Hacking a new set of career skills

As we prepare for our next global Hackathon, our group executive of people, Julia McNeill, tells us how it’s one of the ways we encourage people to take control of their own growth. And how it helps us drive a working culture of empowerment and innovation with teams working cross-regionally and functionally.

One way to support the attraction and retention of our best people, is by continually providing opportunities to help them navigate their own career paths. And while we often think of learning and development in terms of receiving formal training, the reality is that it’s actually much more than that and it is far more about experience, opportunity and mindset of the individual.

As part of my career growth, one thing I’ve learnt along the way is the importance of seizing the opportunities that present themselves, especially if they take me out of my comfort zone.

Global hackathon
An opportunity for individuals to do this, is our Global Hackathon which kicks off on 9 May. It’s a special event that gives our people the freedom to think differently and to try new things - the perfect chance for them to seek out growth opportunities.

Hackathons are something we’ve championed for a number of years. And it’s great to see the concept adopted outside of the tech companies they originated from as they can produce so much more than just tech innovation and learnings.

Here’s three reasons why they are being adopted so widely.

1. Learning new skills

In our organisation the innovative nature of hackathon cultivates an adventurous spirit, so developers who always wanted to try their hand at marketing, or an account exec with a secret passion to learn coding can do so. It’s the perfect time to step outside areas of expertise and try something new.

Learning and development is far more about experience, opportunity and mindset of the individual than formal training.

During the hackathon our people are encouraged to create mixed skilled teams. This is where we encourage people to really consider the part they’re going to play – and challenge them to push themselves outside of ‘usual’ roles and see what other skills they could bring to the table. It is a great chance to experiment, make mistakes and discover a hidden talent.

2. Work with different people
Often our working life can involve speaking with the same people and working on similar types of things. But the hackathon gives us all a chance to meet and work with people we wouldn’t ordinarily deal with.

This is a great ethos to think about generally. When forming teams or engaging on a project it’s great to be open to input from people from outside of your usual working or friendship group – and even outside of your function or location. There’s been a lot of research into the fact that diverse teams overwhelmingly deliver better results, with diversity of thought enabling teams to look more deeply at an issue from multiple perspectives.

3. Take on a different role
Our hackathon encourages our people to take the initiative and practice their leadership skills in a safe and supportive environment. This is advantageous for those new to, or developing in their profession. It’s encouraged that people put themselves forward, take ownership of an aspect of the project to see what it’s like to lead others and take accountability of an initiative from end to end.

By letting others take control it’s amazing how much we learn about ourselves by seeing the way others practice leadership.

Our people leaders also benefit as if you’re used to leading a team, it’s a chance to step back and see things from the other side by letting others take control. It’s amazing how much we learn about ourselves by seeing the way others practice leadership. It something we should all let ourselves do more often.

We have so many great opportunities to learn, develop and grow by collaborating with our colleagues every day. I’m always energised by the hackathon’s spirit as it comes around again for reminding us all of this.

Find out more 
The Iress Global Hackathon takes place on 9 - 10 May. Follow all the action on Twitter and Instagram at #iresshackathon19. If you would like to find out what it is like to be part of the team at Iress, and to view existing vacancies, please look here