Hackathons have become a crucial part of the data science industry. As it becomes one of the crucial tools for hiring, we are seeking the industry’s perspective on how they see hackathons emerging in the analytics and data science field. We interacted with Hareesha Prabhu who is the Director at Philips Electronics India Ltd. With 17 years of experience in the software development industry, he has been instrumental in incubating multiple new teams, hiring new members, setting up the infrastructure and more.
Analytics India Magazine: How have hackathons become a crucial part of the hiring process in the data science industry
Hareesha Prabhu: I believe that Hackathons are making an impact as a good segway to identify some real potential talent both at the entry level as well as lateral level. It is fascinating to see the same problem being approached by different people and how they interpret the same data/problem in different creative ways, which gives a good insight into the thinking ability of an individual.
AIM: Have hackathons replaced the traditional way of hiring
HP: I do not think so. A Hackathon alone cannot solve the hiring challenges. Hackathon is definitely an indication of a person’s problem-solving ability, but that alone is not the attribute we look for during hiring. It is equally important to assess one’s other abilities like communication (both spoken and written), body language, creativity, interpersonal skills, behavioural aspects and much more, for which an in-person interview helps assess the candidate and there is no substitute for it in the present situation. Traditional hackathon also at times assesses one dimension of problem-solving (problems are pre-defined and boundaries defined), but in a personal interview, the problem or the challenge can be tweaked dynamically to assess how the person responds to it.
AIM: What is the main purpose of conducting a hackathon for you?
HP: When we conduct a hackathon internally within the organization, it serves the purpose of creating that sense of engagement with our employees, gives them a platform to think and act differently and outside their project boundaries. It is a huge opportunity to speed up the learning curve, enables Invention Disclosures etc. Of course, there are certain advantages to the participants like the exposure they get, interaction with the senior leadership, business leaders, and other functions like Design teams. This also gives the participants an opportunity to know what others are doing around them, break the boundaries and team up with other like-minded colleagues within the organisation. So, in summary, the list of purposes it serves are multi-dimensional and very vast.
AIM: How important are hackathons (both internal and external) to boost innovation
HP: To a large extent. It is not always true that every solution in a hackathon will result in an “innovation” – the outcome of a hackathon at times is really fascinating – some very simple, some creative, some out of the box, some run of the mill. But more than the solution to a specific problem, when a broad theme is given, we have observed that the innovation intuition kicks in because now the boundary is broader than a specific problem. At the same time, it is not always necessary that we need a hackathon to get innovation in motion. Hackathon only speeds up or brings together ignited minds that increase chances of innovation.
AIM: How is hackathon turning into mainstream hiring requirements
HP: As I have stated earlier, I don’t believe that hackathon is turning into a mainstream hiring tool as yet, there is still a lot left to explore and a candidate needs to be assessed n other aspects.