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We have recently been spending a lot of time trying to understand: “What does it mean to have the best place to work?” and “what does it take to build one”? All awards and recognition are external. Frankly speaking it does not matter, except for recruiting. What does matter is the members of our team knowing they are spending most of their waking hours at the best possible place to work, and that the founders of the organization put making InfoTrust the best place to work a core strategic innitiative, a competitive advantage if you will. 

Hackathon at InfoTrust

Rephrasing Gary Kemel, organizations have to earn their place in the market every single day and the only way to do that is by constantly and strategically innovating and creating new knowledge.

So, how do we go up yet another step in making InfoTrust a place where people love to bring the gifts of their creativity and passion? Everybody. All the time. Every day.

We decided introducing Hackathons into our day-to-day life is a good way to shake things up. So let me tell you about the first hackathon we did at the InfoTrust office. First, the bad news – we violated one of the top rules of hackathon-ing. We are going to need about 2-3 more days to finish what we set out to do. It’s not the end of the world – just another opportunity to learn and prioritize better and to get better at cutting corners for Minumum Viable Product that we are building.

The good news is we decided to build something really exciting. No, I am not going to tell you about it until it’s complete. I am just going to build up some mystery and anticipation by saying it will bring the power of Google Analytics capabilities to Bing/Yahoo advertising and make marketers even happier. One of our values as a company is that we “make marketers happy”. Big picture, we want to make a lot of people happy, and since everybody is a marketer in some shape or form…well, you can finish this BS sentence yourself. But seriously speaking, every single person I talked to about this idea told me they can’t wait to try it out and sign them up as a guinea pig, so you will be hearing a lot from us on that subject, but today we are talking about the process of building, not what we are building. 

For our first experiment with hackathon’ing we only included engineers in the hackathon. There are many different ways to structure a hackathon and for the fist one it seemed like a subset of our company, just engineers, made more sense then an all-hands hackathon. We’ll be trying an all hands hackathon next time. Also for this hackathon we will have the entire team work on one project instead of multiple, split it into 2 teams – backend and front-end. For the next hackathon we’ll do multiple cross-functional teams and multiple projects to make it even more exciting.

Technology – php,python,laravel framework and our everyday tools like JS/JSON/CSS/HTML5,etc…

 

Now some lessons learned:

#1. You can’t have a successful hackathon if you are using new APIs that you have not mastered ahead of time. That’s what killed up-speed. We had to deal with oAuth and a few other things we had limited experience with. But we certainly learned a lot this time 🙂

#2. Be merciless with cutting the scope for hackathon Minimum Viable Product (MVP). The goal of the hackathon is to get something done within the timeframe of the hackathon, not 2-3 days later.

How was your hackathon experience? Please share in the comments

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About The Author: Alex Yastrebenetsky is a founder (and CEO) of InfoTrust. Known as "The Brain" (Pinky and the Brain) around the office, he enjoy traveling with his wife and young children.