How We Kicked Pressure’s Butt During a 40-Hour Hackathon

, November 18, 2016

Whether it be clients, projects, or deadlines, working under pressure is something we all face in our lives. Knowing how to handle and overcome it can be the most stressful part. But what do you do when time is the pressure? Imagine you only have 40 hours to complete a hackathon competition. While working with team members you just met day-of. And then you have to pitch and present what you collectively build to a panel of judges.

Today I’m going to take you through how Amanda Hoff (my fellow designer at Environics Communications) and I managed to kick pressure in the butt.



Hackathon Background Context

Over the October 21st weekend, we took part in our first ever hackathon competition for charity called “Gift The Code”. All participants were split into teams made up of designers and developers. All teams were assigned a client and a challenge to complete in just under 40 hours, that would allow the client to walk away with something tangible.

Our team was assigned Prosper Canada, a national charity dedicated to expanding economic opportunity for Canadians living in poverty through program and policy innovation. The challenge we picked was to gamify the financial planning process for low income individuals.

We joined forces with a crew of developers and created an app called “PlanningPal” and managed to win all 8 of the category badges, which included the “Pushing Tech Badge” and “Design Badge” among others.


How did we do it?

It wasn’t easy. Being our first competition, we did not know what to expect going in. But by being open to learning as we moved through the process and working with one another collectively, we managed to handle the time restraints and overcome pressure. More specifically, here’s why we succeeded:

  • We changed our perspective.
    We did not worry about what other teams were doing to win or let it distract us or get in the way of solving our task. We already knew we were trying the best that we possibly could. Other groups were not our enemy or competition. Our enemy was time.
  • We dug deep to stay motivated.
    At times we wanted to give up, but we reminded ourselves who we were doing this for, and why it was important. We shoved negativity away to focus on the positive. In this instance, our motivation was knowing we were doing something for a good cause.
  • We maintained a clear vision.
    From project managing to flow charts, presentation preparation and regroups –– we made sure our team always had a clear vision of next steps. It benefited us not only from an organization standpoint but it helped us see how far we’ve already come, reminded us what we have already accomplished and how close we were to reaching our goal.
  • We believed in ourselves as much we believed in each other.
    We were thankful and felt lucky to have such cooperative, creative, hardworking and big-hearted people on our team. This became even more apparent after the competition when we learned some teams were not even able to present because of miscommunication and disagreements. Each of our team members knew their own strengths and weaknesses and we did not question or second guess but only ever encouraged, supported, put faith forward, and believed in each other. After sharing that mutual understanding with one another, we were able to offer help to each other easily because it benefitted us all.
  • We did not take short cuts, but aimed big and took risks.
    Out of the list of challenges, our team could have picked the easiest one that we knew could be completed in 40 hours. But again, we craved innovation and change –– we were ambitious and eager to take on a challenge that would be most rewarding not just for the client, but for us as well. However, we also knew our limits and planned accordingly (for example, by getting rest or rotating who should take naps).

Want to know more about our app?

PlanningPal is a financial app that uses gamification to help users reach their financial goals. Through the concept of taking care of a virtual “pal”, the app advises users on how to manage short-term and long-term finances. The objective of the game is to level up and unlock more “pals” through the use of points. Based on how closely users follow their financial goals points will be rewarded or deducted, which in turn affects the health of their pal.

Utilizing data pulled from the individual users’ bank account or through manual entry, the app calculates and tracks the progress of the user’s goals. The app is designed to help people realize how easy and rewarding financial planning can be in the long run. Having a personal and portable tool gives users confidence and an understanding of how to prosper financially.

Note: The app is currently unavailable in the market but may be in the future if development begins.



  1. “The app is currently unavailable in the market but may be in the future if development begins.” – Keep an eye on your email and Slack. We have plans. 😀

  2. Awesome work! Now I want to join a hackathon 😀