How Hackathons Help With Recruitment, Marketing And The Community
For the last two years, Fuzzy Labs has focused on trying to do things with AI that very few people out there can do — create solutions that are both commercially useful and at the cutting edge of what’s technically possible.
With this vision in mind, we realised early on that we needed to build a team of people who can do this cutting-edge work and handle the challenging projects we’re trying to deliver.
Cutting Edge Technology
So, just as we needed to stand out to attract clients, we needed to find a unique, Fuzzy Labs way to attract exceptional talent.
This article will give you a brief glimpse into the Fuzzy Labs recruitment strategy. I’ll also take you through a particularly exciting community project we worked on last year at the Great Uni Hack and show you how that ties into our philosophy on marketing, recruitment and the tech community as a whole.
Deliberately at the heart of the community
If you were to google Fuzzy Labs, you would find our HQ at the heart of the Manchester Technology Centre — this wasn’t by mistake.
Not only is there a technology incubator there that houses a whole bunch of tech companies we already had a relationship with, but it’s also very close to the University of Manchester.
And that was what got us excited. Setting up our offices here meant we would be very close to where all of the AI research was going on, and it meant we could start to engage with the tech community at the grass-roots level.
However, just being close to the university wasn’t going to be enough to attract their best minds. We needed to find a way to build a relationship with the next generation of graduates, those in their first or second year who have a particular interest in artificial intelligence, machine learning or data science.
We wanted these students to know about the awesome stuff we were doing so that when they started looking for work, we would be first on their list!
Marketing and recruitment walking hand in hand
We did it with the AI for your feet project, and we did it with our AI Dobble opponent project too. The idea was that if people saw these projects and could use the technology, that would show people our skills and make us stand out in the market.
However, this also works brilliantly as a recruitment tool.
It allows people to see that we aren’t one of these large organisations focused on big profits. We’re a much smaller company that’s more focused on working with new technology and using it to build something novel.
And for some exceptional people, that is a big attraction.
I’ve always believed that exceptional people are attracted to exceptionally interesting problems, and that was what we wanted to do for the university students — create an interesting problem and watch the exceptional people flock around it.
Sponsoring the Great Uni Hack
So, that’s when we decided to become a sponsor of the annual University of Manchester Hackathon or Great Uni Hack.
This is an annual event organised by the University of Manchester Computer Science Society. Just like any typical hackathon, the idea is to get a whole load of geeks and techies together in one place and spend 24 hours working in teams on various projects.
The intention here isn’t to build something that’s ready for production or ready for general use — it’s to build something that demonstrates a concept.
It’s a big event and usually gets around 200 people attending every year, with some big companies sponsoring it like Bloomberg, Bet 365 and Morgan Stanley.
And there was us, little old Fuzzy Labs, barely two years old and with a grand total of three employees, looking at being a sponsor. But that’s the way we liked it!
How we stood out from the crowd
We don’t offer the same security and safety that a big organisation can offer, but we bring something different to the table — freedom, flexibility and awesome projects with cutting-edge tech!
So that’s what we echoed in our project. We put a lot of effort into engaging with the students in the lead up to the hackathon (which was now being held remotely) by creating a customised video explaining our challenge, and we spiced it up by giving away a Jetson Nano as a prize to the team to complete it.
And it helped that we actually showed up all weekend, unlike some of the other big companies…
The virtual race challenge
The challenge we set out in this hackathon was based around the AI for your feet project we had completed earlier on in the year.
If you haven’t read that blog yet (do it!), essentially we built a wearable AI device that tracked and recorded data on how people ran.
So Tom, Misha (all the way in Siberia!) and I strapped a prototype of this tracker on our feet and went for a two-minute run. We then took the data from the run and challenged the students to look at the data to figure out who ran the furthest in two minutes.
No one else had any data science project like this to work on, so it attracted quite a lot of interest. We were able to help the teams remotely all weekend with their questions using a Discord channel.
The whole weekend was great fun, and although no team finished the problem in the allotted time, that didn’t stop some of the students. As I mentioned before, exceptional people are drawn to exceptionally interesting problems, and some of them went on to complete it in their own time!
We aren’t looking for the average student to join us. They have to be an exceptional self-starter with a passion for new, cutting-edge technology, and projects like these can do a lot to make these people stand out.
Giving back to the community
Aside from the recruitment and commercial benefits of creating exciting projects for our community, we also feel that, morally, it’s the right thing to do. Whatever we build, we want to open-source it and make the technology available for people to use and develop into whatever they want.
At the end of the day, we are nerds, not business people, and by sharing these open-source projects with the world, we are staying true to that!
P.S. For more great content around AI and how it’s impacting the world today, please feel free to email any questions to email@example.com or follow us on LinkedIn for updates on all our latest projects.
Alternatively, you can always give us a call to discuss your AI requirements on 0161 533 0337.
P.P.S. Here at Fuzzy Labs we are actively looking for our next hire. We need people who are willing to learn and try out new technologies, because, in the world of AI, things change so quickly you probably won’t be using the same language in 12 months’ time!
We are looking for people who aren’t scared of giving it a go and figuring it out on the job, so if that’s you, then email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Oh, and no recruiters please…
Feel free to check out our job description here.