Last month I was able to participate in my company’s first official hackathon. The rules were simple:
- Pick a team (no solo hacking).
- Pick an idea (either product idea or internal tool).
- Work on it for 2 days.
- Present the project in 3 minutes or less.
Including myself, I ended up in a group of three. We explored different ideas and ultimately decided on a simple React app that recorded “learning items” as we try to “level up” our tech skills. In all honesty, this was really just a glorified todo app with some gamification sprinkled on top. But I found the process of going from whiteboard design to working app (and all the iterations in between) with a group I never worked with in such a short amount time to be pretty invaluable.
We initially used the live feature in CodeSandBox but that quickly didn't work out as we started clobbering over each other's work. Although we ended up using our own local dev environments and merged them together at the end, it was a good excuse to try out some other collaboration tools. I would recommend the live feature in CodeSandBox for short bits of collaboration but not for long term ongoing use.
|Whiteboard Design||One Design Iteration|
I also got a chance to play around with React Native for the first time in attempt to try to port the app to a mobile platform. SPOILER ALERT: It's not as simple as just taking your React code and having it render to React Native. But I will say I was super easy to get up and started using https://snack.expo.io/.
Two days went by VERY quickly and before we knew it, it was time to present. The concluding 3 minute presentations were all done over Zoom so that the remote teams could also participate. This worked out really well as we able to record everything and no one felt left out if they were not in the office. At the end of the presentations, the entire company was able to vote for their favorite project.
A couple of things the hackathon accomplished:
- Gave employees a chance to take a break from their usual tasks.
- Provided an opportunity to work with different people to create a unique team building experience.
- Gave employees a chance to explore other technologies and languages.
- Gave the product teams many prototyped ideas.
- Rallied the company together around engineering innovations.
Overall, it was a great experience and I firmly believe it was just as good for the company as it was for the employees. Apparently the leaders of the company also thought it was success and I've heard rumblings of wanting to do this every 6 months.
I can't wait.
Do you have a cool hackathon experience or project you would like share?