My name is Johnny Swierczynski and I’m going into my final year of my marketing degree at Southampton. Back in June 2020, I was lucky enough to be selected for a space on the Great Global Challenge, a 6 day long virtual hackathon combining students from the UK, Australia and the US. In this blog, I’m going to give you a quick rundown of what this experience was like and what I learnt from taking part in this rather unique opportunity.

I’ll admit, at first, I was a little sceptical of what doing a remote hackathon would be like especially during a global pandemic. After all, hadn’t I already struggled enough with online learning, completing all of my assignments online and all the stress that came with trying to be productive whilst locked inside the confinement of your bedroom for several months with a virus raging outside?

Johnny and Maisie studying from home

To my surprise, I was proven completely wrong. The way the challenge was organised was flawless from start to finish, with plenty of opportunities to interact with the other challengers from across the globe, without needing to leave your bedroom. Everyone was so willing to share and participate, it was great to meet so many other inspirational students, many that I’m still keeping in contact with even after the challenge has finished.

On the first day (or should I say night because for the UK cohort the first team meeting was at almost 10pm on a Sunday!) we got assigned our teams. I was working with three other guys, two of them from Aussie land and the other from California. We named our team “The Bachelors” which prompted some jokes on the slack group chat but in reality, had no relation to our relationship statuses but rather our degree titles 🤓

The objective was to come up with a start-up idea with a solution to a Covid-19 related issue in 6 days! The week consisted of a bunch of seminars and workshops with experts from what seemed like every field possible. We had to really work as a team to complete the challenge as some of the workshops would be at 4am for UK students which was a great experience because it taught me to rely on my teammates (which we know isn’t always possible with group projects at uni!).

Before I took part, I was also sceptical of what it would be like working as a team not only with people I’d never met before but also people in two completely opposing time zones to me. But once again, I was shown that given the right mindsets and the right tools, we formed a really tight-knit team, working on a pitch for our start-up idea which you can watch here ( I remember feeling like I’d worked with my team for years rather than barely a few days. I woke up each morning ready to be productive! Each day I would start by catching up on everything that the team had done whilst I was asleep (normally with my four-legged friend Maisie on my lap and a cup of coffee in hand). The challenge really showed me how much you can get done with a team of motivated people and the right technology and I know that this experience will be SO useful at any job interviews I go to.

So, if you’re thinking about applying for the Great Global Challenge, do it, you won’t regret it.

To find out more about the Great Global Challenge, click here

What I learned from the Great Global Challenge 2020

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