Hack Week: How the Jury Decides for the Awards

by Thomas Kugel - 19 Dec 2014

I am a member of the Hack Week jury. And believe me, to be on the jury is one of the toughest jobs during the Hack Week, with so many great projects and great people giving the right awards to the right teams is no easy task. Let's take a look behind the scenes of the jury.

The awards

Firstly, the objects of desire. Glory and honour will be given to the Zalando Techies with the best awards, in return they can show off their prestigious awards for an entire year. This year we have 10 awards in the following categories:

Dream Team
Team player award for most diverse team (i.e. working across locations, functions, cultures and hierarchies, while also considering each team member's individual contribution to the project).
BSD 4.3
Best software coding project (somehow contributes to Zalando goals and/or drastically improves product/process, game changer and/or business-enabler, prospective high financial impact).
Mars Rover
Best system/hardware prototyping project (same criteria as above).
Best non-engineering project (same criteria as above).
Nikola Tesla
Awarded for best innovation (i.e. project that is disruptive and employs new technology or generates new market needs).
Cheap & Cheerful
Awarded for going after "low hanging fruit" (based on cost-benefit ratio, i.e. minimum effort and maximum outcome).
Awarded for the most geeky project in terms of nasty technical challenges solved, extreme difficulty, use of low-level programming language or extreme networking hacking etc.
Duke Nukem Forever
Awarded for the most glorious or spectacular fail after raising great expectations
Bridge Builder
Recognise colleagues who establish or support connections between project groups and collaboration between different Zalando departments for a common goal.
Andy Warhol
Awarded for the most creative and innovative presentation.
Audience Award
After every presentation we do a "clapping session" and measure the noise level in dB. The team with the loudest applause wins.

For each category there are two or three judges, who are responsible for the award ceremony. You can certainly imagine how hard it is for the jury, to make the right decision. And you can also imagine, that only the winner of an award is in agreement with the decision. Its a true miracle that no judge has collapsed under the pressure in the past.

The collection of information

My main task this week is the collection of information. Having started with more than one hundred project ideas into the Hack Week, only the best survive. Of course, each idea can potentially get an award. So this week, like the other members of the jury, I can be found jumping between the projects trying to understand the idea and the implementation. By the end of the week I will create a shortlist with my 5 favourites for my award, the award 31377. The final decision will be made after the final presentations.


My shortlist and the decision

In between I have seen all the projects. My shortlist is created. Of course the list is still confidential, because I will not influence the decision of the other judges or the final presentations. But some things I can tell. Since the award 31337 is an engineering award, of course some projects are by definition not on the shortlist. Also, my jury colleague Andreas and I set some tough criteria based upon which we make the final decision. As a little tip: The number one criterion is that neither Andreas nor I understand the project. Only then it can be the most geeky and most difficult engineering project of the Hack Week #3!

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