Arjun Kalburgi to the right of a sharp leaf

learning, finding, designing, developing impact

The Hacker Questionnaire

August 14, 2018

Filling out MLH’s Coaching Application Questionnaire

Of your time in the hacker community, what are you most proud of?

My time in the hacker community has been split between attending hackathons and running my own. In my second last semester of school I attended MLH hackathons all over North America and it was amazing. I ended up attending four: PennApps, MHacks, EduHacks and HackTX, as well as a weeklong trip to San Fransisco. Travelling and hacking is such a blessing and I’m really proud of myself for making the opportunity to do so. That being said, watching Edmonton’s hacking community grow over the last 3 years I’ve been running HackED has been even more special. I’ve seen students change their entire career path after attending hackathons. Giving students the realization of what their capable of is so special.

What is your experience as a leader in the hacker community? Do you run a club or hackathon, teach workshops, or something else?

For 3 years I was the lead organizer of HackED, Alberta’s largest hackathon. I was an integral member of the organizing club, the Computer Engineering Club, which got me involved in all kinds of workshops and speaking events to represent the Faculty of Engineering and the Computer Engineering Club. In my final two years, I left the club’s executive team to allow myself more time to run events I felt were integral to the student developer community we were building but that the club didn’t have time for. I maintained my position as one of the lead organizers of the hackathon though. All three of my years as an organizer were phenomenal, I love the supportiveness of the community and I remain well connected to the Faculty of Engineering and the Computer Engineering Club so that I can continue to help/run events for students.

Tell me a time when you learn something new or taught someone something new. Were there any challenges? If so, what were the challenges? How did you go about overcoming those challenges?

I’m currently taking a UI class where a lot of my fellow students are in arts. In the last five+ years I’ve never been around people that think so differently from me. At first it was a little difficult to work with them, they complained about the workload, which I didn’t find too bad after 5 years in engineering, and they often came up with bizarre conclusions about class problems. They were just so different. At the same time they were great in the design challenges our instructor gave us, thinking outside the box and creating original works where my mind could only come up with crappy remixes of stuff I found on Pinterest.

Only after a few weeks with them was I able to begin understanding their perspective. Now I’m able to learn so much from them, and they’re able to learn from me. I showed them what it’s like to be a front end developer, copying and hacking code that we can find online, and slowly I became more artistic.

Perspective is so important when teaching/learning. People are rarely malicious, they just have a different perspective. You have to learn their perspective to be able to communicate with them properly — learning or teaching.

How do you feel about public speaking? What was your favorite public speaking experience? Least favorite?

My mom enrolled me in the community public speaking contest every year throughout my childhood. I still find a lot of joy out of public speaking today, I’m a loud, energetic and motivated extrovert and it comes in handy. My most favourite public speaking experience was this past year at the Computer Engineering orientation. I spoke on how I’ve made the most of my degree (mostly via hacking) and how they can make the most of theirs. 
You can actually see the presentation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTUb8VTWUFw&t=29s

What’s the worst mistake you’ve made? How did you fix it?

In my mind mistakes are difficult. If you’re able to learn from the mistake, is it really a mistake or a lesson? As time passes, they’ll always be more lesson than mistake.

My latest worst mistake came from the result of pushing around my class schedule. I want to get the most of my time as a student so I tried to make my second last semester lighter in order to attend more hackathons. I took 2 classes out of the semester by enrolling in 2 online courses over the summer and postponed another to the final semester. With three less classes I had the best semester ever! Unfortunately, I didn’t finish the online courses over the summer. No problem, I’d do them during the semester. Didn’t happen either. By December I still hadn’t completed them, I was in panic mode. Without these classes I couldn’t graduate on time. I ended up figuring out a solution, but it led to the most difficult and stressful time of my life.

I came out of that experience feeling pretty invincible, however I feel like maintaining a better routine would be a better lesson. One that I’m still working towards!