How I Won The 2016 SourceCon Hackathon Challenge

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Oct 4, 2016
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

Attending my first SourceCon, I was energized…almost jumpy. My company, Gitty Inc, decided to make the trip to Anaheim because we felt it was time to promote our app before it came out on the Play Store. Since we had signed up to be sponsors, my focus was on promoting our product to the best of my ability. However, it didn’t take long before the informal tone of the conference rubbed off on me and my initial urge to impress subsided. It was replaced by an eagerness to learn from fellow sourcers and recruiters at the event!   

Though I had heard great things about the hackathon competition, I wasn’t exactly rushing to grab the first seat. We had a long but successful day at our booth talking to attendees and I was ready to unwind. However, one of our software engineers kept insisting that we go. He said he had spoken with someone named John about it, who convinced him the contest was worth it. Later, I came to find out that John Ricciardi was the influencer, and he was definitely right about attending.

We were lucky to grab the last available table when we walked into a packed ballroom. Before the competition began, I opened some tabs on my computer I thought would be helpful. These included: email-format, email-verify, LinkedIn, Github, Angel List, Stack Overflow, Hoovers, a couple lengthy boolean search strings on Google, and Connectifier.

There were three rounds of competition, preceded by a qualifying round. I was able to collaborate with my Gitty teammates for the qualifier which was helpful. After that, the representatives were divided into four teams of four. The first round involved all four teams competing against each other. Round two consisted of the two winning teams, and then the final round involved you and your teammates competing against each other. I had no idea what I was getting myself into!


Qualifying Round

Cyber Security – Threat Hunter

Location: Plano, TX

The Threat Hunter will be responsible for participating in threat actor based investigations, creating new detection methodology and providing expert support to incident response and monitoring functions. The focus of the Threat Hunter is to detect, disrupt and eradicate threat actors from enterprise networks.

Bachelor’s degree in Information Technology, or relevant work experience and Security Certifications (GIAC, EC-Council, Offensive Security, etc.)

6+ years overall IT Infrastructure experience and knowledge of Linux/UNIX & Windows operating systems
3+ years of recent security experience (SOC, Incident Response, Malware Analysis, IDS/IPS etc.)
Experience with several of the following topics: Malware analysis, APT/Crimeware ecosystems, Exploit kits, Cyber Threat intelligence, Software vulnerabilities & exploitation, or Data analysis
Demonstrated knowledge of Splunk, alerts, dashboards and report building
Detailed understanding of the TCP/IP networking stack & network technologies
Working knowledge of full packet capture PCAP analysis and accompanying tools (Wireshark, etc.)


We were tasked with supplying 4 profiles relevant to the job description above, using any method we chose.

For this round, I wanted to find the right type of candidates while making sure I used multiple sources. I provided 2 from Github, 1 from LinkedIn, and 1 from a boolean search on Google, and then one more from LinkedIn after I realized the boolean profile I used was a template resume from Cisco

The boolean search:

(intitle:resume | inurl:resume) “security” “TCP” “threat” “enterprise networks” (TX | Plano) filetype:pdf -jobs


LinkedIn search focusing on companies that would have relevant candidates:

Amarillo, Texas AreaRemoveCurrent Company: AtosRemoveCurrent Company: Atos ConsultingRemoveCurrent Company: Atos WorldgridRemoveCurrent Company: BullRemoveCurrent Company: Worldline GlobalRemoveCurrent Company: Canopy CloudRemove


Backend database search on Gitty (thanks to some of the software engineers I had on my team):

Keywords – Linux, TCP

Location – Plano, Ft. Worth, Arlington


Round 1

Executive Director for a non-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO)

Location: New Delhi Area, India

The Executive Director will be summarily responsible for providing management and administrative oversight for the organization, including the following specific duties:

Develop proposals and source for funds
Serve as Secretary to the Board and support in governance compliance
Conduct socioeconomic research and facilitate stakeholder engagements/community interface
Carry out trainings and capacity building initiatives
Provide leadership in managing international and local programs
Develop viable areas of networking and partnership building

The Ideal candidates must have the following:
Masters Degree in Social Sciences or any other relevant field (A Ph.D. will be an added advantage)
Demonstrate high level of creativity
Information Technology/Systems proficiency
Project Management Skills
At least 18 years work experience, 8 of which must be in the development (third) sector
Excellent interpersonal, team building and communication skills


In round one, my new teammates and I needed to fill a non-tech role. We tried to double a number of candidates the judges asked for to show we were competent.

I liked the challenge of finding someone outside of the tech space and my team was composed of both tech and non-tech recruiters so it worked out well.

In total, we submitted eight candidates (seven LinkedIn, one Google search). Below are two of the LinkedIn searches:


(master OR PHD) AND “social sciences” AND IT AND “socioeconomic” AND training with location:New Delhi, India

(NGO OR “non-profit”) AND proposals AND funds AND social


Mark Tortorici later supplied this search string as one example to use: “director” (“non governmental” OR ngo=*=organization) (partnership OR stakeholder) (governance OR compliance OR funds) “(project OR program OR programs) management)”


Round 2

Debug / Scripting Engineer

Location: San Jose CA

Debug/scripting engineer needed with strong experience in either  TCL (preferred), Perl, Shell or Python to automate tasks such as dumping registers and translating registers into useful information.  Once this data has been transcribed you will make presentations and make recommendations based on the trends in this data (packet errors, etc.)

Strong scripting abilities in either TCL, Perl, Shell or Python
Strong debugging abilities
Experience creating binary files
Chip/Silicon Debugging experience

MakeFile experience
Data analytics skills (plotting, packet databases, etc.)


For the second round, I was happy they included the stipulation that we couldn’t use LinkedIn since I spend most of my time on Github and our Gitty app. In all, my team submitted six candidates from Github, and two from Google searches. The important thing in this round was not to focus on the title as much as the skills utilized.

We used the following boolean string:


(debug OR scripting) Engineer (TCL OR Perl OR Shell OR Python) San Jose


Gitty search:


Keywords – Shell, Python

Location – San Jose, CA


Again, Mark provided a thorough string of his own as an example:


(resume OR “about me”) (“test engineer” OR “validation engineer” OR “chip debugging” OR tester OR “qa engineer”) (debug OR debugging OR Troubleshoot OR troubleshooting OR validation) tcl OR tk OR perl OR python) (ic OR chip OR “integrated circuit” OR asic) -jobs -job -careers -samples


Round 3

Find the email address for these 4 Twitter handles

Prove that the email address is the correct one

This means going beyond the email that comes up on Connectifier or Prophet (though sometimes they can help you)


Seems simple enough, right? I started by pulling up each twitter account for the users. The first person was a layup. I went to his website and under “projects” I found his GitHub site which gave me his work email right away.

Confidence was up after the first person but I was struggling with the second so I moved on. For the third person, I had a lot of hits for an image search but none of the sites had his email included. I ended up using Connectifier to find his work email and then ran it through email-tester to make sure it was usable.

The ten-minute time limit was starting to creep up quickly. It helped to see the fourth person worked at apple. I was able to provide his Gmail after using prophet on his LinkedIn page and then my familiarity recruiting apple engineers helped in verifying his @apple email address.

Now, I went back to the second profile. I first tried the string below but a different person with the same name kept popping up:


(pseudonym OR “First Name + Last Name”) AND (email OR e-mail OR “@”)


I found him on LinkedIn and tried some different formats using the verify email and email format websites. These were my “go to” tools to make sure all the emails were correct for each candidate. After trying multiple sequences, I found one that worked and submitted what I thought were the most valid answers to the judges. Luckily, they were all correct!

The whole experience left me thrilled and exhausted. I’m extremely grateful to have had such awesome team members throughout the different rounds, both inside and outside my company. A huge thank you to the judges and everyone involved in SourceCon. Can’t wait to come back next year!  

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.