Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals, April 11, 2012
Dominion Enterprises recently held its third Hackathon and, for the first time, it included college students in the event that’s designed to be part idea incubator and part recruiting and branding tool.
“The first two Hackathons were held among our employees,” explains, Ken Rogers, senior management recruiter for Dominion Enterprises. “But from the beginning, incorporating the student population was one of our goals.”
This year, seven students from ECPI, Norfolk State University, Tidewater Community College, and William & Mary were selected by the faculty and career services staff at their schools to partner with more than 50 of Dominion Enterprises’ programmers, product developers, and marketing staff in the Hackathon on March 22 – 23. The event was held at the media and technology company’s headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia.
The participants—Dominion employees and students—split themselves into 10 teams during a meet-and-greet session; the teams were charged with developing Facebook apps and competed for awards such as “most innovative” and “most market ready” app. At the conclusion of the development phase, the teams—and the students who participated on them—presented their app and pitched it to the audience, which included members of Dominion Enterprises’ management team.
A student from William & Mary was part of the winning team that developed an app called “Plan and Post,” which allows Facebook users to schedule the posting of personalized messages on their friends’ walls.
“Part of our motivation is making college students and others aware of the cool product development work going on here by showcasing what we are doing with technology and innovation,” says Matt Paddock, director of social strategy and public relations for Dominion Enterprises.
"Our Hackathon is an initiative that spurs people to think differently or try something without fear of failure, and without expectation of monetary gain. In this area, we’ve wildly succeeded.”
Support for the event has come from upper management and across departments. In addition to boosting employee morale, Rogers says the Hackathon has had an immediate impact on college recruiting.
“Specific academic departments are target rich for us,” Rogers says. “Through this program, we’ve developed immediate relationships with department chairs and faculty. It has been a great way to grow the partnership.”
Paddock says the event’s model, which he calls somewhere between an internship and an externship, is applicable in other areas.
“It’s an immersion, just not a long assignment,” he explains. “One of the challenges we’ve identified as a decentralized company is that it’s hard to gain wide visibility for interns. Student participation during the Hackathon, however, has created enthusiasm inside and outside our company.
“To me, this should be a model we use more often and not just for tech events. It can work well in other departments and with other disciplines, providing wider support for our recruiting and branding efforts.”