There’s No I in Team, and Other Cliches


I occasionally spend an entire weekend, almost 24 hours in the day, hunkered over my computer in a fluorescent room, amongst others also lit by the back glow of their MacBooks. I can’t really explain this to non-technical friends and family. It’s San Jose, it’s July, it’s sunny … what exactly is the desire to continue working all weekend, then Monday comes and you have to go back to work.

What seems so obvious to me, is that we are like crazy scientists or inventors in our castles, making Frankenstein. So of course we’re going to work all night, every night, because we’re so goddamn eager.

As somewhat of a hackathon veteran- shdh, wordcamp, barcamp, she’s geeky, startup weekend, hack/hackers- I can say that #iOSDevCamp (was #iPhoneDevCamp, iPadDevCamp) is by far the best organized and most rewarding.

In the last two years, my programming partner Stacie Hibino and I received awards, so I was a little biased. This year, the unexpected happened- as it usually does, ha- in that I learned something very new about myself, and about these hackathons. It really hadn’t been about the prizes before. They were places for Stacie and I to meetup and explore crazy ideas we had about programming and gadgets. The first time we were interested in making a Settlers of Catan with the iPad and were fueled by sheer geek love of gadgets, the second time we were excited about crowd-sourced games, and it was hard to find 500 geeks willing to try your weird game. No, what I learned this time around, over and over, is that collaboration and teamwork are super fun, and valuable, and why I go to these things.

Now you may think I have sour grapes, but I can’t say it again, IT REALLY WASN’T ABOUT WINNING. The first year I did it, I had a ton of insecurities about being a developer, I was learning so much about iOS development, and changing careers felt like trying to turn the Titanic with a paddle. We went into the contest with the following baggage:
– in a new language (had developed only 1 app before)
– my programming partner had never coded in Obj-C
– I didn’t have my laptop for 50% of the time (the cruel reality that the iPad sucks as a dev env.)
– our lone computer was not provisioned nor setup for iOS development
– we had never used GameKit before, one of the hardest frameworks, in my opinion.

There were about 5 teams trying to use GameKit, and we were one of two that were able to have a successful demo. I was also sexually harassed about 5 minutes after the demo (not to digress). So I was excited, exhausted, and basically ran home directly after demo’ing to see my cat and go on a run. I didn’t receive the news that we’d won “best new developer” until later that night, when Stacie called.

What’s so insane about these things is that the teams are formed on Friday night. Since pair-programming brought Stacie and I together, we usually spend Friday night (cough) talking about what idea we’re going to do. What I learned this year is that we could have had an awesome team if we’d only opened it up. During the after party I talked to a friend- Adam Tow- who had an amazing idea that he couldn’t get folks on board with, so he tried to do it solo. Stacie and I were both really jazzed about it, maybe more jazzed than we were about the idea we chose that year. In seeing another demo, JawBreaker, I had these ideas about Facebook API that I’d been considering earlier, and a few days later called Stacie to discuss a new social angle to our app. During the ride home with one of my carpool buddies Xavier, He finally remembered this video he’d seen of an app similar to ours, and the technology they used that inspired us, in that 1 hour drive up 101, to refactor and build a better app, that was a lot more interesting. Teamwork rocks.

Being probably the only all-woman team, we got some attention from a reporter who was with us from the start. She came up during the after party, and told me she was so excited “To know that I was there when you named your app! When you went from TickerFriends to TickerBuddies.” In talking to her, I realized a lot of aspects of the event that are so meaningful to me- “the story”- the way people figure out what they’re going to do and how they’re going to do it. I personally think there should be a prize category for “best team story” that is, the dramatic ups and downs of teams, as observed by others. I witnessed a really heart-breaking team, developed all weekend and helped us quite a bit with the new iOS IDE, and then couldn’t demo because of a hardware breakdown.

Also, how we are all creating things. In two days, there was nothing, and then at the end there are 70 projects made by 500 people, blood sweat and tears went into little convenient apps that help do anything from have a better workout, to helping your autistic child ask for more complicated meals. The energy of invention and the inspiring feeling of creating cannot be underrated.

8 Comments »

  1. Comment by Peter Chee

    Posted on July 28, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    Anna, I love your writing. It's so full of emotion, almost felt like I was there… also helps that I just went through a mobile hackathon two weeks ago and those images are still fresh.

    The personal bonding with other people is by far the most interesting and important thing for me. Yes, I love winning and crushing the competition but not at the cost of the relationships that are formed. I like your idea of “best team story” not exactly easily quantifiable but certainly is inspiring to listen to.

  2. Comment by Sophia

    Posted on July 28, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    sexually harassed?  geez seems to be the topic du jour.  it was great seeing you again at another app event.  we have to work on a project one of these days.  my team was able to demo, but we didn't quite get everything done.  definitely making the demos sexy helps with winning.  :)

  3. Comment by banane

    Posted on July 28, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    Thanks for commenting Sophia! I was thinking of sending you the write-up, since I loved yours (http://www.women2.org/appnatio… for those reading this.

    Re: sex harassment, yeah I debated not including it, but hey, part of the problem is folks like me *not* talking about it, you know? So yeah, it happened and it really freaked me out and dampened part of what would have been a spotless wonderful geekout moment, but hey, I should have approached him and yelled at him, instead i just told a select few and bitched about it.

  4. Comment by banane

    Posted on July 28, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    Thanks Peter! I do love the competition- it makes people and teams focus on actually delivering something.

  5. Comment by Laura Forrest

    Posted on July 28, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    Awesome post, you're a great writer.

  6. Comment by banane

    Posted on July 28, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    Thanks Laura! I've definitely been writing this in my head for quite a while. Hey missed you @ this iosDevCamp btw.

  7. Comment by kimflournoy

    Posted on July 28, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    Love the writeup – maybe I'll actually get up the courage to do something like this one of these days (sexual harassment notwithstanding…)

  8. Pingback by Women 2.0 » iOS Dev Camp Debriefing: There’s No I in Team, and Other Cliches

    Posted on July 29, 2011 at 7:01 am

    […] This post was originally posted at Banane. […]

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>