4 reasons why the Wise Hackathon rocks

Team member presenting at Wise hackathon


Hi! I’m Saamuel, one of the 2018 Wise Hackathon winners. I’m now working at Wise as a Software Engineer in our Tallinn office while studying Information Technology at TalTech University. I’ll be sharing my thoughts on why you should apply for the Hackathon, along with top tips to do well in it.

So why did I apply? Well, in Estonia, Wise is very popular among software engineering students. When I saw the Facebook event I thought it’d be a great way to get unique experience to talk about in future interviews and also meet new people to expand my network. I’d also never visited a big innovative startup office before, so I wanted to get a taste of what it’s like to work at a company like Wise.

What happens during the Hackathon

To give you a better idea of what happens at the event, I’ll walk you through my experience. The Hackathon was an intense, but really rewarding 24-hours. I personally didn’t know anyone before attending, so it was nice that we first got to know each other and started sharing our ideas over dinner. After eating we started pitching our ideas and based on our interest in the projects we formed teams – ideally, each team included a designer, product manager and developers.

After forming the teams we started hacking – bouncing ideas off each other, validating the problem and formulating a way to solve it. Our product manager figured out the business plan (how much money our solution would save, how the product works) and how to pitch it to the judges. Our designer created mock-up’s and helped with product, I with another developer implemented front-end designs and we also had a back-end developer, developing our product core.

Throughout the event we had mentors guiding us through the process and giving valuable feedback. On the next evening we pitched our final solution to the jury – this was like an actual start up pitching and questioning. The jury included experts from Superangel, Mooncascade and Taxify!

After taking part I would 100% recommend applying for the Hackathon. Why, you ask?

1) Get valuable experience

The Hackathon was such a unique experience for me. I‘ve never worked with people from different industries to take a problem from an idea to solution. It was amazing how in just 24 hours we managed to turn an idea into a business plan and a real website. Carrying out a project from idea to solution in such a short time was challenging, but incredibly rewarding. An experience like this makes you stand out in job interviews.

Tip: Don’t be scared to apply! This Hackathon was the first I’ve attended. Seeing 800 people interested in the event on Facebook, I felt nervous to apply, but I’m so happy I did. However, make sure you have some of the skills that are required.

2) Get a taste of what it’s really like working in a FinTech company

The Hackathon provided me with a sneak peek into working with people from various areas of expertise. At university, you’re usually surrounded by students who study the same subject as you. I got to work with not just other engineers, but also designers and product managers.

Tip: Make sure your application stands out! Even if you just have experience from university, think of ways how you can frame your projects relevant for the Hackathon, but don’t lie.

Look into the TransferWise culture and mission. I researched and framed my answers with those in mind.

3) Broaden your network

The Hackathon is a great opportunity to make friends and network. It was really cool to get to know so many people that shared my interests and I’m still in touch with them. Also having the chance to meet Wise employees and pitch your idea to business leaders and investors is a great experience to get your name out there and make connections.

Tip: Get out of your comfort zone! When I applied for the Hackathon, I didn’t know anyone which was a bit scary. However, meeting new people was one of the best parts of the experience.

4) Win a trip to the Wise London office and dinner with the CEO

As winners of the 2018 Hackathon everyone in my team won a 3-day trip to the Wise London office. This was an unforgettable experience. We got to see how Wise works and what happens behind the scenes as well as have dinner with the CEO of Wise Kristo Käärmann.

Tip: Prep for the Hackathon by brainstorming customer problems! Think about your own frustrations as a customer. The best problems to solve arise from real pain points and the best solutions improve a customer’s day-to-day life. These don’t have to be related to Wise, but they could be relevant and become something that the company could implement – awesome!

The final tip from me is to remember to have fun! To be honest, I was one of the few people at the Hackathon that didn’t sleep at all and that was quite intense. It’ll be an awesome experience that you’ll never forget so make sure you enjoy it!

What is the Wise Hackathon? Students, hackathon enthusiasts and Wise mentors come together once a year in April for an intense 24 hours of collaboration. The goal is to turn big ideas into a working product. It’s an opportunity to experience what it’s really like to work in FinTech product development in a challenging yet fun environment. We also keep our eyes peeled to offer the most brilliant minds the chance to join Wise.

Interested? Keep an eye on the next Hackathon on the official TransferWise Hackathon Facebook page.