A few weeks ago we had an AI Hackathon for the Babbelonians. We interviewed Michael Münzer, Head of Engineering at Babbel and one of the organizers about this initiative. Michael shared insights on the most innovative ideas that came out of the hackathon, the benefits of hackathons for both the participants and the engineers at Babbel, as well as the challenges faced in organizing such an event.
Michael Münzer (he/him)
Originally from Graz, Austria, has been living in Berlin for around 8 years and has been working at Babbel almost 3 years. Speaks two languages: German and English.
What was the main goal of the hackathon? How did you come up with an idea?
The latest developments in AI are opening up a multitude of exciting possibilities. However, the key challenge lies in comprehending its capabilities and leveraging its potential to enhance our lives. At work, this entails identifying practical applications that can increase our productivity. Or, more importantly, for our hackathon, we use AI to provide additional value to help our learners learn a new language. So the goal of this event was to encourage people to run wild and try out lots of ideas, to do precisely that.
How did you select the participants for the hackathon?
Applications of this technology are so widespread that there was no reason limit the participants based on criteria, the hackathon was open to everyone at Babbel to take part. Nevertheless, the hackathon had a theme to funnel creativity in the direction of enabling learner success. Primarily because Babbel is is focused on delivering that. We happily saw many participants outside of engineering joining us to achieve that goal. It was a great bunch of people working in multiple disciplines like learning content, design, analytics, corporate strategy, and more.
How many people did took part? And what were some of the most innovative and exciting projects that came out of the hackathon?
We got around 40 people participating, with a total of 7 groups showing their demos on the last day of the event. Overall, I think all of the projects were exciting and innovative, which makes it hard to pick a favourite. Time will tell which ideas will be further refined to end up in the learner’s hands.
How did the participants benefit from the hackathon experience? / What impact did the hackathon have on the engineering community?
I think the impact goes beyond engineering at Babbel, as many ideas can be picked up in different shapes and forms. Overall, it gave us further insights into what’s currently possible and where the strengths of current models are. As a company, it was a great event to further shape our AI efforts and identify where additional support & expertise is required. Needless to say that we are hiring 😉, if that sounds like something you’d be interested in being part of.
What challenges did you face in organizing the event? Do you plan to organize similar events in the future? If so, what improvements or changes do you plan to make?
Rallying people behind such an event always comes with a lot of uncertainty. You never know how many people will participate and what might go wrong. This makes planning hard and needs to allow for some flexibility. So we did also adjust some of our initial plans along the way with the help of feedback for our participants. I definitely would do it again, as it was a lot of fun. People enjoyed it, and it gave participants a chance to break out of their usual routines and come back to their teams with a lot of innovative ideas. Did I mention all the new connections that formed? Such a great opportunity getting to know new people at Babbel.