In March 2017, a team of developers and recruiters made their way to Taipei to meet almost a hundred brilliant techies at our biggest hackathon ever. Carlos Tasada shares his experience in the piece below:

At the start of the year, a group of developers (including myself) and recruiters at Booking.com sat down to plan our next recruitment-oriented Hackathon. As a company, we’ve organized hackathons both big and small, in Amsterdam and abroad. But this one was special – we wanted Taipei to be the biggest hackathon ever. Because who doesn’t love a challenge?

Taiwan was an easy destination choice. The scenic island country is one of the top 15 most innovative countries in the world and has one of the world’s largest populations of software developers. We were sure that Taipei, its capital city, would be where we’d discover their top tech talent.

Pizza, beer, and the architecture of search engines

Just off a 13 hour red-eye from Amsterdam to Taipei, I headed straight to the first event our very first meetup at FX Hotel.

We started the event off the right way, with pizza and local beer. And despite the storm outside, more than 160 participants came to hear a presentation on the architecture of search engines at Booking.com, given by one of our Senior Developers, Kang-min Liu.

After that, we talked with attendees for almost two hours about everything from Booking.com’s culture, to our technology stack and business approach. The session didn’t wrap up until around 10 pm. And even though we just got off the plane that afternoon, our whole team was completely inspired by the positive energy. Like Felipe, one of our Senior App Developers said, “You know your meetup is a success when the pizza is long gone but people are still sitting on the floor.”

Jumping right into day 1

Registration started at 8:30 am, but participants were already lining up outside the SynTrend building before, ready to start! Following breakfast and networking, one of our Team Leads in tech, Josep Oriol Lavado, introduced Booking.com and our goals for the hackathon. Everyone got to work right away. Some participants came prepared with teams, others started pitching ideas and recruiting teammates by 9:30, a total of 21 teams were already formed!

This wasn’t my first hackathon I’ve participated in two with Booking.com and some on my own. But the energy I saw during the first hours of #TaipeiHacks completely blew me away. From the very beginning, everyone was sharing ideas, discussing solutions, sketching, moving… Then at a certain point the room got quiet and screens started to fill up with code and mockups.

It was amazing to see how some teams, who just met one hour before, had already organized, divided tasks, and defined their main project goals. It was a long day, but the energy was so great that even after more than 12 hours of hard work, everyone wanted to go out and celebrate.

Day 2, “Go Go Power Rangers” for the win

Many teams stayed up the night before working on their ideas, so breakfast and coffee definitely helped wake everyone up!

Throughout the morning, teams kept pushing, asking, coding, and designing. Before we knew it, it was 4 pm and time for the first round of presentations. The 21 teams were split up into 2 rooms, and each had 5 minutes to present their ideas. The top 6 teams advanced to the final round of presentations.

All the mentors acted as judges to give points to each team, based on criteria like the business idea, teamwork and technical implementation. I’ll admit, deciding which team was the best wasn’t easy at all. But in the end, team “Go Go Power Rangers” won first place with their idea for a collaborative trip planning tool.

We ended the day with drinks and many conversations with participants who wanted to discuss their ideas, talk about tech in general, and learn more about Booking.com

Going the extra mile for Booking.com

After a whole weekend of intense hacking, participants from #TaipeiHacks still made the time to do an interview with us at our Taipei office! To me that was real proof of motivation, showing that people want to go the extra mile to join our team.

Traveling halfway around the world and acting as a mentor in an intensive hackathon was no easy task. There were moments when I just wanted to take a break and catch my breath. But it’s also times like these when I realize what a great team we have at Booking.com – how everyone helps and pushes each other to make sure we achieve the best.

Was it intense? Yes! Was it exhausting? Absolutely! Was it challenging? Definitely!

Would I do it all over again? In a heartbeat.