â€œThis message will appeal to people in our recruiting process who gravitate towards a culture of hackathons and innovation. It will also turn away others that don’t fit.â€ Gary Bolton, Vice President of Marketing at ADTRAN
I recently had the pleasure of connecting with a handful of key staff members at ADTRAN in Huntsville, Alabama, to discuss the company’s innovative internal engineering hackathon program. The firm has more than 2,000 employees and is headquartered in Cummings Research Park in Huntsville, the second largest research park in the United States. It also has offices in Germany and India. The company is known locally for its innovation, and the staff credits its continued innovation in part to the hackathons and the type of culture those activities promote.
The hackathons are events “by engineers, for engineers,” according to May Chen. This was a grassroots program launched by three of the firm’s 400+ engineering staff, but support goes all the way to the top. Chen, one of the leaders of the initiative, said “We’ve had tremendous support. Business, IT, strategy, R&D–all the business units believe in what we’re doing.” This concept of ownership and self-leadership was echoed by the company’s marketing leader:Â â€œThis is definitely organically steered. Leaders stay out of hackathon management and leave it to the engineering staff.â€ Continue reading