Our First Company Hackathon

By Kathy Henessy | May 22, 2017

The Projects, The Winners, and What We Learned About Running a Hack Day

Last month, we hit an exciting milestone as a company: we held our first Hackathon! It was on the tail end of several major product releases, involving lots of hard work and long days. We felt our employees, across all teams, needed an opportunity to take a proverbial step away to recharge. In part, the hackathon was an opportunity for everyone to get away from sprint deadlines and roadmaps for a few days. The hack projects gave us a chance to work on something different while shining bright and having fun.

The weeks leading up to the hackathon gave everyone an opportunity to submit ideas and recruit team members.  Proposed hacks could be related to product development, business processes, or anything fun – the only requirement was a minimum team of three members.

We received an impressive 26 hack ideas. The hacks covered everything from CxEngage features to office restroom availability notifications and everything in between.

Teams were given 2.5 days to work on their projects, after which they presented their hack to the company. The winner, who would claim eternal bragging rights, an entry on our perpetual trophy, as well as a personal trophy, was chosen by popular vote with every employee allowed to vote for three teams.

A Small Sample of The Projects

While we can’t share business and product hacks (keep an eye on our roadmap!), here are a sample of some of the just-for-fun and feel-good hack projects:

    • Volunteering Program (Mallarie Georgen, Meg Marsh, Brian Schmahl, Kymberly Hare)
      This business process hack is spreading Serenova’s good name by getting employees out volunteering within our communities during work hours on a quarterly basis.
    • P’n’Q (Calin Fraser, Brenden Doyle, Noah Hay)
      Our Fredericton office has restrooms on multiple floors, which are often in use when someone comes from another floor to check availability. P’n’Q uses different technologies including Raspberry Pis and CxEngage to track each restroom’s availability through a website or SMS notification.
    • To Your Health (Kymberly Hare, Brian Schmahl, Katie Lane, Leslie Camou, Benjamin Beemer)
      This project involves implementing a quarterly health challenge or activity schedule that all employees can participate in to work toward a healthier lifestyle.

The Winners: Project Spotlight

React.js Native Smartphone Apps

Alex Giordano, Josh Stevens, Doron Orenstein, and Jedd Fenner pose with their trophies

 

Our Hackathon perpetual trophy

This team from our Austin HQ won by an impressive margin, with a demo-ready smart phone app that makes life easier for contact center leaders.

Josh Stevens and Jedd Fenner demonstrate why their hack is awesome for contact center leaders

It probably didn’t hurt their cause that they acted out a real-world use case. With golf clubs and wicked swing, they demonstrated how a contact center manager would benefit from the time savings and flexibility offered by the app.

Moving Forward

The hackathon brought home just how creative and driven to build something exceptional our teams are.

Most of the business process hacks are already being put into place to help employees and improve company efficiencies. While we may not immediately add the product and developer hacks to roadmaps, we’re excited about the future enhancements they may bring. Many of them garnered interest from our leadership team and are being considered for future offerings.

We did learn some things that will help us to make our future hackathons even better.

      • We can do a better at encouraging cross-site teams. Part of the appeal of the hackathon was getting to work on something different with people that you may or may not normally work with. While some of our teams embraced this with members from different locations, most teams were made of members from the same site.
      • A weekly product release schedule keeps us all very busy, even without taking time away for an event like this. The week following the hackathon required a lot of work by everyone to catch up and deliver the next set of promised features and fixes. Our next hackathon will include more planning for the sprints on either side of the event to better manage workload and expectations.

Our largest takeaway was that we may have underestimated the positive impact that the hackathon had on our employee’s engagement levels.

Our people work so hard already that asking them to take a few days to work on something unrelated to their task lists could have been met with sighs of frustration. Instead, there was excitement and rejuvenation.

We hope to see future movement on some of the project ideas and we’re excited to see what’s in store for our future events!

Calin Fraser – working on P’n’Q
Noah Hay – working on some P’n’Q sensors
Michael Francis – late night hacking
Kristine Richard & Jonathan Millar – meeting of the minds