Laboratoria Talent Fest: A new way to identify female talent for tech

Finding and selecting talent is not an easy task for any company. It demands a considerable amount of time, money and human resources to build a talented tech team. We recently ran a survey at Laboratoria with 52 companies in Latinamerica and discovered that they spend between 1 and 3 months to recruit a candidate, and they need to involve at least 3 people in the process to understand if the candidate is suitable for the job. Without a doubt, this is an expensive and time-consuming process.

Tekton Lab’s squad. Won the 2nd place in the competition

This happens because tech talent is scarce. There is significantly more demand than professionals ready for work, that is able to manage the latest skills needed in the market. Women are especially needed, as the sector lacks diversity, as evidenced on the Stackoverflow survey among +55.000 developers, programmers, and engineers around the world, where only 6% of them are women.

In Laboratoria we are transforming the way companies identify tech talent. We are building an ecosystem with tools and dynamics that significantly improve the hiring process.

We are a social enterprise that exists to give thousands of Latin American women from low-income backgrounds a career in tech, transforming their future and the industry that receives them.

Since 2014 we have trained over 800 developers, and we aim to train more than 10,000 women by 2021, becoming the main source of female tech talent from Latin America to the world.

To accomplish this mission, we need to become the best at spotting talent, training world-class developers and placing them in the market.

To do so, we’ve developed a thorough selection process that looks for talent where nobody else is and identifies the potential for learning over prior experience. Among young women from low-income backgrounds interested in our program, we look for particular cognitive and socio-emotional abilities that have proven to be good indicators of a candidate’s potential to succeed in this career.

In the classroom, we keep trying to find better ways to teach and help our students become confident self-learners. For this, we tested the idea of applying the most common principles in software development to our education and came up with the Agile Classroom. It has an awesome methodology to help our students organize and prioritize their work while strengthening their abilities to communicate and work effectively in groups, always reflecting upon their learnings.

We also love data. It is a powerful tool to constantly learn and make our work better. It is also a huge advantage for employers. Throughout the program, we extensively evaluate each of our students on different tech and socio-emotional skills, gathering a lot of data that we then make available to companies interested in hiring our developers. So in addition to their experiences meeting potential candidates, they can also leverage all the data we gather on each of our students during 6 months.

To place our students in the best job opportunities in the market, we’ve tried to think about creative ways to facilitate a matchmaking process. This is how our Talent Fest was born.

The Talent Fest

We have been placing female tech talent for +2 years already, in Perú, México, Chile, and EEUU. In Perú, where we started Laboratoria, over 50 employers we recently surveyed rate our graduates' performance at work at 4.5/5, and over 95% of them want to rehire from us. This time, on our 5th graduating cohort in Lima, we focused on simplifying as much as possible the hiring process for them (and for us). This is why we created Laboratoria’s Talent Fest, a better, cheaper and faster way to find female tech talent for companies.

Eduardo Alarcón (Scotiabank) and Teresa Lara (Coder)

The Talent Fest was a 36-hour hackathon with 10 employers from around the world, and 40 Laboratoria students ready to work as frontend developers from Peru, Mexico, Chile. The participating employers were:

Each company was assigned a squad of 3 to 4 students and had to present them with a real-live technical challenge. All companies had access to our tech and life skills tracking tool with the data on our students’ performance since their application to Laboratoria.

Students tech and life skills tracking tool

We also provided access to a LIVE evaluation tool that was used by all companies to asses the performance of students in their squad for both tech and life skills during the event.

LIVE evaluation tool

These gave companies a hands-on opportunity to identify talent among our students who are about to finish their training process as Front-end Developers.

Dynamics that facilitate connection

To help companies and students identify the best possible match, we had a few special dynamics during the Talent Fest.

  • Challenge Introduction: Every company had 10 minutes to introduce their challenge to all attendants.
  • Coffee breaks: We had three breaks where companies could invite a student from a different team to a 20-minute interview, and one break for students to invite companies.
  • Company Pitch: Each company had the opportunity to make a selling pitch. This was a great way to share with our students why they are a great place to work. When the companies finished their pitch, students had the chance to ask questions about their culture, team structure, and hiring process.

Watch the video and get a vibe from the fest

Recruiters, employers and students were extremely satisfied with the experience. Here a couple of great testimonials from the companies that participated in the Fest.

“A talent fest has never been part of a recruitment process before, and helped us to get to know them better than in a regular interview”.
Maria del Pilar Gamarra, Tekton Labs
“We identified a lot of developers with really powerful technical skills …and we as Thought Works are interested in hiring them”.
Claudio Bustamante, ThoughtWorks

Important conclusions of the event

  1. 10 companies were able to access a pre-selected and well trained pool of talent, and identify potential in just 36 hours; something that usually takes multiple weeks in interviews.
  2. 4o talented female coders, who are just starting to explore their job opportunities in tech, were able to get to know 10 of the best places to work in town and abroad.
  3. Companies tested students with real live project, which helped them understand if the coders have the right skills and cultural fit to be part of their team.
  4. Laboratoria’s evaluation tools played a key roll in providing context about our students, making it easier to identify developers that fit with companies’ needs.
  5. Urbaner’s team got the 3rd place with a tool that emulated their users interphase to create a transaction in their platform. Freddy Cahuas, their Lead Developer, said that Laboratoria’s coders completed a key task in the integration of their API in just 4 hours.
  6. Tekton Labs’ team got the 2nd place in the event. They proposed the most complex challenge in the Fest. However, students responded really well, they completed 80% of the work in 2 days by using their self-learning and research skills.
  7. Lyft’s team won the Talent Fest with a web app built with their external API that calculated the rate in a ride. While our students manipulated the API they discovered a bug that was reported to their tech team in San Francisco. The end product was so good that Joseph, the Lyft engineer in town, considered using this prototype for production.
  8. Employers qualified the event with 9/10 overall rating.

Laboratoria´s Talent Fest was a great success. We look forward to organizing this event all over Latin America, always looking to improve the experience and create more value for our network of employers and students. This event demonstrated that hiring talent for tech can be more efficient and more enjoyable too. We are pretty sure our fest will be part of transforming the way companies identify the talent they need, and together we will continue to work hard to build a bigger, better and more diverse tech scene in Latin America.