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‘HSE Students Are Able to Look for Alternative Options and Work on a Tight Schedule’

HSE students participated in Creation Lab, an annual international business hackathon, which is organized as part of the World Business Dialogue in Cologne. The forum’s partner educational, power and retail businesses will implement the best of the suggested solutions in their operations.

World Business Dialogue is an intercultural dialogue platform organized by University of Cologne students together with international companies. The platform brings together talented students, graduates, entrepreneurs, top executives, scholars and politicians. To be accepted to the forum, students must pass a competition: this year, 300 out of 2,000 applications were accepted.

The forum’s key topic was ‘Digital Zeitgeist: Time to Rethink Learning’. The participants, hailing from over 60 countries, discussed the three main aspects of future education: new knowledge and ways to acquire it in the AI era; ways to attract and retain talented employees in a company; and digitalization’s impact on creativity and designing new products.

The business hackathon has traditionally been one of the most interesting parts of the forum, and this year five companies and institutions became its partners: Metro, Evonik, University of Cologne, WiSo Faculty of the University of Cologne, and Covestro. Each of them selected three mixed student teams from universities across the globe. The teams competed in triples, offering solutions for various business tasks, and the partner companies will implement the best of these solutions in their operations.

HSE students have participated in the business hackathon for several years, though this year with a record number of participants: 12 students participated in projects for all five partner companies. HSE News Service spoke with members of the winning teams in each triple about their work in the projects.


 Валерия Жижикова, студент 2 курса магистерской программы «Стратегии развития бизнеса: управление и консалтинг»

Valeria Zhizhikova,
2nd-year student of the master’s programme ‘
Business Strategies: Management and Consulting

For me, this is the second World Business Dialogue. It’s great that events such as business conferences and dialogues exist, since they offer an opportunity to practice the skills we get at university. We can listen to experts and professionals, ask them the most pressing questions, discuss the results with our peers, and gain new knowledge in the process of these discussions.

I took part in a project for Evonic, a German technology corporation, which includes chemical production, power engineering and real estate management. My team included seven members from Mexico, Russia, China, India and Pakistan. We made a chat bot for the company, which facilitates the process of recruitment and talent scouting in Germany. The hardest thing for us was the lack of time to finesse the solution more thoroughly, since people were coming up with new ideas until the very moment of presentation. Nevertheless, our solution was selected by the jury as the best one. They were asking a lot of questions and said that our presentation helped them start thinking about some aspects they hadn’t considered before. I believe projects like this not only help one get experience working in an international setting and develop one’s professional skills, but also to become more flexible and sensitive to the environment, as well as other people and their opinions.

Ольга Дремова, студент 2 курса магистерской программы «Управление в сфере науки, технологий и инноваций»

Olga Dremova,
2nd-year student of the master’s programme 
'Governance of Science, Technology and Innovation'

This is my second year in a row participating in the hackathon. This year, together with participants from Malaysia, China, Singapore and Germany, we worked on solving a task for the University of Cologne WiSo Faculty (Faculty of Management, Economics and Social Sciences). We had to invent a way to use gamification in order to make the bureaucratic process of international admissions more efficient. We carried out a thorough analysis of the problem and organized a real survey among students involved. The knowledge I gained in my master’s programme’s research seminar helped us to create the survey successfully. Together with a creative presentation, this became our solution’s competitive advantage. At first, the judges couldn’t even believe that we managed to find exchange students in two days during the break. But we were inventive: we found one student and had him distribute the survey in university groups on social media.

I believe the ability to look for alternative options and work on a tight schedule are among HSE students’ key skills. Participating in the dialogue provides great experience with working in a multicultural environment, as well as with speaking English (and in the case of my team, Chinese as well). I think that next year I will go to the forum as an ambassador. I’d like more HSE students to learn about this opportunity to establish international contacts and to talk to globally recognized experts.

Анна Шиянова, студент 2 курса магистерской программы «Стратегии развития бизнеса: управление и консалтинг»

Anna Shiyanova,
2nd-year student of the master’s programme ‘Business Strategies: Management and Consulting’

I was invited to take part in a project for Covestro, a leading polymer production company. The competition was based at a chemistry park, where we could have a closer look at the company operations and see the production process. My team consisted of five members with different backgrounds from India, Switzerland, Russia and Germany. We were supposed to optimize a customer experience map for one of the four types of buyers. We spent quite a lot of time critically analyzing all the ideas suggested during a brainstorm, but, thanks to my experience working on similar projects at HSE, we managed to evaluate the rationale of certain initiatives, their potential advantages and risks.

As a result, we presented the jury with an integral solution focused on the clients’ key problems, and created a prototype of the suggested digital platform. The judges valued the quality of the case development, our customer-focused approach, and the product presentation and idea. This is what led us to victory.

 Владислав Аистов, выпускник бакалаврской программы «Бизнес-информатика» ВШЭ, студент Мангеймского университета

Vladislav Aistov,
graduate of the HSE bachelor’s programme in 
Business Informatics, student at the University of Mannheim

This was my second time participating in the World Business Dialogue in Cologne. Despite the fact that I’m studying in Germany now, the opportunity to meet and work in a team with people from countries as different as India, Switzerland, Russia and Germany, with various backgrounds and experiences, is a very rare one. This year, we were solving a case for Covestro Company, and we developed a strategy to improve user experience for an innovation manager.

A creative team and a well-prepared presentation helped us win Creatin Lab once again. Within a short period of time, we managed to take advantage of each team member’s skills. The good thing is that I’ve had experience working in plenty of team projects at HSE, so I know how to do it. In addition to team work, I was also impressed by our meetings with the companies at the event, as well as the opportunity we had to meet some of the outstanding speakers in person, such as a founder of one of IT unicorns (a startup company valued at over $1 billion – editor’s note). For me, formus and projects like this are always an incentive for personal development.


 Илья Горьков, студент 3 курса образовательной программы «Менеджмент»

Ilya Gorkov,
3rd-year undergraduate student of 

I was chosen to participate in a team for Metro Group, a company that operates Europe’s third largest retail chain, with customers including other businesses, such as hotels, restaurants and cafes. My team included students from the U.S., Italy and India. Over the three days, we had to come up with a concept and develop a business plan for an environmentally friendly restaurant, where Metro would act as a business partner. I believe that the experience of team projects and a lot of public speaking at HSE helped me in working on this project.

Participation in a business hackathon in general is a great opportunity to try one’s hand in an international team and get experience communicating with top executives in a big company. In addition, our team was invited to spend several days at one of the European offices or the headquarters in Dusseldorf and look at Metro Group life from the inside.


Али Ахмад Акбари, студент 2 курса магистерской программы «Системная и программная инженерия»

Ali Ahmad Akbari,
2nd-year student of the master’s programme in ‘
System and Software Engineering

Participating in World Business Dialogue is an excellent experience—you get experience working in a team, making presentations, and collaborating in a multicultural environment. I was one of the 20 people selected by the University of Cologne for three-day laboratory project work.

Our task was to develop a concept for a bachelor’s programme with a focus on mixed learning, suitable for different student demographics and implemented by at least three international universities. We were divided into groups of five people from different countries with different education levels and backgrounds. We started by analyzing the interested stakeholders, digital tools, and a SWOT analysis of online and traditional universities. On the second day, we proceeded to studying the customer journey and preparing the programme concept, and on the third day, each of the teams presented their concepts.

Good team work, the focus on the task’s key aspects and, most importantly, cooperation helped us become the winning team with a concept that met the task requirements more fully than the others.

Диана Хафизова, студент 4 курса образовательной программы «Экономика»

Diana Khavizova,
4th-year undergraduate student of 

I worked on a project for the University of Cologne. My team included students from India, Germany and South Korea. Together, we developed an educational programme for students with different backgrounds from various countries, which would combine the advantages of both traditional and online learning. As I worked on the project, I took advantage of the skills I’ve received at HSE: critical analysis and the ability to work on team projects. After several days of hard work, we presented our project to university representatives and took first place among the three teams.

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