6 Reasons Hackathons Are Good For IT

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Inviting developers to solve technical challenges can open organizations up to new ways of doing things. Here are 6 IT benefits of hosting a hackathon. 

Companies have a variety of options for building camaraderie. And while lavish parties or paintball outings may suit some organizations, IT groups should give serious consideration to holding a hackathon.

IT workers have some affinity for machines, after all. That’s why they got into the business. Some IT pros may be garrulous extroverts who shine in social situations, but others may be just as happy to write Smalltalk as to make small talk, even if today they’re probably more conversant in modern languages like JavaScript or Python.

Hackathons make geeks happy, and IT managers could do worse than to put a smile on the face of their employees. But more to the point, those in IT can help their organization do better through hackathons.

For example, to help encourage developers to use its payment APIs and to engage the developer community, MasterCard last year held its Masters of Code hackathon, a series of 13 regional hacking events that took place in various cities around the globe.

Sebastien Taveau, chief developer evangelist for MasterCard’s Open API group, told InformationWeek at the time, “When you make yourself available to entrepreneurs, you make yourself available to innovation.”

In two months, Capital One Canada is holding its Gift the Code hackathon to create software projects that help charities.

In a blog post, Gabriel Couture, manager at hackathon events firm Hackworks, explains how hackathons have become more relevant to a broader set of organizations in recent years. “For most its two decade long history, hackathons were understood as the domain of hackers, bro-coders, techies and startups,” he said. “Over the last five or so years, this has changed rather dramatically, but the present-day popular understanding of the term still belies its broad potential as a tool for promoting creativity, community development, and problem solving.”

Other upcoming hackathons include the U.S. Bank Small Business Hackathon, Women in Tech Demo Day, and many others.

Events like these go beyond strengthening group cohesion. They open organizations to new possibilities and new ways of thinking.

Nausheen Ali, VP of marketing and communications at AngelHack, another hackathon hosting organization, recommends holding hacking events in frontier markets. “Coding has given the global community a way to connect beyond the physicality of political and economic walls and nowhere is the power of code more tangible than in the occupied territories of Gaza and Ramallah,” she said in a blog post. “For a real-life primer on how to hack your way out of every possible life limitation go to Gaza and Ramallah and I promise you will leave with much more than with what you entered.”

What might that be? Here are a few of the possible benefits of hackathons for companies and IT organizations.


If your organization has had trouble attracting the right technical talent, a hackathon might help. Hosting an event means face time with dozens or hundreds of coders, each eager to demonstrate his or her skills. A hacking event also exposes those people to the hosting organization’s challenges and technology, perhaps enough to encourage them to consider applying for a job

Community Building

By bringing people together and providing a common goal, hackathon hosts create a community. The bonds forged from working together may fade in time, but hacking events don’t have to be one-offs. They can foster affinity for an organization’s interests, methods, technologies, and people. Done right, they can be be good for morale.

Developer Engagement

Hackathons can pique the interest of developers, often a valuable constituency for an organization, particularly if it offers APIs or technology products. To some extent, developer engagement goes hand-in-hand with community creation, but communities extend beyond a particular event. Building a network of supporters who care about a company’s technology can help improve and extend that technology. Those people can find bugs, for example, or build software that connects third-party products to your own applications.


Holding a hackathon can associate an organization’s name with a particular issue and can raise the profile of that organization, particularly when the event is tied to a meaningful cause, like improving the representation of women in technology companies. A hackathon is like a party without unseemly indulgence or ostentatious displays of excess. It’s a celebration of work.


The people in IT departments may know a lot about technical things, but they probably don’t know everything. Bringing in outside developers to work with internally relevant tools and technologies can be eye-opening. Hackathons allow organizations to benefit from the knowledge of the community.


Hackathons provide organizations with a way to try new things outside of typical business processes. Events involving external developers may bring fresh ideas to an organization. And internal hacking events drive change in a similar way, by giving people permission to break established conventions and to experiment with approaches that may not yet have broad buy-in. A hackathon is an open door to new possibilities.