How BlackRock got Cal Hacked!

Hackathons are incredibly energetic – if you haven’t been to one you should go just for the experience!

The hackathon at the University of California Berkley, Cal Hacks 2015, was no exception. More than 2000 intensely energized, hyper-caffeinated students from around the US and world feverishly coded for 36 straight hours, simply for bragging rights. Between the sponsors, students, and volunteers, it was one of the biggest student hackathons that have ever happened, and BlackRock was there.

As teams were organizing and designing their ideas early on, BlackRock hosted a workshop on Search Optimization using Cassandra. Nick Campbell, a BlackRock software developer within the Core Systems Operations team, presented to a full house – “Search optimization is ubiquitous. Using Cassandra gives search optimization power and we have experience using these tools at BlackRock. CalHacks was a great opportunity to showcase this work and give back to a community hungry for information and practical examples”, he said.

“There’s a ton of forward momentum in our tech outreach right now,” said Andy Peterson, Managing Director in BlackRock’s Web Tools and Technology team. “BlackRock’s sponsorship and participation at CalHacks is just the beginning. What we experienced and the energy these kids gave back blew us away – they were excited, enthusiastic, and really interested in BlackRock’s attendance in relation to their future. We were pulling for every one of them. It was truly awesome” he said.

BlackRock had several volunteers to man our booth and support the students over the weekend. This included handing out swag, helping with code, connecting students to other volunteers, and providing motivation.

Kele Palmer, UX designer and developer in BlackRock’s CRM team, relished the experience. “I loved the conference from start to finish, including the preparation. These kids are so obviously unified with technology and want to change the world. The emotion was palpable, moving from anticipation and excitement, to confusion and doubt, and finally triumph. It’s really great to be a part of a company that supports such passion.”

As a second-year analyst in BlackRock’s Analyst Program, Charlie Johnston felt an immediate connection with the students. “I spent quite a bit of time gearing up for this event, anticipating it, preparing for BlackRock’s participation. It exceeded my expectations. I was really proud to be a BlackRock volunteer, to represent our company and technology brand. The students there were interested in everything BlackRock, from our cool swag included to our job openings. I look forward to seeing them in the BlackRock corridors next year.”

Melissa Sanchez from BlackRock’s Campus Recruiting team agreed. “The hackers were smart, enthusiastic and focused. They dedicated their entire weekend to coding, solving problems and incubating ideas collaboratively. The diversity of the crowd, the high energy, and the inclusive nature of the group was really fulfilling – I wanted to learn more about every person I met.”

The event culminated in final presentations and ultimately winners, but attendees, volunteers, and sponsors all agreed that everyone won – everyone who walked through the door. Infant Vasanth, software developer in BlackRock’s Securities and Marketing Data team summed up what everyone felt: “This is something we want to be a part of – we have a lot to give but we get a lot back as well. The students, the vibe, the tech community is really strong and important to us. We can’t wait to do this again.”