As digital technology engulfs most industries; the need for new technologies continues increasing in demand. To keep computer and IT engineers engaged and active in their work most IT and technology companies have turned to organizing Hackathon within the organizations to boost morale and help individuals showcase their skills. Most IT professions have a close personal interest towards their profession and many IT engineers adopt IT related hobbies. For many of these professionals pursuing other extra-curricular activities like hiking, travel and outings doesn’t deliver the desired relaxation. Instead, large IT companies like IBM, APPLE, Accenture, AT&T, Samsung and many fortune 500 companies organize internal Hackathon (Hinton 2017). These are purposely designed to allow the company employees participate in an extra-curricular activity linked to their personal interest as well as one which has the scope of delivering added benefits to the company as a whole. There is no limitation related to the activities the participants are involved in but it is usually limited to the businesses specialization. This result in the majority of Hackathon participants developing new application development, unique coding projects and even demonstrating their hacking or hack proof coding strategies and techniques. Hackathon help companies encourage their employees towards demonstrating their capabilities. These are aimed at improving employee performance and their attitude towards the work and responsibilities; helps determine employee engagement to their work as well as act as an innovation strategy for the company to identify new talent and ideas which can be used in future.
IT companies have registered a high demand for their products in recent years which have resulted in the need to constantly develop new products to keep customers engaged. Most large companies like Apple, Samsung, Hasbro, AT&T, Capital One Labs, Accenture and many others organize Hackathon each year as an extra-curricular activity to keep employees engaged and get their mind off their daily work life (Perkin & Abraham 2017, p. 66). Unlike many other professions, IT professions tend to have a personal interest in their work resulting in many pursuing IT related projects during their free time. The Hackathon targets allowing the employees to demonstrate their personal skills on extra-curricular activities which help them get their mind of their job and focus on demonstrating their skills to their colleagues and employers.
Apple has hosted multiple Hackathon over the past few years each targeting to harness its skilled professional's ideas and develop new products for the company. Apple TV Hackathon, Apple Watch Hackathon, and the iOSDevCamp are some examples of Hackathon that Apple has organized in the recent past (Downes & Nunes 2014). Unlike many companies who organized open Hackathon for their employee, Apple prefers to focus its Hackathon towards the development of certain products.
Apple is famous for the development of computers, laptops, iPods, and iPhones but the company has also considered expanding its operations to other products. Apple is well recognized for having the best IT professionals globally and the company will usually engage them in Hackathon to identify important talent and skills which can be used to develop new products. Steve Jobs always involved his employees in product development and refinement thus resulting in the brand creating some of the finest electronic products used today. The same approach has been utilized by Apple towards the Apple TV’s development where the company has offered its best work for the opportunity to develop the Apple TV in a Hackathon. Teams were made up of designers, electronic engineers, and other specialists thus allowing each team to have the expertise to deliver a completed design for evolutions. Besides offering the workforce with an extracurricular activity to get their minds of the daily work it helps them demonstrate additional talents they may possess thus allowing the management develop a wide skill set for each participant.
Smartphones have grown very popular today and IT, electronic entertainment and communication companies have begun developing value added products like the smart watch. To remain competitive in the market and maintain its market position, Apple would also need to develop an extraordinary smart watch for its consumers. This would see Apple organize the Apple Watch Hackathon which was specifically aimed at designing an Apple smart watch. Again the cream of the companies engineers were assembled in groups that focused on the Apple watch Hackathon which was aimed at creating an Apple smart watch that would stand out from competitor brand products in the market. Again the winning team would have certain benefits arising from the design but more importantly, the team would be associated with the development of the product and up gradation.
Windows and Ubuntu are constantly applying intense pressure on the iOS operating system forcing apple to constantly need to develop a new Operating system so as to match and surpass competitors. On average windows and Ubuntu release a new operating system every 24 months but also release multiple updates for their current operating systems every few months. Apple is therefore under constant pressure to upgrade its iOS and develop the new iOS version for use by its faithful customers. To achieve this Apple organized the iOSDevCamp which helps every year in which the best of the iOS department is involved with the focus on developing a new, better and more advanced operating system (Perkin & Abraham 2017). This delivers an extracurricular activity to the department employees but also allows them to demonstrate their ideas and innovation towards improving or developing a new iOS operating system which would offer additional benefits not found on previous and current versions.
While the above examples are related to Apple, it’s important to understand most other major IT, electronic and communication companies follow similar approaches. Samsung, Hasbro, AT&T, HP, Acer, Toshiba, Capital One Labs, Accenture and much more all follow the same innovation strategy. This is due to each facing the same concern linked to intense competitions making it important that they remain innovative so as to retain consumer confidence and market position and reputation.
Hackathon has been noted to have a positive effect on employee performance, skill perfection and skill development. This has been due to the Hackathon attracting individuals to have a personal interest in it and will usually have their personal project happening after work hours. The Hackathon allows the individual to introduce these skills to their management which helps them demonstrate their ability to undertake alternative skills which improves their impression and value to the company (Pour 2017). Companies today will priority on versatile and multi skilled professionals who are considered as bigger assets for the company as opposed to professionals who possess only a single skill. The Hackathon helps also deliver a competitive spirit among the employees which is vital towards establishing hierarchy which can also allow the company better judge and individuals capacity and ability to take up and do different jobs with the organization.
Entertainment plays an immense role towards motivating the staff but it’s important for a company to offer the right kind of activities in which the staff will be engaged. Each company has its own policy related to entertainment and in some situations; multiple extracurricular activities are offered to the staff. This is done to ensure each staff member is involved in an activity of their interest thus helping relax their mind and help build a stronger bond with their colleagues and superiors (Fitzpatrick & Collins-Sussman 2012). Whether the company has organized a single event of multiple events aimed at catering to each employee the main objective of the extracurricular activities is to deliver entertainment to the participants. This also makes it very important for the activities to be carefully organized to ensure the majority of stake holders will be entertained by the activity.
Extracurricular activities are mainly organized to deliver relaxation from daily work pressure but in certain situations such Hackathon; they are aimed at harnessing additional information and data. This is due to Hackathon mainly being activities which involve employees demonstrating their skills in certain areas which may not fall under their daily responsibilities thus allowing the management understand their capabilities. Allowing employees to participate and demonstrate their talents helps to boost employee morale and in turn helps to improve their performance. But it’s also very important for the management to evaluate each individual or team carefully and offer acknowledgment and reward towards their efforts which helps encourage them and boost their focus towards participating in the event in the future. Hackathon involved creating friendly competitions between company employees while searching for a talent to be recognized but failing to reward all participants is likely to result in them simply losing interest to participate in the next activity.
Organizing Hackathon also helps encourage employees to improve and even perfect skills which have been used during the activity. In many situations, many participants enrol for the Hackathon just to observe the activities and their capability or level among their colleagues but this can also result in encouraging them to focus more towards their skill and improve it so as to perform better on the next activity. Hackathon is synonymous for encouraging employees to pick up as well as perfect their personal skills and interest which they can demonstrate during activities like Hackathon which are aimed at allowing employees to showcase their personal interest and skills so as to improve their portfolio.
Extracurricular activities like Hackathon are also well recognized for instigating individuals to pick up and master new skills so as to participate in the events. In many situations employees who lack skills will find themselves needing to develop a skill which they can demonstrate to their colleagues during such activities (Carvalho et al. 2016). Hackathon are meant to help employees come out of their daily work life and demonstrate their ability to perform something different but also something which can be evaluated and even used by the company or employer to enhance its product or service delivery. Some individuals will also use this as an opportunity to develop new skills for each event which results in making them more versatile and valuable to the company over the long run. Hackathon are mainly focused towards employee’s skills demonstration which can be used by the company but other companies use this opportunity to improve employee interactions by demonstrating skills of their choice with the sole objective of building more confidence among the employees and also improving their level of engagement with the business as well as their colleagues.
Hackathon is also an important extracurricular activity due to them motivating employees to be entrepreneurs. An entrepreneur is any individual who maintains an open mind towards their environment & work and willing to identifying and use new opportunities to generate income or start up a business or venture. This makes a good entrepreneur constantly aware of resources around him and is capable of remembering the location and quantity of the resource thus allowing them to return and utilize it at a later stage. Entrepreneurs also have a cunning ability to create businesses from resources which would otherwise be viewed as waste by most people due to them remaining aware of their resources and also understanding ways in which they can convert those resources into finances (Steiber & Alänge 2015). Hackathon help does the same by identifying employees who have a keen interest in expanding their Knowledge and understanding in another field. This knowledge and skill can then be used by the company o other entrepreneurs to start up a new venture which is likely to generate major benefits for the entrepreneur or business. Some important entrepreneurial skills Hackathon helps exploit have been discussed below:
The determination to continue and focus on achieving success is a trait which every entrepreneur must possess if they expect to register success in their endeavours. Large companies take this opportunity to evaluate their participant’s levels of determination while performing their task and gauge their entrepreneurial skills. An entrepreneur must maintain their focus even when not successful and be able to try again and again; each time taking a different approach till the solution is achieved. Quitter’s can’t develop the patience required to handle large and complex projects thus the Entrepreneurs helps identify individuals who retain their calmness, focus, and determination towards finding a solution to the problem.
The Entrepreneurs also help the companies determine risk takers among their participants. Calculated Risk taking is an important skill every entrepreneur needs to have as this allows them to make changes which would otherwise not be considered and exploit the opportunities to generate income of achieving success. Risk taking needs to be calculated and well planned to avoid over exposing the project but the individual must be able to remain open towards taking the risk in order to secure the rewards (Cuervo, Ribeiro & Roig 2007). Entrepreneurs help distinguish the risk takers from the individuals who want to follow the safest route which has higher rates of success but lower returns. Risk taking is requirement entrepreneurs encounter on a daily basis but being able to think out of the box and willingness to take on risk helps deliver larger rewards and benefits to the business or project.
Hackathon also helps display an individual’s confidence towards their work and their ability to master a skill. In many situations, an employee may lack the confidence while performing a specific task at the workplace but involving them in the Hackathon allows them to demonstrate a high level of confidence in areas which they are good at thus allowing the management to determine an individual’s confidence while performing certain tasks. Every individual is likely to continue building confidence as they work but the rate and level at which confidence is building depend on various factors. Hackathon help demonstrates the highest levels of confidence the individual is capable of achieving in areas which they have mastered.
Skill development and learning as basic requirements each individual must have but certain individuals have an extra craving to learn which makes them constantly focus on learning something new. Hackerthon helps the business identify these individuals who desire to constantly learn new skills thus allowing the business to identify individuals who can be shortlisted for future expansion and projects. This is due to the most project requiring individuals to remain open towards learning as well as being able to find solutions to problems they encounter till the project gains stability.
Most people will focus on the success and benefits linked to a project but many entrepreneurs will begin by evaluating the risks associated with the project. This is important as it allows the individual to judge the level of risk which can then allow them to keep themselves open minded open and prepared for the possibility of failure (Gundry & Kickul 2006). Understanding failure allows s one to focus their attention towards the goal in a better manner but at the same time also allows the individual retain their focus more. Only focusing on the benefit will result in having a negative effect on the individual as they are likely to be unable to handle failure, stress, and risk when they encounter it during the project.
Passion towards one's work is another important trait which entrepreneurs have and other important facts which are zeroed in during the Hackathon. An individual should be able to be passionate towards their work without needing support or encouragement to retain their focus. Hackathon helps identify areas an individual may have a great passion with and those areas can then be used to help improve the individual’s performance using different strategies. It is critical for the individual to have or develop a passion related to their work or the project so as to retain interest which ensures for the long term progress and development of the project. Passion goes beyond employment or income and an individual must develop a personal desire towards doing the work with the goals of improving it thus allowing them to further improve the project performance and growth. Lack of passion towards any project is likely to result in loss of morale toward participating and will eventually result in failure.
Hackathon is planned with the objective of the organization offering an extracurricular activity to its staff as a form of entertainment and also a talent search. This makes planning Hackathon very important so as to increase their success rate and harness the most benefits from the activity (Rosenthal 2015). The following important steps towards planning a Hackathon:
The First Step towards planning any activity is determining who will be sponsoring the event. Every event will require funding and therefore it’s vital to first determine the sponsor or source of funding before further planning can be considered.
Hackathon can hold between businesses or within the business making it’s important to first identify the target participants. Hackathon involving different companies will require wide flexibility related to the activities being held. Internal Hackathon can be focused towards a specific skill hunt or products development ideas.
Where is the Hackathon going to take place? Hackathon has usually held at venues away from the work place as they involve different activities. Hackathon also tends to last 2 or more days thus the venue should be able to provide all facilities and amenities that can be used by the participants attending the Hackathon. It also needs to be at an accessible distance for participants to easily reach the venue. The venue should also have catering, resting and work station areas thus delivering comfort to the participants while participating at the Hackathon.
Hackathon will involve a large number of people working in a new setting and environment thus there must be event managers handing the operations at the venue. Managers should preferably be independent participants which allow for the participants to develop a neutral approach while dealing with the manager or working on projects (Hlupic 2014). It’s also important to have a back end team handing different operations related to the Hackathon and ensuring the operations work smoothly without experiencing any glitches.
Being a competitive activity, there must be a winner declared and this requires for the participants and their project to be evaluated from a neutral perspective. This makes it important for judges to be hired from an independent source so as to make a neutral and fair choice. Judges participating at the event therefore require being from a neutral and synonymous background thus helping deliver the fairest result related to the Hackathon (Stein 2017). The judges cannot be related or linked to the company in any manner as this can result in greatly influencing the result towards one side.
As the number of business adopting technology increases the need for new technologies is also on the rise. This makes it important for the business to organize Hackathon more often as they help deliver an entertaining extracurricular activity which helps deliver relaxation, helps establish hierarchy and allows the business identify new talent and skill amount its work force. Hackathon is the modern version of activities and entertainment offered to staff aimed at allowing employees demonstrate their capabilities and skill other apart from their job responsibilities and helps encourage skill development. The activity also helps colleagues and team mates build stronger bond thus allowing them to tackle all situation as a single unit which is critical towards the team or department progress and development.
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