A Banker’s Guide To Winning His First Hackathon

Hackathons aren’t all about  glasses, geeks, pocket-protectors, and Red Bull, although such stereotypes may turn off many from entering them…
This may have been the case with Dan Griffin, a self proclaimed “finance guy,” who had considered entering a hackathon for years.   A banker at JP Morgan, and Byte Academy FinTech student, Dan acted on his aspiration when he signed up for the Startupbootcamp FinTech x AARP FinTech hackathon.  Dan and his team’s product “Famancials” ended up winning the Hack.   Below we interview Dan who describes his first hackathon experience (which he found surprisingly easy) and how he came out on top.

Apparently, this was the first time that you competed in a Hackathon – was there something in particular that inspired/motivated you to sign up?

I’ve been curious about hackathons for a few years now.  Can’t say why this was the first one I participated in — other than that it was free and I knew there would be a few familiar faces from Byte :).

Tell us about the idea pitching and team formation.  Did you have something in place before signing up?  How was your team formed?  Did you know the other members beforehand?

Our team was literally formed on the spot from people sitting near each other.  I was a bit busy at work so I didn’t prepare at all and we spent most of Friday night simply brainstorming rather than coding.

What was your role on the team?  In the past, we’ve noticed that the best teams are ones that are diverse.

Our particular team was definitely specialized.  I’ve worked in wealth management for several years. The sponsor was AARP asking for solutions to retirement and wealth transfer planning for seniors.  Given my background, I was in a good place to conceptualize the overall project.  There was one member who’s a very talented young engineer who was able to do most of the app build using a framework called ionic.  The other couple of us focused on the UX for the design while he built it out.

 (Other than winning) what was the best part about your hackathon experience?

Best part was just meeting and collaborating with complete strangers and building something that ended up being kind of cool.

What was the biggest challenge of the Hack?  Surprise?  

Biggest challenge – was coming up with an idea and forming a team with skills to complement the idea.  A lot of people are there just to hang out and participate with whoever is nearby so it helps to talk to people in the early stages and find others who you’d like to work with.
Biggest surprise – was how easy it was.  I went by myself just to check it out and there’s a bunch of people there to do the same.  I recommend it to anyone. There’s no pressure to compete hardcore.  It’s good to have knowledge to contribute but you don’t need to be an absolute expert.  There’s usually several people per team so you can split up duties.  And also, it’s only a weekend so there’s a limit to what you can accomplish in technical terms.
Do you expect to leverage your win for future endeavors?  

Not sure how I’ll use this win.  It’s definitely fun and a confidence boost.  Really enjoyed it.  I honestly like the idea as a standalone business but not sure if I’ll use it.  Maybe I’ll ask Santa for some insight.

Can you elaborate regarding how both your work experience and time at coding bootcamp potentially influenced/gave you the expertise to win?
I’m still more of a finance guy, but the things I’ve learned at Byte have definitely made me more fluent in tech language.  For instance, as we were building out the front end exhibits I was able to look directly at the CSS and JavaScript with the other team member who was implementing the code to figure out how we should tweak it to make it better.

Working off the previous question, how has learning to code impacted your role in banking?  If so, how?

As to how tech knowledge had affected my role, I use a lot of SQL in my job to do data analysis but I’m not a full time developer.  Still debating what direction I want to go in to be honest.

Lastly, how did you celebrate? 
To celebrate, well, uh, alcohol was involved.
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