Hack Week #4: Awards

Zalando's Head of Innovation and Enablement explains the Hack Week judging process.

photo of Selina McCarthy
Selina McCarthy

Project Manager, Zalando Technology

Posted on Dec 15, 2015

Yesterday I caught up with Bastian Gerhard: Zalando’s esteemed Head of Innovation and Enablement, Hack Week organizer/old hand, and 2015 project judge. I asked him about our award categories and judging processes.

Hi, Bastian! Thanks for taking the time to talk. Can you enlighten me on the judging process?

Sure. What do you want to know?

Well, firstly: How did you select the judging panels?

Each member of the tech management team was given the chance to participate: SVPs, VPs, and heads. Once chosen, they were assigned to categories based on their experience and interests. Then, other judges were selected from other departments where appropriate — for example, the category “Do” is based on a People and Organization project, so it made sense for us to invite the head of P&O to judge that particular category.

This year there are panels of 3-4 people per award category. It’s our first time doing it like this. Previously, everyone judged everything for every category. As you can imagine, this took forever and ended up causing big arguments, so we decided to mix things up this year.

Has anything else changed?

Yes: We’ve also removed the rule that each team can only win one award. This is because firstly, we think it’s fairer. Each award will be judged separately, so it makes sense for us to do it this way. Otherwise, each panel would have to align before deciding — and that would skew the results, and probably cause lots of unnecessary arguments.

Awesome! So can you tell me about some of the new categories there are this year?

CUSTOMER-CENTRICITY: This is based on the Zalando objective to be more customer-centric. The award is for projects that focus on the customer by truly looking at the customer’s needs. Often we start with a great solution without looking for a need. This award celebrates projects that work the other way around.

DO: We wanted to encourage employees to do good and work on social good projects. This Award is for projects that provide something to the outside world, or internally. They could be an internal CSR topic — e.g., training courses for beginner coders, or an external topic like providing aid to refugees.

INCLUSION NINJA: This award developed around Zalando’s Diversity Guild [an informal group that promotes diversity and inclusion discussions in tech]. It awards projects that encourage inclusive behavior. It celebrates diverse teams that work across different departments, cultural backgrounds, hierarchies.

TGIM — THANK GOODNESS IT’S MONDAY: This awards projects that make us feel good on a Monday morning, and make us feel excited to come back to the office after the weekend. The main contenders will be projects with a positive impact on the working environment — ones that boost morale. It could be, for example, something like innovative decorations at the office, or a tool that makes an internal process easier (like booking a meeting room), or something fun.

Great. And what other Zalando Hack Week categories are there (for those who are new to Zalando Hackweek)?

BSD 4.3: This is the award for best software. It needs to be something that solves a tough challenge. The project that wins will be complex, difficult, some sort of extreme hack.

MARS ROVER: This is similar to BSD, but for hardware. For example, projects based around electrical engineering.

NIKOLA TESLA: So, this is the award for best innovation. It’s going to be judged on viability, feasibility, and impact.

QUICK WIN (previously “Cheap and Cheerful”): This is for the most cost-efficient projects, or projects that create the biggest cost benefit. Projects in this category should solve a big problem with the least amount of effort, generating the best ROI.

ONE ZALANDO: This award is based on team set-up. Teams that think outside of the box in terms of talking to other departments, bringing in people from zLabels, Legal, etc.

ANDY WARHOL: This is voted on by the audience. There will be an award at both Dortmund and Berlin Hack Weeks.

DUKE NUKEM FOREVER: The game stands for an epic failure after raising great expectations. So that's exactly the type of project that could win this category. It’s symbolic though and is not always awarded.

SLINGSHOT: The winning project will be chosen based on technical feasibility, desirability [of their products] for customers, and business viability. This award is run in conjuction with the Shuttle team (the Tech Innovation Lab).

Wow, there’s really an impressive spread of award categories.

Well, we tried to cover every area of Zalando Tech, and include our core values.

You did a great job — well done! Thanks again for taking the time to talk to me today, Bastian. And good luck with the rest of the week!


Zalando's top secret Hackweek trophies will be revealed at the end of the week. I tried to get a sneak peak but they're heavily guarded. Keep an eye on this blogpost - I'll update it with the details of the trophies as the week goes on.


We're hiring! Do you like working in an ever evolving organization such as Zalando? Consider joining our teams as a Software Engineer!

Related posts