[This was written some time ago but my freedom to publish such articles was limited. Additionally, the company on the receiving end of the criticism, HackerX, pushed many communications people at said previous employer to nuke this post completely. Clearly, they do not tolerate criticism. I’ve redacted it to remove my less savoury analogies but the spirit of the criticism hopefully remains.]


tl;dr

HackerX woefully misunderstands the IT job market. If you are a company hiring engineers and are concerned about your reputation [at least with the GlassDoor crowd] I would suggest you avoid it. It looked like a particularly classless exposure of rather desperate engineering talent to me. See the decidedly unimpressed chap taller than everyone else at the back? Muggins here.

Ok, what?

I attended a HackerX event recently. Everyone feels important when they see invite only!

Warm Fuzzy feelings!

Yeah, I’m special. Cool story bro.

Screen Shot 2016-07-29 at 00.57.17

Let’s get a few fundamental truths out of the way. They’re so self-evident that they shouldn’t even need to be stated, but for the sake of completeness of argument, let’s go. Heck, the organisers obviously didn’t grasp them.

  1. Many developers do not respond well to dense agglomerations of people, even if there is unlimited alcohol and junk-food. Sure, you can get them wasted [although this is effectively an interview situation, right?] but it is not a regular meetup, so you don’t get the regular disarming smalltalk revolving around the foibles of a language/framework.
  2. There weren’t any startups there [at least in the Dublin event]. Effectively it was a face-to-face with the protagonists on the daily GlassDoor/LinkedIn spam. Probably no surprises there.
  3. The nub of the issue is that the dynamic is just straight-up unpleasant. After a pitch from the host (hey, it’s their office I guess) you just get down to it. The problems with this mechanism are manifold. They boil down to the fatigue of forming huge amounts of human connections in a restricted period of time, in a coerced fashion.

That last point sounds kind of depressing, doesn’t it? Even the biggest social butterfly amongst us probably can’t meet and retain useful information about 25-50 individuals we’ve never met before. Given the impetus on ‘invites’ to hit up the various employers and the onus on the employers to sit and listen to a multitude of candidates, I can’t not see any parallels between this and a more outwardly degrading enterprise. What other human activity devalues people and forces them to make many new connections [often literally] for a painfully brief period?

That’s right, I said it, HackerX is a g*ngb*ng in a different form. I don’t have any numbers to issue an unequivocal refutation but I will suggest that despite what the porn industry would imply, most human beings are not into that, either as a giver or receiver. That’s the erroneous assumption here: these beautiful, delicate companies are so desperate for your talent that you should get in line and do your thing. Sod it, you should perform!

An ‘invite-only’ event is supposed to be for developers, and good ones at that, especially in a candidate-led market. People expecting to hire from HackerX have said this before.

I think you should rethink your model, guys…