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“An Established Channel to Attract and Recruit People”: How Huawei Technologies is Leveraging Hackathons to Address HR Challenges

Jan 12, 2023 by Pierre-Jean (PJ) Quenardel

Peter Lundin, Vice President of the Sweden Research Center at Huawei Technologies.

In December 2021, Huawei Sweden organized the Fourth Edition of its University Hackathon, calling on Data Science students across top universities in Sweden to design efficient real-time schedulers for multiprocessors in the context of 5G. This highly complex task, proposed by Huawei’s Research teams in Sweden, was designed to test participants’ skills, while answering a real-life technical challenge faced by Huawei. 

Huawei’s Hackathons in Sweden are led by Peter Lundin, Vice President of the Sweden Research Center, with an ultimate objective of identifying and attracting top talents to Huawei and strengthening their employer brand. Through this interview, you will understand why hackathons are a valuable tool for engaging a community of talents, recruiting candidates, and boosting employer branding.

What are Huawei Sweden’s main challenges in terms of recruitment and employer branding?

"For Huawei, the first challenge was to attract top talent in a very competitive market, so we need to get Huawei known as an attractive employer. In addition, we wanted to improve Huawei Sweden employer branding so people can relate to us on what we stand for and present our products, and for us to show our job openings."

How did you come to organize a series of hackathons to address your HR challenges?

"As our main objective is to create awareness on what we do and who we are, we wanted to find an activity that students would like and associate with our brand. Therefore, we decided to host hackathons for several valuable reasons: 

  • It attracts students and matches Huawei's ways of working and mindset
  • As being a competition over a specific period of time, it allows us to get to know the students, build a strong relation with them, and spot the most skilled profiles matching our brand value
  • It’s a great medium to explain who is Huawei, what kind of people we are, and what motivates us everyday"


Throughout these hackathons, what did you expect from participants (skills, deliverables, etc.)?

"First, as this series of hackathons was focused on research optimization and not on pure development and coding, we expected participants to have a real interest in the hackathons’ challenges and go very deeply into them. We need people like this in our specific research teams so this criteria was a priority.

Regarding deliverables, we were looking for software solutions that would answer our challenges. We evaluated projects based on technical knowledge, but also on participants' ability to work in a team and present their project clearly. We can also take the question from the other way around: what were the participants looking for from Huawei during this hackathon? Well, it was very important for us to provide solid support and mentorship to the participants to learn more about them and infuse them with Huawei ways of working and mindset."


Overall, were these hackathons successful?

"The hackathon we organized in 2021 was our fourth one. Over the years, I would say it has become better and better and successful from multiple perspectives: 

  • They have been well arranged and were very professional, which showed to the participants our seriousness, and allowed them to really focus on their projects
  • We have been able to spot and hire very good talent, and we’ve formed a quality talent pool"


Would you say the hackathon is now part of Huawei talent recruitment strategy?

"Definitely, the hackathon is now one of our established channels to attract and recruit people, but also to support our mission to help student communities to get inspired, create, and make things happen, which is also a natural employer branding strategy for us."


Have you been able to hire candidates following the different hackathons?

"Yes, we have been able to offer both employment and internship offers to several participants over the different hackathons."


How would you rate the impact of these hackathons on Huawei’s employer branding and attractiveness in Sweden?

"I would rate it extremely high! It’s now well known that Huawei has this “hackathon culture” and definitely strengthens the image of Huawei as a great employer. It improved our attractiveness, our general branding, but most importantly, people know more about who we are and what we do, which is essential to attract the best talent."


Would you say these hackathons were worth the investment?

"It is difficult to financially measure the ROI of these hackathons, but based on all the benefits it brought to Huawei, I would say it is definitely worth the spending."


What would be your vision on how to make the next hackathon even more successful?

"Of course we always strive to improve, but as we have been running hackathons for the past four years, we have been able to establish a solid process and make sure we get good results. Increasing the number of hackathons would be the only thing we would target for future hackathons."


How would you rate your collaboration with BeMyApp?

"I’d rate BeMyApp very high, and we consider them as an established partner. With their support, we have been able to create very professional events. BeMyApp also onboarded us on organizing and facilitating hackathons. We will definitely keep working with BeMyApp for our future hackathons at Huawei."

Pierre-Jean (PJ) QUENARDEL

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