Cross-Department Hackathons at Zalando

by Michael Achtzehn - 29 Mar 2018

Last week, at our new-format Zalando Hack Week, two important departments dropped their day-to-day tasks and embarked on what, for many of them, was their first ever hackathon.

How did this come about? Zalando’s new Hack Week is a departure from the hackathons we have organised in the past, which typically only involved the tech department and happened once a year. However, as Europe’s most fashionable tech company, technology is such a huge part of everything we do. This presents us with an excellent opportunity to make the hackathon truly cross-departmental, and to involve talented and innovative minds from many different areas of the business. And since innovative ideas don’t wait around to crop up once a year, our Hack Week has become a quarterly event.

This time, our Senior Vice President (SVP) of the People & Organization department, Boris Ewenstein, and our VP of Digital Foundation, Eric Bowman, got together to organize a collaborative hackathon between their teams, with the goal of awarding the best projects with the chance to make their ideas a reality. The theme this time? For the Good of All: 10 Years of Zalando. Innovating and improving processes across the company to create an even better workplace.

What followed was a frenzied week of brainstorming, designing, discussing, and testing. Our judges, consisting mostly of senior members of the two departments, listened to the pitches of some 50+ teams, and awarded prizes to the best five. On top of the company’s recognition for their excellent work, the jury provided the winners with helpful feedback on their projects, should they wish to continue their work on the prototype.

The winners:

  • The Bravest of the Brave award went to the group wanting to introduce Zalando’s very own cryptocurrency.
  • The group wanting to enable the spread of AI insights across Zalando was awarded the Money Makers prize.
  • The winners of the Geeks of the Week went to the group wanting to make cluster-based requests on Skipper a reality.
  • The Swiss Army Knife award went to the group behind the idea of creating a one-stop resource of information for internationals looking to move to Berlin for a job at Zalando.
  • This quarter’s Customer Heroes wanted to bring data from different fashion stakeholders, from the designer through to the buyer and the producer, together to allow fashion teams at Zalando to create products with even more different combinations of fabrics, design, colours, and patterns.

The awards were presented in a glitzy awards ceremony, complete with presenters dressed to the nines who called the participants and judges onto the stage to show recognition for their hard work and excellent initiative.

The most coveted prize was, of course, the golden ticket to Zalando’s Slingshot Program, our internal entrepreneurial development incubator. Teams who win the golden ticket are given all the resources they need, and dedicate 20% of their working time for a short period to their projects, taking them to the next level and developing the first steps. In this way, Zalando recognizes the great ideas pitched by Zalando’s employees, from the bottom up, and helps them make them a reality.

This time around, two golden tickets were awarded: The first was to the winners of the Swiss Army Knife award, for their resource for internationals arriving in Berlin. The second went to a team who is setting up a mentorship matching program, allowing people to connect across the organization with the aim of improving diversity at the management level. Congrats to all groups involved!

At Zalando, we dare all of our employees to Reimagine Fashion. This can be done on many different levels, and at Zalando, this all starts with technology. Stay tuned for more insights into our hack weeks, and how our cross-functional teams are working together to reinvent fashion, tech and Zalando.

Reimagine fashion by working with one of our ace teams. Job listings are here!

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