This past week has been a new level of everything in the most awesomest and most exhausting ways. I am soooo tired, like ridiculously tired, as in, I’d like for time to stop for a week straight just so I could sleep without skipping a beat. I’m not complaining (well, maybe I’m a little) but I tell you what, the last few days (and months for that matter!) have been mindblowingly amazing!
I did not know, when I went to work on Monday morning, that I would be on a flight to France by the end of the week. I did also not know that I would be participating in a three-day-Ocean-Hackathon and I did not even consider the possibility staying on for the Sea-Tech-Conference in Brest in Brittany in France when I went to work on Monday morning in Cork in Ireland – not France (just in case that fact was lost somewhere). But here I am! I participated in the 3rd ever Ocean Hackathon and it was INCREDIBLE or as the French say incroyable. The concept of hackathons and innovation and research has become more and more used in academia and I ABSOLUTELY LOVE it.
The idea is to have a bunch of people that may not know each other in a room and present them with a problem that they try to solve in a creative way within the next three days (including nights). Although you’re not required to have tech-expertise, each team should have some kind of tech-knowledge so you could maybe try to build an app/website/product/whatever floats your boat to showcase the idea that you’ve come up with. But fear not, if you do not have any tech-expertise, people like you and me we do the leg work… Well, -ish. I offered creative inputs, created a presentation and a story for the final pitch. And yes, you do pitch your idea to a panel at the end of the hackathon and then the panel picks a winner or rather, in our case, everyone was a winner (which I absolutely loved!!).
Being limited by my French-ability, I am eternally grateful for a couple of Canadians that let me tag along while they did the heavy lifting, I brought coffee and occasional snacks to the table. The organizers of the hackathon made sure that we were constantly fed and caffeinated and provided help wherever they could. Some of the teams slept at the site, others worked until 2 am and me? Well, I did neither, I went home around 11 pm and showed up bright and early (and not so well-rested) the next day. So yes, the hackathon is exhausting and tiresome but such an incredible joy and if you ever get to participate, ABSOLUTELY DO!
So, now that you know what a hackathon is and what my role in this was, let me restart this story and give you a little insight in what went down between Friday night and today (Sunday evening). My flight to France was booked on Wednesday afternoon, less than 48 hours later I was on my way to Paris and then on to Brest. At around midnight to Saturday I arrived in a very dingy hotel, which was one of the last ones still available two days before a major weekend and one of the biggest conferences in France the following week. After having had a challenging week in Ireland before I even left, sleep didn’t come easy Friday night either, so after about 3 1/2 hours I got up and made my way to the hackathon. After some initial attempts to offer tech opinion (it wasn’t advice or much help), I then proceeded to building a powerpoint presentation and creating a pitch to sell our hackathon idea in English which then was presented in French so really my pitch writing was a bit redundant but that’s beside the point…
12 teams, about 90 people, presented their hackathon doing (all of varying degree of caffeinated, tired, exhausted and hyped up on croissants) and wow, there were some amazing ideas that came from it! After all the pitches, when the majority of the room was close to a state of deliriousness, there was an award show, which was generally confusing (probably because I do not speak French and because I was incredibly tired – did I mention how tired I was already?).
Our group was called to stage which was very exciting. The organizers were even more excited to have someone from Ireland on a team, as this was the first time that the hackathon had international participants. My name and my affiliation were called out and I knew I had to present or rather represent. I stood tall, shoulders back, chest out, and walked confidently.
Here we were about to be presented an award, how thrilling!!! Who would have thought that at the end of the whole hackathon, we would win something!! So the whole team (four of us) walk down to the stage, one in front of the other, one foot in front of the other and then, what happens? I fall over the last couple steps and fall to the ground in front of a panel of highly-esteemed people and of course about 86 incredibly hackathonians. I quickly recovered, my head as red as a tomato, avoiding eye-contact with everyone, and trying my darndest not to burst out laughing like a maniac. Then they took our award-ceremony-photos, which I am sure, came out GREAT. Needless to say, that I was embarrassed beyond belief and did the only thing I could to save myself, pretend it didn’t happen, while one couldn’t miss the stifled laughter in the room. Just as we were released back to our seats, and I figured the whole ordeal was done, I notice the film man right in front of me, who I hadn’t noticed earlier as I didn’t look his way, at the bottom of the steps where I fell to the ground and yes, he absolutely filmed the whole thing.
Not only did I fall epically, it also was on film, are you freaking kidding me?! Now, I would have tried to convince the man to delete this particularly embarrassing moment of my blossoming career but I knew from having interacted with him before, that English wasn’t his strong suit, so I didn’t even try.
For the rest of the event, which thankfully was only a few more moments longer, people made sure that there wasn’t anything in front of me that I could trip over. They also made sure not to grin too hard (and let’s face it, I would have done the exact same thing and was actually surprised the room didn’t burst out in laughter) and I very quietly exited the whole event hoping that no-one would stop me before leaving…
I guess, the moral of the story is that no matter how hard you try to be perfect, something will always go wrong (especially when you’re tired and had too much caffeine). The perfect croissant is made from tons of little crumbly flakes and each individual of them is just plain annoying (she writes as she had croissant flakes on her literally since the minute she landed in Paris three days ago). But together they create the perfect, soft and buttery breakfast food, mid-morning-snack, lunch desert, afternoon snack and dinner treat (and yes, this is accurate…). And the best croissants are the ones that may not look like they are quite right, but yet when you bite into them, you taste everything that’s right in the world!
I am like that, I have many embarrassing moments especially in important contexts. I am wild and loud and always falling flat on my face when I least expect it and least want it and each of these moments are the annoying little flaky crumbs of my life, all over my blouse as I try to pretend I didn’t just eat half a dozen of these buttery goodnesses. But that’s what makes life amazing, the treaty things, the annoying moments, the embarrassing episodes and the buttery goodness (there are vegan options too if you prefer…) of sheer happiness. Life is often like a hackathon with moments of exhaustion, long nights and even longer days. There is discomfort, strange places, and long journeys wherever you look, but you can either become a horribly stale baguette or let the crumbs fall where they do and be a soft croissant… (I am not hating on baguettes by the way, they are awesome too, but let’s be real, if you have a choice, the perfect croissant maybe filled with a little bit of chocolate, while you sip on a little cappuccino, now that’s what perfect days are made of).
P.S. I wish I had the ability to take a photo of my coffee and croissant before I devour it, but because I don’t, here is a photo of the amazing chocolate that the organizers of the hackathon have given me and I intended to share with my colleagues but I am sad to say, the chocolate will not make it past the next few days before I return to Ireland…