Our first internal hackathon that we held this summer turned out to be an unforgettable highlight people have been talking about for weeks later. Having most of our 120-plus-member team under one roof was an excellent opportunity to work on some cool ideas that have been drifting around.
We wanted to:
Here is a summary of why we organized it and the most valuable outcomes it brought us.
Once the season heats up, it’s hard enough just to handle all our personal tasks. Losing touch with the rest of the team can happen in the blink of an eye.
That’s why we wanted to make the most of the precious time when most of our distributed team members are at the HQ and give them a chance to connect with each other in person.
But there was more to it.
“We knew there are 120 people in this company who have great ideas. So we thought: let’s organize the hackathon and give everyone a chance to put their ideas into practice and influence an area that they normally don’t get to work on,” explained our hackathon organizer and Slido’s COO Lukas Gomola.
Anyone from the team could pitch their idea and form a team. There were no limitations – only that their idea should be connected to our company or business.
And so it happened – our Customer Success Lead Jozef joined forces with our developer Andrej to work on a customer support plugin, Abi from Partnerships teamed up with a designer, a developer and a product manager to build a solution for showing our Analytics in Present view, and so forth.
Pairing people who don’t get to interact on a daily basis turned out to be invaluable for bringing new perspectives to the discussions and boosting team spirit.
When work is in full swing, the most significant problems sometimes slip through the cracks because the rest of the company doesn’t fully understand the importance or scale of the other teams’ challenges. The hackathon allowed all these to surface and brought some aha moments to our team.
The factor that added to it was the pitches’ creativity.
For instance, our Customer Success Lead Jozef Dolinka demonstrated the need for a customer support plugin using toilet paper. Respective pieces represented the steps needed to obtain specific information with the current workflow. He explained how the ideal solution would cut these from 12 to just 3.
“Hearing the story behind each idea from team members themselves was much more powerful and engaging than learning about it through official communication channels,” Martina, our colleague, commented on the presentations.
Deeper learning occurred through group work on the projects. Non-tech folks got a better sense of how the development team worked and the dev guys appreciated that they could learn about other teams’ struggles first-hand.
“I learned more about pain points of some colleagues from different teams that I don’t work with on a daily basis. It was interesting to work with such a diverse team and learn from them.”
As people learned organically from each other, they became better equipped to solve other teams’ problems and created stronger bonds.
There’s no doubt company hackathons can generate plenty of amazing ideas. But the biggest value for us was gaining time to develop solutions that normally wouldn’t get to our roadmap. Out of 16 ideas, 9 are now at some stage of production or planned in Q4.
“Hackathon gave everyone a chance to put things on hold and come together to focus on a single priority,” explains Lukas Gomola. “This allowed us to greatly speed up the whole development process and come up with working prototypes that we normally wouldn’t be able to complete in such a limited time span.”
To give you a little sneak peek into our future roadmap, here are some of the ideas our team worked on during the hackathon:
Even though not every idea born during a hackathon can be implemented at the same speed and in the same fashion, it’s definitely better off on a discussion table than sitting in the backlog forever.
Or as our CEO Peter summed up: “It’s not that you finish the work but that you start. None of these ideas would be now in the Q4 roadmap without the hackathon.”
Finally, the team spirit we experienced during our hackathon has been unparalleled. Given that you get your team’s buy-in, there aren’t many occasions that would make your team as excited and motivated as an all-company hackathon.
Building something to improve the business, with the people you normally don’t interact with – that goes way beyond the usual team-building exercise. As our employees got deeper insights into how different teams work and what they are capable of, they gained a whole new level of appreciation for each other’s work.
It strengthened their relationships and reminded them what a cool bunch of people they work with.
The response we heard a lot after the hackathon revolved around one of our core values at Slido: how much people care.
“We can be sooo creative and efficient when motivated, cooperative across teams. We should keep this spirit all the time :)”
“Slido is an incredible bunch of people.”
Some shared their impressions on social media:
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Our internal hackathon became a highlight thanks to each and every one that took part in it. It helped us build momentum before the season and we cannot wait to organize the next one.
To find out more about how we ran the hackathon and how Slido helped us power it up, stay tuned for part two article on our blog.