs to set up the team and tell them how the defense will go. At the second checkpoint, the tracker and the team run a draft of the presentation and help eliminate incorrect and unnecessary statements. By the third checkpoint, it is desirable that the presentation is already ready. If the presentation is in hand, you can start rehearsing, correcting flaws and working through organizational issues. In the process, it is important to charge the team even more and give them confidence in a quality defense of the project. At the final checkup completely run the final presentation.

So, what should a tracker be like?

Ivan’s main conclusion is that you need to be a subtle psychologist and be able to show empathy in order for the team to succeed. In this way, the tracker can support and motivate the team throughout the hackathon. Usually such care helps not only to reach the finals, but also to win.

“By the way, experience shows that even if the team did not make it to the podium, they continue to refine their solution independently even after the hackathon,” shares Ivan Morschagin, noting that this approach motivates teams to participate in further competitions.

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