Learnings from Judging HackForGood 2021 with Conjunct Consulting

· Conjunct,Blog

Awesome time judging alongside Shawn Low (long time buddy since Conjunct Consulting days, founder and past podcast guest) and Alexis Goh (Software Engineer at Open Government Products. Stanford Master of Computer Science om AI)

1. Singapore's hackathon deliverables have significantly improved over the past 10 years
More willingness to build MVPs. Thanks Lean Startup. More usage of off-the-shelf tools, APIs and utilities to get faster progress (Figma, WebRTC ConnectyCube API, Socket.io, Telegram bots, Linktree). Proves the long-term trend of dropping cost of creating a startup (and Singapore engineers learning to adopt these tools from the US). Students are learning what good startup decks look and emulating them. Awesome.

2. Solve the hackathon question by solving the user need.
Understand the beneficiary really well. So many teams still solve the intellectual "problem" without being in the shoes of the beneficiary, thus coming across at best disconnected and at worst irrelevant. If you have a two-sided marketplace, please run user interviews on both sides e.g. if you solve for job candidates but don't interview recruiters, then it's going to become apparent in your solution and Q&A.

Don't route to solve the "creativity" score first. Solve for the user first, and a deep answer will most likely emerge as creative to everyone else. If you solve for creativity first, you end up force-fitting the answer onto the problem - which the judges can see through.

Solve for users, don't solve for a "fragmented ecosystem" or an equivalent problem construction - this tends to arc towards an aggregator / standard without significant added value https://xkcd.com/927/

3. Truly answer the judges and co-create during Q&A
Level 1: Answer the question. Level 2: Answer the question well. Level 3: Answer the question AND the deeper question well.

Listen deeply and pay attention. Don't jump to answer, let the teammate who best understands the question to step forward. If you do understand the question well, don't be afraid to step forward. Self-awareness is the key differentiator here.

If the the judge doesn't formulate the question well (understandable since it's live), articulate your take on the deeper question as a clarifying question. Take a deep breath. Answer the real question and you will come across as a clear thinker AND speaker. Speak slowly and ground yourself.

At the end of the day, the judges' questions isn't there to attack, but to understand and thus score. So take the questions as constructive inquiries, have a positive tone and don't become defensive. How you answer is just as important as what you answer with.