HackerX Berlin: My Experience

TL;DR; the idea behind the event is good, but the organization and services to employers need to improve drastically. The tables must be turned and they need to focus more on tech talents rather than on employers. The way it is now, I feel a meetup or standard networking events is more suited to connect with people you are actually interested in.

The Event & the Venue

If there is any event in Berlin that connects employers and people looking for new job opportunities, then count me in (usually on the employer side ^^). Recruitment speed dating? Meeting 25+ people in an evening? Awesome!

This is the spirit I took with me at HackerX, an event that organizes some form of speed dating between employers and tech talents looking for a new opportunity. As soon as I arrived, the staff assigned me a badge and kindly welcomed me to my table (where I would meet about 20 developers and spend 5 minutes with each one of them).

Pizza, soft drinks and coffee where kindly provided (the startup way — you had to cut your own slice out of the box, giving you that homeish feeling you usually get when you work with the right people).

Unfortunately the frustration started when we had 2 sponsor presenting their product (for approx 15–20mins). The presentation could have been interesting to some, but not to most of us employers. After paying an hefty ticket for the event, we didn’t feel it was fair to force us to go through that as well only because somebody else paid a bigger price. As a suggestion for the organizers, I would rather organize it in a separate room: this way the presenters can actually present to people who volunteered to watch it, make it longer and why not, engage with the audience.

Speed Dating

The speed dating started right after the presentation. Here, the biggest mistake that ended up frustrating me and most employers I talked to. Even though the organizers knew what type of roles we were looking for and also each attendee’s skills, the dating was pretty much random. The job seekers had a print-out with a list of companies and a brief description, and some of them knew who they wanted to talk to. But for the majority, it was pretty much a random dating.

We were open to connect with mainly fullstack and frontend developers, but ended up meeting half of the job seekers and not the matching half. I met a number of data scientists, api developers, backend developers and only 1 out of 15 was actually a fair fit to the position. When the speed dating ended, I discovered that I missed a good bunch of job seekers that unfortunately would have been a much better match for our company.

Suggestion: divide the room by the type of positions companies are trying to fill, e.g. right: frontend, fullstack — left: backend, data scientists. Of course this is just an example and the floor plan should be matching employers’ common denominators.

The room was fairly small and packed, but it had speakers set to high volume. Myself and other employers were sitting right below them, and it wasn’t that pleasant. To be fair though, I didn’t make any note about this to the organizer — as I am sure they would have done something about it. They all were very kind and open to a dialog.

The Stress that Comes With It

5 minutes is really a short time to get to know somebody, and the rush that came with the organizers to push people to move from table to table made the whole thing quite stressing: it’s not great to be interrupted every time you are talking to somebody. Whether you are selling the company or yourself as a possible employee. The first 5–6 candidates were pretty fresh, but the good second half were already visibly stressed and some were wondering why they were there.

But fair enough, these are the rules and they were very clear.

HackerX Just Got It Very Wrong

THE biggest mistake HackerX makes though is at its core.

The setup makes it almost like his “Bachelor” game where tech professionals have to do everything they can in 5 minutes to win the company.

In today’s word, something we really understand at 4scotty, the tables must be turned. It should be the companies that have to pitch to tech talents and win them in 5 minutes. Companies also are getting this know, where they are willing to use platform that allow them to bid and compete between themselves to get the best developers.

Also, it would be nice to see a bit more gender diversity in the event. 1 woman out of 25–30 people looking for a tech job it’s just not acceptable. There are many communities where the event could be promoted to attract more women. In Berlin, I can think of Berlin Geekettes and many others.

In Conclusion

Personally, I feel that any other type of networking event (a meetup, a free beer after work, …) would make things much easier and way less stressful. I will not be attending another HackerX event. What I’ll rather do is to go to some meetup focused on tech topics we are into (e.g. Meteor meetup, node.js meetup), network with the participants and take all the time it takes to talk to them, present them my company in a proper way and then eventually follow up.