What is the STC about

Each year, Spotify organizes a tech challenge for students around the world where they can collaborate and hack on new ideas and/or problems that they, or the Spotify technical team faces.

It is not a competition and the focus is more in having fun and trying things rather than trying to win. And of course one aspect of the event is to scout out for new talent in the field who are in the finishing phases of their studies.

This year it was held between 25.-27. November in the Spotify headquarters in Östermalm area of Stockholm, Sweden. The office space is very nice and they actually occupy all but one floor of the building.

Spotify HQ in 61 Birger Jarlsgatan, Stockholm, Sweden

Spotify HQ in 61 Birger Jarlsgatan, Stockholm, Sweden

Getting started

Once we got the office we were met with the Spotify Street Team, a group of employees consisting of students themselves, and on the tables there was some snacks and drinks which was nice as it started quite late. The street team act as a link between the company and the university world. They actually organize these events and were with us during the whole weekend. They had already split us into teams of 4 people with a sticker in our visitor pass informing which team you belong to. Mine was a red star, my other teammates were Nadja from Germany, Mert from Turkey and Jakob from Sweden.

My visitor pass

My visitor pass

Also present were the SDK (Source Development Kit) and API (Application Protocol Interface) teams, who handle the development of mobile development tools and opening Spotify data to outsiders respectively. They were there to help us in any technical problems we might have in using the tools that they were offering. During the intro, which was held in what I consider to be one of the most awesome private auditoriums(it was sadly forbidden to take pictures inside), they also encouraged us to apply for internships during next summer, and to top it off, there was a power bank on each seat.

The evening was concluded with beers and a nice dinner waiting outside the auditorium. After we finished the dinner, there was a concert upstairs in the social area of the company, where we met other employees of the company and at 10 there was a surprise concert by Thomas Stenström.

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Thomas Stenström with his band

Putting the work in

Next morning at 9 we met again for a nice breakfast and started discussing about the ideas we have for the challenge. After the breakfast there was a short presentation by the tech team, where they described some particular problems they would like to solve, as pointers for the teams.

We had discussed on the previous evening about what to do for the weekend and we decided to tackle the problem of how to handle who chooses which songs to play in a house party for example. Our solution was a playlist that can be edited by anyone who knows the name of the playlist and does not require the people who want to edit to own a Spotify account. The music then plays from one device which is connected to the sound system and has Spotify installed.

Pretty much all of saturday went along developing the app, which we decided to build with Meteor.js-framework. Our work was hindered a bit with the fact that Nadja and Mert had not used JavaScript before. Nevertheless, we managed to get the work rolling in such way that they handled back-end development and I did front-end, while Jakob focused on the visual design of the app.

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Mert and Jakob working hard

In the afternoon, we had a paper plane competition which was really a lot of fun and a good break from the hard working. Later in the evening they brought some beers and we continued to work and socialize until 23, while some people even managed to squeeze in a game of pinball in there.

Paper plane fun

Paper plane fun

Results and conclusion

Work started again on Sunday morning at 9, and we had some trouble as we could not get an important feature of the app to work, which was the actual playing of the playlist. However, the API team was really helpful in this and we managed to solve it while finding some bugs in the API along the way which the team really appreciated.

Screenshot of the app

Screenshot of the app

The SDK & API teams

The SDK & API teams

The app was functioning just before the “exhibition” which started at 13 and we were quite happy with the result. The other teams made apps like: a playlist generator from an image, GLIP, a .gif music video generator based on the lyrics of the song and geotagging the songs you are currently listening just to name a few. I really liked the music video generator, it produced some really hilarious results from time to time.

All and all, I had a really great time, the atmosphere during the entire event was super nice: cool people, good food and technology makes a great combination! Although the focus was on the challenge, we ended up talking about so many other subjects over the course of the event and exchanging ideas & thoughts about different cultures. While there was the aspect of recruiting involved, it did not feel forced at any point. Also when considering the gifts and servings, one must also think about the value of the innovation we produced for them during the weekend. To conclude, it was a great, enriching and joyful experience, highly recommended!

Our team!

Our team!

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7 Thoughts on “Spotify tech challenge 2016

  1. Avatar LouisDurand on January 4, 2017 at 4:12 pm said:

    Wow this sounds so great!! I’m so sad I haven’t heard about it before!

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