Written By: Angela Swartz 5/8/15
At its first-ever non-technical hackathon last weekend, LinkedIn Corp., brought together college-aged interns for 16 hours to work on solving a business challenge related to diversity and employee engagement in the workplace.
Projects at the event — called LinkedIn Festival — included developing real-time performance feedback, creating an inclusive work environment, recruiting diverse talent including individuals with disabilities, creating an app to make friends at work more easily and building a more socially connected workforce to drive better retention.
This plays into LinkedIn’s effort to make itself more diverse. LinkedIn is one of a group of Silicon Valley companies that have been sharing their demographic information to show progress on this effort. Last year, for the first time, it released the data, which showed that, like many other tech companies in the Valley, it was mostly white and male.
“It was fun just watching them realize the complexity of a global workforce and thinking about culture within the workplace,” said Pat Wadors, senior vice president of global talent organization at LinkedIn. “I wanted to give them a meaty goal that would require all 30 (human resources interns at LinkedIn) of them to come together and design and implement a major initiative. … What better way to engage interns from around the Bay Area than to dive into talent issues that affect all employees and therefore companies?”
Undergraduate and graduate students interning at Bay Area companies were invited to participate in the hackathon. The other benefit of this non-tech hackathon was that it had approximately 50 percent female representation at the event, Wadors said. More than 100 different companies participated, with students that came from more than 82 schools.
Interns Lakshman Somasundaram’s and Summer Wu’s “[In]finiite” project, a strategy and personalized mobile app that maximizes intern engagement through machine learning and increases the conversion of interns to full-time hires.
The machine learning-based mobile app allows interns to give and receive feedback from management, learn about opportunities that are related to their interests and connect with employees and other interns who can help them achieve their long-term goals.