The Hacker Culture

This short piece is about a reminiscent of my stays in California. In Silicon Valley to be precise. And how unique of a culture it has, to be the center of the global tech industry. It forever changed my view in life and business.

The year was 2014. I just came to the states right after I finished high school. I was taking classes in a community college called Foothill College, due to some circumstances that could be another different story. But anyway, I was excited to see what the buzz is all about in Silicon Valley.

Weekly Hacking Retreats

In my first few months, I quickly discover these events called Hacktahons. For those who’ve never heard it, it’s a “Hacking Marathon”, where you build things, could be a program or an electronic product, usually for the whole weekend. You start with a team and an idea and at the end you show a final demo to all the attendees.

Hacking with my team

Honestly, hackathons are the best weekend retreat I’ve ever had. Meeting new talented people, building crazy things, in a very encouraging environment is an amazing experience. Many good friends are made during these times. Also, many tech companies comes to hackathons to provide mentorship and scout talents. It’s an interesting dynamic between participants, the hosting university, and the companies. Participants get to learn, network, and even get internship/job opportunity. University gets clout for being supportive of innovative events. Companies get to scout talent early on.


What hackathons typically look like

I would recommend CS majors to get involved with hackathons even as early as a freshman in college. Because then you could learn fast about many technologies and network. Some even founded a startup with their hackathon team. There’s also prizes in hackathons! at Wildhacks 2015 my team and I won Best Communications Hack nominated by Twilio. This is because we made an IoT security box, called Chimr, that you can put on your door and communicate with whoever is in front of your door via text and audio. It’s  a good thing to mention in your resume.

My team working on Chimr. We won Best Communication Hacks at Wildhacks 2015

Bustling Co-working Spaces

In the valley, for companies who has yet to have an official office, they can rent office spaces at these places typically called Co-working spaces. These places feels like an open office, but there’s a wide-range of crowds that hangs out here. New startups, hackers who just happen to like to hang out here, teams who work on side-projects, or even individuals who just quit their 9 to 5 job. People from different background, all having one common interest, building cool things!

I happened to met an awesome team called EverFave, the product is about a social media that has referral system built-in into it. It no longer exist now, but I learned a great deal just chatting with them, learning what they do, even help them with web and android development, things that I was learning back then. Overall having a chance to sit down next to the CEO and CTO and listen to how they build and run the startup, is a big learning opportunity.

EverFave team + Me

I would definitely recommend aspiring hackers and entrepreneurs to check out the co-working places around the bay area to get to know the community and find other talented ambitious people.

24/7 Startup Events

Another thing about the valley that I noticed is the abundance of startup events. I got to go to networking events in San Francisco where I met venture capitalists looking to invest on the next big thing, startups who seems to be way ahead of their time, and talented hackers who’re looking to get on board on the best startups around. This concentration of capital, talent, and crazy ideas is phenomenal. Some of the startups I’ve met are KnightScope, which seems to be crazy at that time, but not so nowadays.

I think checking out Meetups and checkout association or events made by Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs are a good way to get into the scene. From then networking your way to more elite circle of investors, startups, and talents is the game. Of course you should be of high-value as well, but the opportunity to make a huge impact is unparalleled here in the valley.

All in all...

It’s been a very transformative experience to be exposed to such a culture during my teenage years. I do believe it played a role on how I see life and business now. This experience is probably one of the cause of my optimistic attitude towards technology and startups. A culture that I carried with me even long after I moved away from the valley…

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