A recent post emphasized the importance of having a good team and working with people you’re comfortable with. But what if you don’t have a team yet?
Sign up anyway.
Don’t sweat. I was in your position last spring and I recommend that you still sign up. Here’s why:
- You aren’t the only one without a team. Everyone signs up as an individual before the competition starts; teams are only registered on the actual day of the event, once coding begins. That means other individual contestants or teams with empty spaces are signing up.
- PennApps provides several channels to find team members. Singing up for the PennApps email list is the best way to connect with teams who need additional members. And the only way to hear about these avenues (the team formation sheet, the meet-and-greet dinner on Friday evening after kick-off, the tech talks) is by signing up so you can receive updates. You don’t want to miss out by not being on the email list.
- There are different levels of participation. Even if you don’t end up finding a team (keep reading and I don’t think you’ll have this problem) or if you decide not to hack for the entire weekend, you should still show up! Hack by yourself (intensely or casually), extend your skill-sets, meet a ton of cool students, judges, sponsors, and professors, mooch off of free food and awesome giveaways, whatever you want. You can sign up as a competitor, a guest, or an observer (for the Sunday demos). PennApps is a fun (and free) environment and you should show up for at least part of it.
Okay, but I’m still teamless. What now?
Last spring, I was determined to participate in PennApps Mobile because, as a second-semester senior, it was my last official chance to compete. Despite my resolve, I started out by myself.
A week before PennApps Mobile, I contacted friends and past computer science group project members letting them know that I wanted to compete, asking if they were participating, had space on a potential team, and requesting they forward me onto anyone else they knew who might be interested
I initially received disappointing responses: most said they either weren’t participating, weren’t sure yet, or already had 4 people. In the interim, I filled the Google Docs that PennApps provided for Idea Brainstorming and Team Formation with as many ideas as possible, even though I wasn’t super excited about any of them. My goal was to excite someone else to contact me and to show off my skills. Interspersed with the ideas I mentioned, I talked about the technologies and frameworks I knew how to use and acknowledged how these ideas would be implementable within the competition time frame.
At least 6 or 7 people mentioned to me that they noticed my ideas in the communal Google Doc, evidence that somebody was looking at the team formation information. Of those, several were serious about the possibility of teaming up, and I met with each of them.
A few days before the competition, one of the people that I originally reached out to-- who hadn’t immediately gotten back to me-- responded. He said that his team had space for a 4th person, but that I had to let them know if I was on board ASAP because they wanted to meet to brainstorm ideas. I jumped on board.
My team worked out swimmingly and we won the Best Android App prize sponsored by Google. This outcome completely blew away any of my expectations at the beginning, when I had no team, no idea, and no direct Android development experience. Our idea even changed more than 16 hours into the competition and we had to scrap all our code and start over, which felt pretty scary. In the end, I still contributed the touch gestures that were integrated into our team’s final app and we all worked really well (and really hard) together to nab an awesome prize.
In the words of Woody Allen, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” So, what are you waiting for? Just sign up.
[Thank you to Aditi Jain, past PennApps participant, who contributed this post!]