So you didn’t get an internship this summer or had yours rescinded. Fortunately, there are plenty of other options for productive things you can do which will increase your skills and boost your resume at the same time. Some will even let you earn some money directly. Others just boost your earnings down the road.
With developers trapped inside their homes, they have turned to organizing numerous online competitions for each other. That means there are more hackathons than I have ever seen active and open to developers all around the world.
They range from ones targeted at teenagers to $100,000 challenges meant for teams of professionals, so there is something for everyone at every skill level. Many also include workshops to help you learn new skills, often in areas you never before considered.
As a bonus, the prizes aren’t bad. You might be able to win a couple hundred dollars if you have a good project or perhaps a cool new drone.
The best sites to find hackathons include:
DevPost is a site for hosting hackathons and consequently, many are listed there. Probably the main website for hackathons.
HackerEarth is a DevPost competitor. They do not have as many events and the user experience can be frustrating at times, but they sometimes have some very good events as they are more corporate-focused.
Major League Hacking: https://mlh.io/seasons/na-2020/events
MLH is a hackathon league which is organizing a swath of events for the summer. It is very beginner-friendly and targeted heavily at students. They also run many recruiting events throughout the year.
An innovation challenge is essentially a competition to find the best ideas to solve a given problem.
Innovation challenges also usually pay winners prize money. It is not always a lot, but sustained efforts can add up quickly.
My favourite sites to find innovation challenges:
MindSumo is my all time favourite for innovation contests and I have done hundreds of challenges with them. They usually have a new one every week and it could be anything from developing a new food product to designing new technology for outer space.
Another great thing about them for beginners is that prizes are awards for the top 50% of entries. 1 in every 2 people will win some prize money. Even if you don’t do so well the first few times, you will probably still earn a few dollars.
Eyeka contests are mostly geared towards people who can create stunning visual demonstrations of their ideas as every solution must be presented with a high-resolution photograph. If graphic design is a side hobby of yours (as it is for many frontend developers) this is a great site for you.
Even if you are not great with the visuals, I have won a few of these using little more than Microsoft Paint, so do not give up hope.
Most of these are not that accessible to the average student or if they are, they are mostly for large teams, but there are still some there are you can enter on your own with just a few hours of effort. It is even better if you are the kind of person who can put together a team, as then many of the challenges will be open to you.
Agorize is geared towards competitive rounds of competitions. Instead of submitting an idea and waiting for the judges to issue a final recommendation, there are instead rounds of judging with ever-increasing submission requirements. You also get to work with mentors to refine your projects.
Whether you choose to use it depends on whether you prefer short projects or longer more enduring ones. You also need a friend to work with on these as the typical competition requires at least two people.
Technology is one of those fields where the skills tested in interviews are not skills you will pick up building projects or even working in anything but the largest technology companies. I have repeatedly had to demonstrate my ability to write some kind of sort. However, when is the last time you wrote a quicksort outside an algorithms class or an interview?
There is one classic book for this. Cracking the Coding Interview.
If you stay in software development, you will need concepts in it for every interview you have from now until our field pivots to something new (which is unpredictable in software development). This may be a good time to build those fundamental interview skills so that you can be ready to go when the world re-opens.
You never know when you will have the opportunity to interview for a great company and need your algorithms skills. I blew an interview for a FAANG simply because I didn’t keep my skills in this area fresh, had only 2 days to prepare, and skipped over studying the content actually in the interview. Don’t be like me.
Found a Startup
If you scrolled all the way to the bottom, then the many other links were not interesting or challenging enough for you. So why not take on the ultimate challenge of finding your own challenge and solving it?
As cliche as this answer is, there is a certain merit to it. Numerous billion-dollar companies were founded in the depths of the last recession. Coronavirus could very well reshape society, which will clearly provide certain opportunities. Governments are also likely to invest heavily in innovation to get the economy going again.
This is the one thing on this list which I have not done extensively myself, so I will just point you to some Google Cloud and Azure credits and let you take things from here. Paul Graham’s essay on startups is also a popular starting point.
If you need an idea for a problem to solve, check out the official Y Combinator list of desired startups. You can also comment below on your areas of interest and I can help you find an idea. If there is some resource you need, I am also a very good Google sleuth.