Introducing the ASML ‘Digital Gold’ Hackathon for developers

By Kate Brunton

Software is what makes ASML’s hardware work. To us, software solutions are pure ‘digital gold’, and recently, we proved it. Earlier this month we brought 37 software developers of 24 different nationalities to our headquarters in Veldhoven to participate in ASML’s first hackathon.

The hackathon participants were winners of a coding challenge that ASML issued in August in collaboration with the tech platform Codility. In total, 1,295 people participated in the challenge. The prize: A trip to the Netherlands to participate in a two-day hackathon at our headquarters in Veldhoven.

The invitation came as a surprise to some of the coding challenge winners. “I didn’t expect to be selected,” says Russian participant Nadezhda Privalikhina. “I did the coding challenge from home, just to see how good I was, and the next thing I know I’m in the Netherlands.”

For many, it was their first time in the country. “I like what I see so far,” says Erdem Kirez of Turkey. “I like the hotel and the city of Eindhoven, and the ASML campus is really nice.” One participant from Australia made the most of the opportunity and even brought his family with him to visit Europe.

Let’s code!

During the hackathon, much like at the ASML PhD Master Class, participants were split into groups and given a challenge to complete. The challenge was prepared by a team of ASML software architects and engineers. At the end of the two days of ‘coding’, the teams had to submit their solutions and present them to a jury, who then selected the two teams with the best solution and awarded them with prizes at a special closing ceremony (a drone for the overall winning group and an Oculus Go for the group with the best coding). During the event, participants also enjoyed presentations introducing them to ASML, fun group dinners, and a pub quiz.

The term ‘hackathon’ has been popularized among companies over the last few years and has come to be associated with fun things like pizza, beer, and games as well as the more serious coding and design elements. However, our participants approached the ASML Hackathon seriously. “They’re in it to win,” says Jojanneke Meewis-Strijbosch, ASML’s Labor Market Communications Manager for Europe. “We have a ‘fun room’ with lots of games, but currently no one’s using it!” As the hackathon went on, however, the participants were more keen to take a break. The games were popular, as were the chair massages.

The assignment was quite a challenge, according to the participants. “It’s a complex problem with many parts,” says Erdem. Nadezhda agrees: “It’s challenging, because some of us have no experience in embedded systems, but other people in my team do have the experience, so we are able to figure it out together.”

“I designed the challenge together with a colleague of mine (Sander van Woensel),” explains hackathon coach Umut Uyumaz, a software architect working in ASML Embedded Software R&D. “At first, we thought that the challenge might be too easy,” he admits. “But I don’t think we have to worry about that anymore.”

The golden age of software

The title of the hackathon, ‘Digital Gold’, doesn’t refer to digital currencies, but to the value that ASML places on what software engineers can do for the company. Reminiscent of the age of oil, or ‘black gold’, ‘digital gold’ heralds a new era of reliance on computers and software to power the world’s transition to a sustainable economy.

But why exactly do we need talented software engineers in ASML?

“Many people think of ASML as a hardware and manufacturing company, and less as a software company,” says Vice President Software R&D Albert van der Werf. “But software is becoming increasingly important in our products and services portfolio. It helps us to better monitor, control and optimize our customers’ production environments, allowing them to progress to smaller and smaller nodes, printing ever-smaller features on chips.”
The winning team at the ASML Digital Gold Hackathon 2018

“We hope that this hackathon helps software engineers become familiar with the great opportunities we have for them at ASML,” says Hank Oosterbaan, ASML’s Global Manager for Labor Market Communications. “We have a lot of vacancies for people who know how to use C, C+, C++, Java, C# and Python. Plus, this event is also a unique opportunity to experience the true ‘ASML vibe’ in real life!”

Participants were certainly impressed. “I’m surprised to find that there are so many jobs for developers in the semiconductor industry,” says Nadezhda. “I’m also impressed by how huge ASML is! So many people, and this big indoor dining area. I really like the architecture and design.”

Get noticed

“If you don’t have much work experience as a developer, the coding challenge can be a great opportunity to get noticed by ASML,” Hank explains. “Some of the people we invited to the hackathon weren’t necessarily people who would have otherwise come to our attention because they were self-trained.”

Want to make a difference in software at the world’s leading chip-making equipment manufacturer? Learn more about software at ASML or check out our software vacancies.

Watch the video recap of the hackathon.

Kate Brunton is a senior communications specialist at ASML.