An app that helps job seekers identify opportunities in distant regions was the winner of Dice’s first hackathon, held over the weekend of March 15 and 16 in Ankeny, Iowa, outside of Des Moines. The app, called Make Me Move, helps users search for positions they might not otherwise find, and allows employers to expand their recruiting efforts to areas that might offer a wider field of candidates. The app also provides salary comparisons to help users calculate the cost-of-living impact a move might have.
Thirty people in 13 teams attended the Dice Hackathon, which lasted 27 hours and handed out $10,000 in prizes. Other apps created during the weekend included a suicide hotline locator, a campus bus guide and a local music streaming service.
The brainchild of Chuck Rolek and Eric Ponto, both front-end developers at the Principal Financial Group in Des Moines, Make Me Move was developed using the Dice API, the Ionic framework for its UI, ExpressJS for the back end, and Tesseract OCR, Grunt, Bower and Heroku.
“The idea for Make Me Move actually came to me very quickly, but I didn’t really like the idea until I started thinking about how practical it was,” says Rolek.
The idea behind the salary feature is to put a move in the right financial perspective. “If you’re making $50,000 in Iowa and take a job in California for $100,000, it looks like you just doubled your salary but you didn’t because the cost of living in California is way higher,” Rolek observes. “So your $50,000 salary in Des Moines is like $80,000 in California. So you really only got a $20,000 raise. Little pieces of information like that helped give our app the extra special feature for very little real estate — in the app that is.”
Because the goal of mobile apps is to simplify things, Rolek and Ponto wanted to make sure users didn’t have to re-type data they already had. So, Make Me Move helps automate the process by crawling users’ Github or Stack Overflow accounts to identify the technologies they work with. In addition, users can enter their resume simply by taking a picture. The app then uses OCR to capture the skills used in the job search.
Hackathons provide great opportunities to learn, which was one of the attractions for Make Me Move’s creators. In addition, Ponto says, the Dice event provided them with a chance to try out new technologies. “Neither of us had really used Angular before and the Ionic Framework was brand new to us,” he explains. He also saw the event as a team-building exercise: “Chuck and I are on a team at work, but I think this helped us get to a point that we’re working even better together.”
Do they recommend hackathons to others? “I’d tell anyone who is scared about entering or thinks they aren’t ready enough to go ahead and do it,” says Rolek. “Each time I’ve done one I wasn’t prepared, and I knew it. Fortunately, it seems to not matter because a great atmosphere and teammates seem to accelerate learning and it’s a heck of a lot of fun.”
Based on the success of its inaugural hackathon, Dice has plans in the works to hold similar events around the country.