Multi-Award winner Yihan Lin’s tips on winning

Multi-Award winner Yihan Lin’s tips on winning

Yihan Lin

Yihan Lin attended Govhack for four consecutive years from 2013 and won 15 awards with her teams, so she has a very deep emotional connection with GovHack. On her first attempt she was still a Uni student. She heard about the event from one of the seniors at the University of Queensland where she was a student.

Yihan strives to create simple and thoughtful human experiences that leave a positive impact on people, the environment and society, while finding the balance between business requirements, technical realities and user needs. As a true problem solver with a background in experience design, software development, project management and business analysis, Yihan communicates effectively with cross-discipline teams throughout the entire product delivery lifecycle. Yihan is now crafting elegant experiences at ThoughtWorks. Past work experience include both the public and private sectors in a variety of industries.

In 2016, the project called “Unveil the scene” won six awards and dominated the state awards night. The project aimed to connect the startup industry with research departments by helping to create transparency and expose the problems that Australian startups have. The project showed ground breaking research projects and the available funding. Data visualisation and a recommendation engine were used to build a community which bridged the gap between government, industry and startups.

More than 15 data sets were used, partially so that multiple award challenges could be entered. The strategy Yihan’s teams use is to take data from different sources and mash it up.

A good strategy is to pay attention to “spoilers” where GovHack leaks information about new data sets before the event’s start on the Friday night so you can start to explore the data that will be available for the competition. On the opening Friday, when the awards are announced, the team skims through all the data and analyses the eligibility requirements for different awards. Analysing award requirements is like analysing user requirements in a software project. From here, the team generates creative ideas for projects.

It’s very important that once you have ideas for projects that you check the available data sets to make sure they have the quality and content needed for the project. Sometimes the data is not what you think and will take a lot of effort to clean up and can waste a lot of time.

Time management

Before the hackathon weekend, Yihan’s team starts analysing the available data. On Friday night, when GovHack announces the awards, the team checks the data sets and works on idea generation. Every member of the team is tasked with checking the available data and that isn’t just having a quick look – it’s actually downloading the data to actually see what’s there and its quality.

“In the very beginning we just tried to stay up for 48 hours, later we realised that we actually need sleep”.

Yihan Lin

On Friday, the team stays up late but makes sure to sleep before coming back on Saturday morning with a fresh mind.

Next the team does a market scan to see what’s already in the market to see what the competitors are and look for any gaps.

Based on findings in the market, a product vision is developed including what problems they want to solve.

As a team, the application architecture, vision, user flow, and the core user experience is developed.

Team size and skills

Yihan has been in teams with various size. The biggest team was in 2013, and had 15 or 18 people. It could be fun to be in a large team but it takes additional coordination effort. It’s hard to ensure that everybody is on the same page. A large team can work but then you need people who’s job it is to coordinate the work. A team with around 6 people would be ideal. It’s easy to have a quick discussion with everyone, and also spilt into pairs to work on different tasks.

Skills divide into backend, user experience, front end development, data visualisation, and video production. The video producer doesn’t have to be excellent but they do have to know how to make a video and tell a narrative.

(In Yihan’s teams they started collecting content for the video from day one).

Often team members have multiple skills and at different times they can take different roles.

When forming a team, make sure you have diversity amongst the team members. It’s not just about gender but also skill sets and background. Not everyone needs to come from an IT background, as long as they are interested in solving a problem together, they will bring different ideas to the team.

Yihan has had team members from the public sector, research, commercial and some from startups.

Hackathon lessons

In the IT industry, teamwork is very important. Hackathons also give competitors experience at managing time and resources over a short project.

Yihan first competed in GovHack when she was a student in 2013, now she’s a senior experience designer at ThoughtWorks. Her work involves consulting to solve problems and provide a good experience for users. “Experience” covers more than just user facing UI, but also product strategy, visual design, front end development, service design, and research.

Advice for new competitors

Yihan advises spending time on analysis rather than diving into the code straight away. As well as looking at the data and challenge requirements, spend time on brain storming and idea generation. Don’t leave video creation to the last minute. You really need a good story to tell.

GovHack is a very limited time frame, so you need to prioritise, you can’t do everything, don’t get too stressed – have fun. Yihan has attended with good friends and has made new friends. It’s a great experience.

Article by Peter Marks for GovHack.