Is the event worth going? Will I be brave enough this time to chat with other people? I really wish someone could tell me the answer.

- Miko (final year master student) on networking

This was an intensive 3-day Hackathon participated by design and engineer students. The prompt: Design an experience that helps college students discover and connect to their classmates. Deliver a working prototype and a pitch of the solution at the end.

Provided with an open-ended prompt, we identified the social anxiety faced by college students in networking events as the design problem: Initiating conversations with strangers in events is intimidating and embarrassing.

Project Duration

July 2019, 3 Days


Macie Wan, Yang Bai Product Designer
Alison Norris
Front-end Engineer
Christian Watson
Back-end Engineer

My Role

Product Designer + Project Manager

* This project has been revamped by myself after the Hackathon

Key Skills

Concept Ideation
Interaction Design
Visual Design
Project Management

Success goals
for the Hackathon

We directly adapted the grading rubrics and LinkedIn's UX Design Principles into our success metrics. These goals helped us make design decisions quickly throughout the fast-paced development cycle.

Valuable: Our product provides personalized, discoverable, and actionable paths that connect people to opportunity

Inclusive: Our product is fully supportive of diverse cultures and capabilities

Encouraging: Our product empowers and impresses users with a delightful and smart design

Efficient: Our working prototype must be delivered on time

Key research insight:
Going to the event doesn’t do anything

We focused on front-loading our generative research in the first day of the hackathon: I facilitated the brainstorm sessions on problem areas and after picking the direction, we interviewed two employees from LinkedIn on their networking experience back in school. We also collected opinions from acquaintances who attended many networking events. Here are the insights we synthesized:

Design Solution:
An event app that fosters hassle-free connection

So what if, you no longer need to worry about who to approach and how to start? Matchy lowers the barrier to entry for networking by pairing you up with a small number of like-minded "Matchy Buddies" to initiate conversations, based on your interests. The app’s goal is to be the go-to platform for networking events, building meaningful, lasting connections that will empower your future.

Take Yuka's journey as an example:

Key taskflow One/
Sign IN and Pick an event

Yuka signed in Matchy with her LinkedIn account. Matchy then customized her event feed using her areas of interest, home organization, and current city.

Yuka easily found a free Hackathon meetup that matched her interest in tech. Moreover, she felt encouraged because some of her LinkedIn connections are also going.

taskflow one (personal revamp work)

Key taskflow two /
Find matchy buddies
and start conversations

The event day arrived! After checking-in at the reception, Yuka revealed her Matchy Card for this meetup and soon spotted the same card in the crowd. Yuka joined the conversation, enjoying the chat about women who code.

Yuka could also connect her Matchy Buddies on LinkedIn and other social media, as well as track her networking progress on the profile page. She went home feeling neither intimidating nor passive, but confident and encouraged.

taskflow two (personal revamp work)

From success metrics to design decisions

Three keywords from our Success Goals became the major input to our design decisions: Inclusive, Valuable, Encouraging. These words help us design unique features, navigate disagreement on details, and also guided me through my personal revamp of this project.

Bonus: A business model beneficial to all sides

After chatting with the judges and Sarah (VP User Experience at LinkedIn), we had a clearer idea on how to make Matchy work business-wise. Thus, I created this concept map about how Matchy can utilize data to bridge the gap between event participants and event sponsors, creating values that can empower both sides.

What the leaders say
about Matchy

Matchy had an amazing presentation and demo! The team took the interaction design outside of a screen to actually solve a problem. Also had a well thought out architecture. Overall, the solution was fun, accessible and easy to use.

Hackathon Judges

Your next step should be throwing a party to launch it… I am still blown away by what you created in just a few days!

Sarah Alpern, VP User Experience at LinkedIn

How I prioritized our to-do list during the hackathon + The next steps

With previous experience collaborating with front and back-end engineers, I know what drives engineers crazy and what makes them relieve. So I volunteered to serve as the bridge between designers and engineers and took the lead in project management.

My rules of thumb were:

  1. Be proactive. Never hesitate to ask questions or stress previous decisions to ensure everyone's on the same page.  
  2. Maintain quick and dirty check-ins with engineers on the feasibility and development resources it would take for each feature and interface component.
  3. Speak the engineer's language, and be the translator for designers.
  4. Adapt and prioritize design features ruthlessly according to effort : impact.
  5. Reflect on the team's collaboration method and progress on a half-day basis.

These rules equipped us to make a winning demo within 24 working hours. But as smooth as the demo look, we understand the importance of validation, since details from he number of participants to how long will the reception be open can all affect the experience drastically. If I were to push this project further, I would build archetypes for different user groups and events, break down the journey respectively in finer granularity, and user test the core features under respective scenarios.