Hack The North 2021: “What They Don’t Teach You In CS Class”

Hypotenuse Labs
4 min readSep 29, 2021

On September 17–19, our team at Hypotenuse Labs came back from a weekend of judging, mentoring, giving our prizes, and presenting workshops for students at Hack the North 2021!

Most of our team members (and our entire founding team) are alums from the University of Waterloo where Hack the North is hosted. This made participating in Hack the North a very special way for us to give back.

Calvin, Co-Founder, and Linda, Operations Manager at Hack The North 2014

Our co-founder Calvin, was actually on the organizing team for the very first Hack the North in 2014!

This weekend, he gave a talk that over 1,000 students voted to hear: “What They Don’t Teach You In CS Class”.

We decided to share some of the main points in hopes that it can help students succeed in their CS careers.

What They Don’t Teach At School: A Primer on Interpersonal Skills

While we can all agree that school (and co-op) gives you a technical foundation, something that is often overlooked is how to develop good interpersonal skills.

Success in the real world requires strong communication skills, for example:

  • First impressions
  • Getting a job
  • Getting a promotion
  • Resume writing
  • Marketing your product/project
  • Convincing people to work with you
  • And more!

It’s obvious, but you have to be a great communicator if you wanna move up in your career.

Step 1: Understand what you want & why

When building your network, people need an easy way to remember you and what you’re about.

When you understand what you want and why, it becomes easier to communicate your story to others. People can tell if you’re truly passionate about what you do, so if you can identify where your passion lies, that same passion will help people remember you.

Reflect on the diverse experiences you gain from school and co-op. What are you hoping to achieve? What do you want? Why do you want it?

One resource we recommend is the “Self-Authoring Program” by Jordan Peterson.

tl;dr: When you understand yourself, telling your story becomes second nature.

Step 2: Understand others and practice empathy

Just like how you want your story to be heard, others do too. There’s a ton to learn and understand about others — and that starts by taking a genuine interest in what other people have to say.

When you do that, you’ll find that people will feel safe opening up to you. You’ll develop deeper and stronger bonds.

Find opportunities to actively listen to what others have to say. Listen attentively, show care, paraphrase what they say, and withhold judgment/unsolicited advice.

Most importantly, always ask educated questions to dig deeper. “Why did you feel that way?” “Were you always interested in..”

tl;dr: Shut up and listen :)

Step 3: Create win-win scenarios

Now, you understand what you want and are starting to understand others. Given that info, you can think about how you can help each other.

At Hype Labs, we’ve been able to develop many fruitful relationships with allies by helping each other.

If you’re not able to help someone right away, that’s okay. Make your intentions known that you’d like to help them in future. Keep working on yourself, and you may eventually get there.

In the opposite vein, sometimes the other person won’t be able to help you back. In many situations, it may be a good choice to help, even if it doesn’t benefit you at the moment.

You never know where someone will be in 5, 10, or even 20 years! And most importantly, you may find that paying it forward is a reward in itself.

tl;dr: Be a good person.

Step 4: Build long-term relationships

Forming strong relationships with people takes time and effort. Propose catch-ups with important people in your life — whether they are professional or friends/family.

Keep a note of where everyone is. Make an active effort to keep in touch. Always think about how you can learn from each other, and how you can help each other.

In the end, you’ll find that these types of relationships are the most mutually beneficial and can last years, if not even decades.

A lot of these start off professional but end up being friendships. At Hype Labs, a lot of our friendships turned into professional relationships (and vice versa!), which only strengthened our connection with each other.

tl;dr: don’t be lazy — long-term relationships require effort.

In Closing..

Navigating the tech world is part “tech” and part “world”. And surprise! The world, as we know it, has people in it.

While tech chops are important, being a good communicator is what’s going to take you further in your career.

At Hype Labs, having great people skills is how we got to where we are today. The relationships that we’ve formed with allies in business, clients, and our team is what will help us build the company of our dreams.

If you want to join our talented, growing team, please reach out to us at careers@hypotenuselabs.com.



Hypotenuse Labs

Building incredible web, AI, and blockchain solutions since 2018.