Coding a Better Future – Codecoolers Win Silver at Morgan Stanley’s Hackathon

A team of Codecoolers developed an innovative learning support app, that might change the lives of children with a chronic desease.

Morgan Stanley and the Amigos for Children Foundation asked young developers to help non-profits building innovative learning tools for children and teenagers with chronic diseases, in the scope of a three-month virtual competition.

We’re super proud that the Codecooler team – Zsofia Szonja Kassai, Barnabas Urmossy, Balint Molnar and Kristof Murai – came 2nd place in the Hungarian competition, in an all-university team lineup.

We asked them about their experience at the hackaton and their studies at Codecool.

What motivated you to sign up for the Code to Give hackathon in the first place? Was this your first hackathon?

Zsofi: Yes, this was our first! We were curious about the challenge, we wanted to try ourselves and learn from a longer project. The idea that we might help a nonprofit was very attractive, too.

Barnabas: I wanted to know what it would be like to work together with a client on a project which is much longer than the usual 1-2 projects we are used to. Plus, I knew that we’re a really good team, and wanted to see us as a team develop, besides individual development.

Balint: For me, it was a no-brainer. I’ve never participated in anything similar, and I loved the concept that we can help kids learn languages, sponsored by a huge multinational company.

Kristof: I was also driven by curiosity in the first place. I had no idea what to expect. I wanted to see what we can do being in the 2nd part of our one-year full-stack development training. The idea that we can help kids in need was obviously a huge plus.

You named your team LazyLlamas. Where did this crazy name come from? 🙂

Barnabas: We realised that we shared an interest about llamas at our very first meeting. Then we just sat back like we had nothing else to do until we sign up. We added the “lazy” when we realised that we have just 15 minutes left until the deadline and we still haven’t registered the team in the competition, which was so us, actually.

But it felt good when people mentioned a few times, later, during the competition that based on the way we work we must have meant “lazy” as irony.

What kind of learning support tool have you developed? Can we see it?

Zsofi: Our app has 2 parts, one for students and one for teachers. The part for students is a learning enhancing tool with 6 types of tasks. The part for teacher, or the “Amigos” makes it easy to create tasks, monitor students’ progress and give feedback.

Barnabas: The basic idea was to create an app with templates that help creation of new tasks. And we also wanted to support the communication between the students and the Amigos, so that they can align on tasks and evaluation. On top of this, we wanted to create a gamified system for collecting points to enhance students’ motivation.

Balint: The biggest benefit of the app, just like Barna mentioned, are the templates. We created templates for memory game, word – image coupling, interpretation of written and spoken text, substitution and organisation into categories. We made all of them available on all the languages the Amigos work with.

Kristof: We’re very happy to demo the app to anyone who finds it interesting.

What was it like to participate? How did it feel to get in the finals?

Zsofi: For me it was an amazing experience! We spent the whole time sleeping much less, collecting creative ideas all the time, working together really smoothly as a team. Our original goal was to learn, but we’re so happy we got this far in our first hackaton. And it was super exciting to present our idea to the jury in the finals.

Barnabas: On top of what we have expected, the whole thing required a lot of organisation, project management, copywriting and presentation rehearsals. I really enjoyed being able to practise all this in a real-life development environment. And the experience helped me decide that I want to be a front-end developer after Codecool. Plus, getting into the final showed that we were capable of performing well in such a complex project, even before finishing course.

Balint: The competition was a blast and I was especially happy that I could refresh my web skills, plus learn CSS at the same time. I was really curious how we’ll perform among the university teams, but after the meetings of round2 it was obvious that we’d make it to the finals.

Kristof: I just loved everything about the competition. It was great to see what it takes to organise and put together an app from scratch. We started out super motivated and the ideas just kept coming to us. Then, after we successfully presented our ideas, our motivation got another  boost, and then we just had to fight time to actually deliver on our idea. Getting into the finals felt like a dream come true, and assured us that we did a good job.

What was the biggest challenge in the competition?

Zsofi: Racing with time. We had so many ideas, but it was almost impossible to deliver on them in such short time.

Barnabas: In the last days I found it really difficult to let go of some of our ideas and my maximalism, just like Zsofi. We had to decide what to implement in the prototype and what to put on the next steps slide in the final presentation.

Balint: For me it was CSS! 😀 And as the project kept growing, refactoring. It was really challenging to create and put each task type together, but the end result turned out very organised, thanks to Zsofi.

Kristof: For me, too, the biggest challenge was time, because we just kept getting newer ideas about how to make each task type even better and fancier. We had to draw the line somewhere eventually.

What skills could you use in the competition that you got at Codecool?

Zsofi: Like everything. 🙂

Barnabas: There were 1 or 2 technical solutions that were so specific that we haven’t seen anything similar during the course. But since we also learnt at Codecool how to find new solutions on the internet, we managed to find and apply those, too.

Balint: We had a huge advantage in the finals because we pracised so much already at the Friday demoes in front of clients at Codecool. As for hard skills, for me the hackaton was like “and add-on” to the web modul of the full-stack course. Our app turned out a Flask based, JavaScript-heavy website, with a complex database structure.

Kristof: I got all my coding and developing skills from Codecool, so I used what I learnt there. And when I got stuck, I could always turn to a Codecool mentor for help.

Where are you now in your Codecool studies? What are you learning about now?

Zsofi: We’re at the end of the OOP (Object-Oriented Programming) module, which is the 3rd or the 4 modules of the one-year full-stack development course. We signed up for the hackathon at the beginning of this module.

Barnabas: Yeah, the competition lasted the whole time of the module. Let me take the opportunity to send our thanks to our teammates who put extra effort into our shared Codecool projects, so we could focus on this challenge. 🙂

Balint: It was refreshing to work on something totally different while also coding in Java (but obviously the last weeks of OOP were also about web based stuff, databases and such). I’m actually just about to start my last module, I’ll specialise in Test Automation.

What are your plans for after Codecool?

Barnabas: I will start looking at web app front-end developer jobs with real confidence after this competition.

Balint: Precision planning is far from me, I have always been going with the flow. I’m curios about the Test Automation specialisation at the moment.

Kristof: I liked the web modul best so far and especially after this result I’m looking forward to become a web developer, too.

What will you do with with your prize? You’ve got some EMAG vouchers.

Zsofi: I haven’t decided yet. I want to make good use of it.

Balint: I killed my laptop a few months ago, so I got a new one from my prize.

Kristof: I have always wanted a smart watch, but I’ve never came around investing in it. Now I have.

What is the biggest learning for you from the competition? Is there anything your would do differently in retrospect? Would you ever enter a hackathon again?

Zsofi: The biggest learning for me, how much I actually learnt during the ride. I’m satisfied with our performance and would definitely go for another hackathon, too, sometime.

Barnabas: In the beginning I haven’t even realised how big of a task we took on. It even started to get a little scary after a while. But seeing that we can do all this, I started to come up with new ideas and challenges in the last days. I would definitely do something like this again.

Balint: i would do a lot of things differently, for example I would stick to naming conventions form the very beginning, and make SCRUM standups regular. But we all did our best, and I would definitely do this again.

Kristof: Since this was my first hackathon, I would do many things differently. But it was an amazing experience and I would definitely be up for the challenge again.

Inspired by this success story? Want to work with juniors like these amazing Codecoolers?

Our fresh graduates are waiting. Reach out and let’s discuss how we can help you.

We can’t wait to talk to you!

The New CEE Digital Talent Hub: Our Proposal to Tackle the Global Tech Skills Gap

By now we all know that we’ll never go back to the „normal” we once knew. The new normal we are headed may not be fully clear yet, but it’s definitely going to be digital. To get there we’ll have to make at least one big jump in the process, over  the ever-widening digital skills gap. What can help us to make the jump? For one, remote work combined with global recruitment, and a future vision called ‘digital CEE talent hub’.

RecruiTECH Romania conference was created to act as a compass for the recruitment profession, to gather and share the best international and national white collar recruitment practices. This year’s event was centered around “(making) the most of a changed labor market with a new perspective and digital tools”.

Codecool CMO, Anna Ferenczy has been invited to share her view on Covid-accelerated digitalisation, it’s impact on the global tech skills gap and a possible solution called ‘CEE digital talent hub’.

Here’s a recap of some key points from her presentation.

Old digital goals and obstacles are so out

Remember the time when we all tried to justify digital transformation plans by cost-cuts and find solutions to organisational siloes and cultural problems? Good old times, right? We never knew our clock was ticking. Would you believe this was just a few years ago, before Covid. In 2017, 48% of corporate leaders used to list scaling down cost as a top 3 digitalisation priority, and listed cultural and organisational bottle-necks as major concerns. And this was just in 2017, according to McKinsey.

And then, a pandemic happened.

Today, digitalisation is a matter of life-or-death, and the global hunt for tech talent is like the 19th century California gold-rush. 87% of leaders see digitalisation as a means of survival, getting ahead of competition or reinventing their business, with only 10%  of them listing cost-cuts as a top priority. And 75% of leaders struggle with hiring the right fit for digital positions.

Quite a turn of winds for digital strategies and efforts, in a blink of an eye.

It’s not just about the future of your business – it’s personal

Today there are about 41 million tech jobs to be filled globally. On top of this 41 million, an additional 149 million new ones will be created by 2025, waiting to be filled.

The new 149 million include jobs in:

  • software development (98 million),
  • cloud and data management (23 million),
  • data analysis, AI and machine learning (20 million),
  • cyber security (6 million) and
  • privacy and trust management (1 million).

Next to the business side of the story, there is a personal aspect as well. More and more people are losing their jobs to digitalisation, forced to reinvent themselves for a high-tech future. The trend has not started today, it has been going on for decades now, but it definitely got a boost last year.

Today we’re in the middle of a new, and very special industrial revolution. For the first time in history not high skill jobs are taken over by the machines, allowing people easily find work in lower skill professions. On the contrary: machines are now taking over repetitive, low-skill tasks, while jobs requiring high cognitive skills are on the rise for the human work force.

This time people will need to substantially re-skill and up-skill to reinvent themselves, or they’ll fall behind. It’s not only digital strategies and corporate competitiveness at stake, but individual lives, too. What does a good up-skilling strategy has to focus on, to prepare for an unpredictable, but surely digital future? Some say, the focus should be on coding and empathy. Coding because the digital future will not just happen by itself, we have to build it first. And empathy, because we’ll have to manage brand new challenges, and reinvent our ways again and again in the meantime.

The gap keeps widening

On the booming digital job market talent is gold. But people are much faster in adapting to a digital lifestyle and way of working than building digital skills or switching to tech jobs. The tech skills gap is wider than ever and it seems to be growing.

There are multiple additional factors at play here:

  • Digitalisation beyond IT – the 149 million new jobs are more or less just the IT positions. But we are also seeing a digitalisation of  classic business functions and traditionally non-tech industries. The trend is viral and no business seems immune to it. This also means that there are now not just tech and IT, but several other industries, companies and departments competing for digital talent, too.
  • Covid-driven digitalisation – last year we were forced to deliver about 10 years’ of digitalisation in 10 months by moving our lives, work, channels and products online.
  • Growing funding –  partly related to the previous points, local governments and the EU alike started to pour money into innovation and digitalisation, creating further openings to fill.
  • Inflating prices – due to economic recession of our turbulent times price have climbed, followed by a a raise in wages, making high-quality talent even less affordable for businesses with a limited budget.
  • Talent mobility – While looking to future-proof their careers, individuals are more open to change their employers, too. And moving their offices online, companies are not restricted by physical distance from talent either. Businesses are now hiring from anywhere (68%), and people are more-and-more willing to apply to jobs anywhere (21%). While flourishing digital hubs like London, UK and Silicon Valley, US are big time winning in the race for talent, local hiring efforts in some countries suffer talent migration.
  • Hiring for a degree – is actually a trend we could change ourselves, unlike the previously mentioned factors, outside our direct influence. By maintaining an outdated preference for tech university graduates hiring managers many time miss the opportunity to grab programming school talents re-skilled in 1 year instead of 5, many times equipped with much more relevant hard and soft skillsets, and and previous work experience.
  • Low diversity – is another trend connected with discrimination we should all strive to change. Changing tech into a gender- and age-inclusive field, as it should be, can only happen via hiring much more women and 30+ or 40+ professionals in tech positions, than we ever did before.

Our proposed solution: the new CEE digital talent hub

The talent gap will not close itself,  especially when even the Silicon Valley is impacted. We must put a lot of work into closing it, and closing it in a way that local businesses become net beneficiaries of the outcome, too, not just business like Google and Amazon.

We at Codecool take our part in this work by re-skilling and up-skilling CEE work force and sourcing digital talent to our partner companies. Instead of university degrees, our graduates have extensive project portfolios demonstrating solid skills in 4 to 6 programming languages and multiple tech platforms, as well as valuable soft skills. More than 30% of them are female (and we are continuously working on raising this ratio), and many of them are 30+, with previous work experience and a high-level of self-awareness on their profiles.

We all need to up our game, and build a massive CEE talent hub together, to fuel global and local innovation at the same time.

We need to act now, tomorrow is already too late.

How will you contribute, starting from today?

”The Future will be More Digital. The Question is: Who is going to Design It?”

We were there at Masters of Digital online conference last week to discuss the status and future of tech education in Europe.

Masters of Digital 2021 virtual summit presented an amazing line-up of digital leaders, brains and ideas from all over Europe on 3-4 February last week. The organiser was DIGITALEUROPE, the leading trade association representing digitally transforming industries in Europe. The event was subtitled „digital as the driver for Europe’s recovery”, and focused on the bright future and equally exciting present of European tech.

Codecool’s CMO, Anna Ferenczy, was also invited to the main stage panel „Digitally Enlightened: New World, New Skills” on day one of the event. The digital experts on the panel discussed what the upskilling landscape in Europe looks like now and where we go from here.

Spoiler alert: digital upskilling not only has a huge growth potential, it is actually an essential enabler in closing the widening tech skills gap.

The four experts invited to the panel represented both business and government sides, educators and support bodies, early and adult education experts, international and local organisations:

  • Una Fitzpatrick, Director, Tech Ireland
  • Anna Ferenczy, Chief Marketing Officer, Codecool
  • Mette Lundberg, Director of Politics and Communications, IT-Branchen, Denmark
  • Norberto Mateos Carrascal, EMEA Territory Business Consumption Director, Intel

The discussion covered a wide array of topics including:

  • enablers to make tech careers more inclusive,
  • necessity of early digital education for all
  • recent generic changes in career prospects,
  • COVID 19’s impact on tech education trends,
  • remote work and education insights, and
  • digital innovation’s impact on the environmental crisis.

We collected some insights from the discussion that we found especially inspiring.


1. „We should not take European tech education for granted.”

As Norberto Mateos Carrascal of Intel highlighted, if we look outside Europe we soon realise how fortunate we are in Europe on a global scale to have tech and education systems in place, available to a large part of the population.

However, we must see that there are still huge differences between regions regarding access to these systems, and even if there is access, we sometimes cannot fully utilise it.

We must provide the infrastructure where it is missing, and educate the educators on how to use technology.

COVID 19 challenged us to move both public and private education online, for kids and for adults, too, from one day to another. We could soon see how much public education in general lags behind private institutions in the use of digital tools across Europe, due to many times outdated infrastructure, curriculum and skills. Private schools, on the other hand, like Codecool, are more flexible and were able to make the switch fast and without disruption.

Mette Lundberg highlighted that you can see clearly in kids in online classes today that they are more passive, less engaged, have lower energy and don’t participate much.

Panelists agreed that this is because the quality of online education must also be improved. We need to bring excitement to online education, significantly upgrade the online student experience.

Ways to achieve this include trying curriculum innovation, implementing AI, and hybrid learning options (like Codecool’s model of varying individual coaching sessions with larger webinars and small team work activities).

Anna Ferenczy added that cooperation between the government and private schools can also be a powerful enabler of more accessible digital education.

2. „Heavy tech users don’t necessarily have tech skills.”

Mette Lundberg pointed out a basic misunderstanding about tech skills, namely that even the new, digital generations are not as digital as we might think they would be. She highlighted that although most children become superusers of technology at an early age today, still they don’t know how to create technology, they lack basic tech skills. The Danish IT Industry Association started a digital education program in Danish elementary schools to change this, and it has already reached 15,000 children.

In a quick poll 25% of the panel’s (obviously rather tech oriented) audience also admitted to being addicted to their mobiles and having no tech skills whatsoever. Confirming the fact that probably most non-tech oriented, but tech user adults lack creative digital skills, too.

A member of the audience challenged the panelists whether it is really useful to teach tech skills when tech is changing so fast.

The experts agreed that in the education of the future workforce soft or meta skills, like computational thinking, creativity, and effective learning are much more important than actual programming skills. Anna Ferenczy highlighted that employers today value a solid combination of soft skills combined and tech skills, too.

3. „Diversity is not just a moral or ethical question. It’s also about profit.”

Una Fitzpatrick talked about a highly productive collaboration of a group of businesses with the government about the „Connecting Women in Technology” program, which aims at shifting the gender balance in digital employment, by attracting, promoting and encouraging women in STEM careers.

She explained that you have to make tech careers attractive to women to make an impact, and that this work starts at an early age in schools, and continues at the workplaces that need to offer a female friendly environment, use accessible language, and provide promotion opportunities for women.

Anna Ferenczy pointed out that diversity should not only be a key moral and ethical consideration, but also a financial and productivity based one. One recent research found that companies with women executives in their boards realised bigger share price gains, stronger revenue growth and higher profits.

Una Fitzpatrick added that there is a huge potential in and a need for providing access to tech education and jobs to the growing aging population of Europe, too.

4. „It’s not even about the future anymore. It’s about now.”

Anna Ferenczy mentioned that while we are all aware of a growing global IT skills gap, there are also more than 3/4 of a million jobs in Europe that companies cannot fill today.

We must realise that everyone should be prepared for constant learning during careers. We don’t have the luxury anymore to only study in the beginning of our lives, and then work from that knowledge in the next 40 years. Due to constant and accelerating innovation jobs are continuously changing, so people need to change their skills, too. This will only get faster in the close future, so everyone should start upgrading their learning skills.


The 45-minute panel discussion could only scratch the surface of some key ideas and concepts shaping the future and present of digital reskilling in Europe.


The organiser DIGITALEUROPE, together with BBC StoryWorks Commercial Productions also created a landmark film series, titled ‘Digitally Enlightened’, to help sharing great ideas and success stories across Europe. The series explores how a common vision would help digital innovation scale up and flourish to the benefit of consumers and companies.The series will also feature an episode about how Codecool is disrupting tech education in Europe to narrow down the digital skills gap and change people’s lives by helping them start their tech careers, at the same time.


„The old models are crumbling down” – we attended HR Fest 2020

The big yearly HR Fest conference in Hungary was last week, fully online for the first time ever. We were there, too, Codecool’s Head of Sales, Lea Kalocsai hosted the ToborZóna (RecruitZone) session room. One of our favourite events every year, touching also on subjects that matter for us most: training and sourcing of talents. In our case, tech talents, even with no IT background whatsoever.

After looking at the programme, we panicked. So. Many. Options. A main stage and 5 to 6 session rooms running in parallel. How will we ever not miss at least the most exciting stories and presenters? 

Obviously, we had to prioritise and choose. And we did just that. Still we ended up with running from session to session, and finally enough inspiration and ideas to think about for at least another week. 

So, we decided not to try dumping all of our insights summarised in one overview piece for you, as we wanted. Instead, we picked one of our favourite presentations that especially spoke to us, for a little dive-in.

Photo by Robert Markowitz

Steve Rader was one of the big stars of the event this year and for a reason. Being with NASA for more than 30 years, currently Deputy Director for the Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation – his titles sounds quite impressive already.

If you listened to him at HR Fest Online in May, you also know that he is a passionate advocate of an open-talent world and crowd-sourcing innovation. These are concepts worth their own blog posts, so we would not go in detail about those at this time.

In his presentation at HR Fest 2020 Steve raised 3 specific ideas that especially resonated with us. We thought you might find them inspiring, too.

Idea #1: Innovation is no longer an option, but still a challenge 

Sounds like a cliché already? That’s totally right. But it’s a cliché many keep repeating and few take seriously yet. 

Steve says innovation is not about getting ahead in the race. It’s not some icing on the cake, some pet project to attend to when you have the time. Today you have to innovate just to keep up with everybody else. To remain competitive and relevant. It’s that black-and-white.

Digital innovation is faster and faster and is happening across domains. Just look at 3D printing used in prosthetics, mechanics, fashion or the food industry. Or machine vision used for picking produce in farming, for calibration in mechanics or for safety in autonomous vehicles.

Therefore, he suggests, your innovation problems may only be solved by innovation from out of your domain. You should employ brains coming from different domains (crowdsource innovation), and you should be able to come up with the right questions for others to solve.


Idea #2: Learn tech – even if it’s not your focus

From Steve’s line of thought at least 2 reasons can be derived about why it is wise to study technology. 

One, for innovation leaders: because you need to at least “speak a little bit of tech” even to raise the right questions. If you are not the person working on solutions, you are probably one of those defining the problem and putting the questions. If you try to do that without understanding technology, that is, the means of the solution to at least some extent, you will not get very far in the process.

Two, for innovators: because they need to have the overview, the tools and the mindset at hand to help solving today’s problems. Knowing tech is not just about knowing code. It’s so much more. It’s about understanding systems, logic patterns, how to connect dots, how to fail early and how to keep learning new things. 


Idea #3: Outsource selection and training – make your life easier

In Steve’s experience, efficient innovators or problem solvers have to learn in 60% of their time and work on problems in only 40%. But then in this 40% they will probably deliver as much as six times more value than without all that time spent on learning. Because learning boosts effectiveness via increasing skillset, creativity and motivation at the same time.

He believes in life-long learning and looking at learning as if it was part of your job. The right approach, he says, is „life-long learning built into and agile workforce that can actually adapt to the changing market place and the changing way of work.”

To achieve this, Steve suggests that companies should outsource selection, pre-onboarding and upskilling of the work force to release the growing pressure on HR. Centralised hubs partnering up with companies focused on solving challenges could do these much more efficiently, in his view. They are already up-to-date with all the skills required for the fast changing challenges, and they are not pressured by the business challenges on their shoulders. 


These three ideas confirm our belief that we are doing something really good at Codecool. Helping companies by training and sourcing their digital talents. Supporting life-long learning of future-proof skills. Enabling digitalisation. 


They also project an exciting, and probably very close future for all of us. Open-talent platforms. Crowd-sourced innovation. More freelancers than employees by 2027 on a global scale. New HR models and new company structures. „Passionate crowds, voluntarily joining to create and find out and contribute to solving challenges.” 


All-in-all, really truly exciting changes. 

We are ready for them. 

Are you?