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From the inside

Behind the scenes : organizing an online hackathon in a global company

Posted by Criteo |

Criteo Internal Communications and Events team is a ten-member squad who helps Criteos get a more holistic overview of our organization while keeping them engaged and happy.

Our Hackathons are a momentous Criteo tradition. The event is an occasion to gather and share, a place to unlock the potential in each one of us, all while having fun. Every year, for 48 hours, teams come together to work on projects, collaborate across departments, and see their ideas bloom and become something real that can be used.

From the beginnings in 2014...

In its introductory year in 2014, the Hackathon was strictly an R&D event. We saw how inspired the Criteos were, and in 2016 the opportunity was extended to all employees – in every department, in every office. Our employees amazed us with their creativity, problem-solving solutions, and positive impact on our business. Throughout the years, Criteo had multiple examples of successful ideas that went into production. The most recent one is Audience Match, one of the winners of the 2016 competition, which in 2019 became a Criteo product solution.

The 2019 edition of the Hackathon was Criteo’s largest event ever. We had over 650 participants from 24 offices worldwide in 3 hubs ( Singapore, Paris, and Palo Alto). In 2020, we wanted to push our limits event even further, but then Covid-19 happened. Criteos went into remote work, and we had to postpone all our events, including the Hackathon.

Fast forward a couple of months, our employees inquired if, despite the sanitary situation, we could organize a hackathon. They needed to reconnect to Criteo, to the company’s culture and values, and mostly to their colleagues; the hackathon was the perfect embedment of all of them. a brand new format in 2020

Organizing a hackathon in 2020 was a challenge for various reasons:

  • the narrow time table and employees workload, with the festive season approaching
  • social distancing rules, therefore the event had to be virtual
  • previous years’ editions put the bar very high, so all employees had great expectations

After many discussions, mid-September, the Leadership Team, gave us the green light to organize an event in mid-October. It was tough, but we did it. The Hackathon 2020 – Dare to Inspire edition gathered +300 employees from 21 offices, 54 projects in 3 tracks across 3 hubs ( APAC, EMEA, and AMERICAS).
The event went well, and we had much positive feedback. The format was very new and strange, but we did our best. The final result was beyond our expectations, partially because we always had in mind our challenges and looked for solutions.

To avoid as much as possible the festive season rush, we opted for October 14-16 are the best dates to organize our 2020 Hackathon. To engage our Criteos in such a sort and busy times, we worked closely with the global and regional leaders and allowed cross-regional teams. All of this resulted in more flexible schedules and a better team division of work.

Dealing with teams within 3 different time zones

Transforming and delivering a physical event into a digital one, across 3 regions, under 4 weeks, with a high level of expectation, was exciting and scary at the same time. To offer the same experience all over the regions, we collaborated closely with various departments. We also structured our team and working time that there was always someone available to help and guide our participants. The event being digital meant everything had to change. No more meeting rooms, no more free food, and crazy bungee jumping entertainment, but rather virtual war rooms and cooking and yoga classes.

Even our judging session suffered a shift. With no access to giant amphitheaters to accommodate all teams’ supporters, we had to prepare in EMEA region 3 simultaneous webinar judging sessions. To ensure that the pitching goes as smoothly as possible, we encouraged teams to make their presentations as pre-recorded videos. Also, we asked them to keep their pitch under the specified time frame: 3 minutes for the presentation and 5 minutes for the Q&A. The result was that the 2020 edition was the most time organized Hackathon ever.

Creating the People's Choice Awards

The engagement of the Hackathon audience was also an important point for us. With no possibility to cheer up for their colleagues, this year, we offered the People Choice Awards. The audience had the opportunity to vote for their favorite project and team, win them some prizes all while learning about all the amazing projects at Criteo.

We put a lot of energy and motivation to make the Hackathon 2020 – Dare to Inspire edition a blast. But this year's success would not have been possible without Criteos enthusiasm, commitment, and open-mindedness. Now, with the event behind us and so many lessons learned, we look forward to the 2021 edition, be it digital or physical.

The Internal Communications & Events team


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