How I Hacked Hack the North (without any code)

Mylene Tu
4 min readJan 3, 2019


​Hack the North is Canada’s largest hackathon, held at the University of Waterloo. It is a 36-hour hackathon bringing together 1,000 students across the globe to bring ideas to life.

So here’s the deal, I went into Hack the North 2018 without a team but I left the hackathon with a job interview, multiple new connections, business leads, and a bunch of free stuff.

​To be blunt, this hackathon experience was much different from all of my past hackathons- this time around I did not hack/design to compete. As I mentioned earlier, I did not have a team; my initial plans had fallen through and so I decided this was a great opportunity to turn Hack the North into a hack of my own.

[Disclaimer: Sure there were many things I could do to find a team however, this article focuses on what I did do and why I did it.]

​This may seem like a waste of an opportunity (considering HTN is Canada’s largest hackathon) but I decided to spend my 36 hours using the environment, free food, and people as an incubator for my entrepreneurial work with FEM in STEM.

In case you aren’t familiar with FEM in STEM, it is a social enterprise I had created in April of 2018 to empower young women in STEM through online resources, programs, and events. (Learn more at

​If you think about it, the hackathon setting is a perfect environment to be productive and get a lot of work done in a short period of time.

  • Need a place to do work? The entire building is your office for 36-hours.
  • Hungry? There are scheduled free meals and snacks throughout.
  • Feeling tired? There are areas designated for sleeping/napping.
  • Want some inspiration or a break? There are lots of workshops and events going on that you can easily pop into.

…And most importantly if I wanted to spark connections with potential business partners, collaborators, and companies- they were all set up at booths downstairs.

Now, this may still seem like a waste of an opportunity and you may think that I missed out on a chance to create something cool but personally, I believe that there will always be wins and losses. Sure I missed the opportunity to work in a team with bright young students from across the globe- however, I was able to help some of my friend’s teams by leading them through the ideation & brainstorming process (which personally is my favourite part of hackathons).

Although I did not get the true ‘hacker’ experience, I was able to ‘hack’ my business and personal growth by networking with different companies and using my time to build up my venture.

After all, every experience is what you make of it. The general idea behind a hackathon is to generate ideas, work with new people, and build something that you’re passionate about or that you never thought you could, in a short period of time.

I’d say that I did just that at HTN, except through a different lens. I worked on an existing idea I was passionate about and did it for the sake of my venture growth rather than for the competition.

So what exactly did I do?

I shared my story, my passions, and networked my way through almost every company’s booth. This, in combination with working on my venture in an environment where everyone around me was also grinding out work, allowed me to generate potential business leads while expressing my passions and interests with strangers.

The result?

In a summarized view here’s what I got out of the entire experience:

  • A partnership for FEM in STEM with RBC
  • Connections with over 14 different companies
  • Confidence in sharing ideas and receiving feedback
  • A clearer inbox and more content/strategies for FEM in STEM
  • A job interview (which was attained by exemplifying passion while networking and making meaningful connections)
  • At least 4 water bottles, 2 chargers, and too many laptop stickers


If there is one thing I want anyone reading this to learn, it’s that you have the power to create new experiences for yourself in ways that may be unconventional or uncanny. Now I’m not saying ‘go to a hackathon and don’t hack’, I’ve been to a handful of them in the past and the competitive hacking experience is awesome- but with anything, know what will help you and identify the best uses for your time. You should never be afraid to re-design and tailor experiences in such a way that ultimately helps you grow.

Oh, and don’t take all the free stuff you can get at hackathons or you’ll end up with 3 too many water bottles and a bunch of other stuff with no place in your dorm/house.



Mylene Tu

Writing things while doing things | UWaterloo | Social Entrepreneur | Product Person