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Foster inclusion, diversity, and equity with AWS Inclusive Hackathons

A study by Forbes confirms that companies with above-average diversity produced a greater proportion of revenue from innovation (45% of total) than companies with below average diversity (26%). In our engagements with organizations adopting an agile and cloud-aware culture, leaders are curious about how Amazon fosters inclusion and innovation. At AWS, we are on a journey to create a more inclusive, diverse, and equitable world.

In this post, we provide guidance on how to leverage the AWS Inclusive Hackathon to upskill and encourage your organization’s technical and business teams to collaborate on building well-represented and inclusive cloud-based solutions.

What is the AWS Inclusive Hackathon

Hackathons are an effective mechanism to train on, encourage, and nurture inclusion and productive idea exchange across diverse teams, and for employees from diverse backgrounds to showcase their technical and business acumen. They also afford under-represented employees a forum to gain visibility and confidence in presenting their innovative ideas to their leaders.

The AWS Inclusive Hackathon event is a new offering to customers and partners that allows the opportunity to create and practice ongoing diversity and inclusion within their organizations. These events are conducted in partnership with an executive sponsor at the customer or partner organization, and we work backward from the organization’s goals to ideate, plan, and execute the ideal hackathon event that will result in big ideas from a diverse set of employees.

These one- or two-day, in-person or hybrid events involve participants from different business functions, technical skills, backgrounds and personas, breaking traditional organizational silos. By assembling inclusive teams who compete to create innovative solutions on AWS, you reinforce to your teams that diverse teams lead to better products and solutions. Your employees will walk away from the event with an understanding how a solution/product is improved with diverse perspectives; gain experience building a prototype to solve for significant business challenge leveraging AWS services; new skills and knowledge about AWS solutions in technical domains such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, data analytics, and more; exposure to Amazon’s culture of innovation; and excitement to innovate on your behalf with AWS.

What to expect from the event

To set the stage for a productive event, we work with the participants to develop event tenets grounded in inclusion, dictating how the teams will carry out not only the event but their behaviors and actions thereafter. We break the group into teams and outline the judging and scoring criteria for the activities. We review key aspects of Amazon’s Leadership Principles, 2 Pizza Teams, Working Backwards, and high velocity decision making, enabling ownership, diverse ideas, and innovation. Lastly, AWS aligns diverse coaches with each team to support their ideation, technical questions, and pitch deck presentation.

Customer highlight

We recently engaged a customer that wanted to increase inclusion of their under-represented women in tech talent. 40 participants from two physical locations (New York and Miami) participated, which we broke into six diverse teams of development, product management, UX, and design professionals. These teams competed against each other to build solutions to solve a real-world business challenge, complete with a presentation of their idea(s) and a working prototype. The AWS expert coaches provided guidance on AWS Well-Architected best practices and advice on the value proposition of the team’s solutions.

After ideating and creating for the two-day event, the teams each presented their solution to their senior leadership, which included the CTO. The winning team’s solution improved operational efficiencies across multiple lines of business and included a working prototype using AWS Lambda, Amazon API Gateway, Amazon S3, and Amazon Application Load Balancer deployed through terraform-based Jenkins pipeline. Participant surveys confirmed that the event helped garner a sense of belonging among the under-represented talent and bolstered confidence in their ability to thrive, grow, and think big within the organization.

The company’s CTO gave the following feedback: “Thank you for coming last week and making our Women in Tech hackathon such a success. It was a pleasure to have you work with the amazing people I have on my team to really unlock a lot of the benefits of AWS. The event couldn’t have been a bigger success and it energized a ton of people. I’ve appreciated to no end the commitment and partnership that the amazing people who work at Amazon have shown to our company. Thank you again for all the time, effort, and caring you put into the event!”

Get started with your own Inclusive Hackathon

The AWS Inclusive Hackathon is one of the many opportunities to learn from the experts at AWS and is an investment for your team to help create a culture of inclusivity, diversity, and experimentation. For more information, contact AWS Training and Certification.