Hackathon Culture

How to weave Hackathons into our everyday routine

Written by on July 2, 2018

When I saw the card move from one side of the screen to the other and sit, I was on cloud nine. This was the first time I saw an idea of mine come to life. An idea that I had come up with not too many days ago.

Thanks to an internal hackathon at Freshworks, that idea is now live.

hackathon

Hackathons are a regular at Freshworks. We create the environment for great minds to come together and build great things. I’ve organized a handful of these hackathons, and always wanted to also participate in one.

I had an idea for a personal productivity tool and decided to pitch it with a team the next time a hackathon was organized at work. We entered the hackathon in the last minute and thus our team was named ‘Team Last Minute’. 

Once the hackathon ended, I felt like I was walking out of Disneyland. We lost track of time—I didn’t check my emails, Instagram, or even return calls!

I realized the value of such hackathons, and felt that we should inculcate the hackathon culture in employees and make it a part of our everyday environment.

Here are a few things we can do:

Set aggressive deadlines

Hackathons are a great example to prove that the best work is produced under pressure. One way to make this approach work is to set aggressive deadlines in our daily tasks. If we can do it in the duration of the hackathon, we can definitely do at least half of it in our regular time. Of course, we must be careful to not be too aggressive with the deadline, or else it might be counter–productive.

Take side projects with your hackathon group

A hackathon is not just about coding. It’s about a group of people coming together to bring an idea to life, even if it’s under a stressful environment. If you can produce great results in such a constrained environment, imagine what you can do with a little more time and resources.

If you think you’ve found a great hackathon team, hold on to them. Work with them to take up more side projects in your free time. Every organisation has so many small cross-functional problems that needs to be solved but most of them go under the radar. Hackathon teams can be those ‘tiger teams’ that already work really well together. Why not use them to do more? You don’t always need a hackathon to get together and solve a problem!

Stay off email and chats if you have to

I set an ‘out–of–office’ response to say “I’m in a hackathon, expect delayed responses”. I don’t understand why this isn’t acceptable at all times. I ignored all my emails and pings during the hackathon and saw a lot of other participants do the same. This seems to improve productivity. Pick two days of the week as “Hackathon mode” and just turn everything off to see you productivity shoot up.

Always be pitching

Pitching an idea to a panel (and also other curious souls who want to know what we’re building) is always an integral part of a hackathon. There is a limited time frame within which we’ll have to make the pitch. This immediately pushes our thought process to utilize the given 10 minutes to pitch our idea as uniquely as possible.

Since we’re putting in a lot of focus on HOW we’re going to pitch the idea, we have the advantage of identifying and closing the gaps which helps us make the pitch a little more seamless. Everything we build should be ‘pitchable’. Once you finish building anything, you should be able to pitch it not just to your team but to any team in the organisation.

This is important because all of us are so engrossed in our own day to day work, we assume that others will automatically ‘get’ what we’re building. It’s important to invest time to build your pitch. Besides, it’s always great to get a couple of opinions from different people!

Learn from the other teams

Watching the best ideas being brought to life is one of the most exciting parts, for the non-finalists. Till that point, everyone is so focused on their ideas, but only when they watch a co-participant go up on stage and pitch their idea, do they realize how big the picture actually is.

The moment when the hackathon stops revolving around just your little group and you start seeing the big picture, is when you start appreciating it even more.

It is always important to know what the other team members are doing as it may potentially help you do your job better. You may even find inspiration from someone else’s work.

I haven’t slept in 36 hours but I held on long enough to complete this blog. That’s the kind of energy a hackathon can give you.

The hackathon may have ended but hopefully the spirit goes on!

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