Rockeathon: Our first Internal Hackathon

Here at Gradeup, we just finished our very first internal hackathon Rockeathon v1.0.

Rockeathon was aimed as a team building event, where we wanted people from different teams to come together to innovate, build products that might be beneficial for our users or would improve our internal tools. We also wanted to give people the opportunity to work and learn with teammates they might not frequently interact with. Overall it was a lot of fun.

In this article, I will walk you through how everything went.

Planning and Organizing

For a while, we had wanted to throw an internal hackathon, but because of time constraints, we never got around to it. After deciding on a date, however it was easy to organize with only two weeks advance notice.

We decided to hold the event on a Friday for about 9 hours. To make sure that we made the most of the available time, we started our planning by using polls to identify ideas from people a week before. We got some innovative and out of the box ideas. Some were great product ideas, some were enhancements for our internal tools, and some were renovation suggestion for our office.

Since we wanted to involve participation from everyone, we clubbed ideas under some broader and complete categories. These categories were decided keeping in mind, that

We are a team of about 75 people, so we drafted 8 project ideas, and shared this with everyone. As for the project ideas, the entire company was involved, which meant we had project ideas ranging from writing to coding to improving the office decor. Everyone whose idea was selected was promised a surprise gift from us on the day of hackathon itself.

Two days before the hackathon, we started our team building activity. We got a diverse set of team names. Some chose Games of Thrones house, some chose Marvel characters and others depicted their product in team name like Imli(IMage LIbrary). The purpose of having this activity two days before the actual event was to help members in the team get acquainted with each other and focus more time on the product itself.

A schedule was also prepared keeping in mind the 9 hours duration of the hackathon.

A day before the hackathon, most of the teams were discussing about everything from product ideas to its features and enhancements.

Rules

After a lot of thought, we came up with these rules:

Another most essential part of an Hackathon is deciding winners. The evaluation of the product was done on the basis of the implementation readiness and the potential impact of the idea. This was accompanied by a voting where in everyone could fill their preferences for Winners and Runners Up.

Lastly, came the prizes for hackathon. We thought about this a lot and decided that instead of paying the winning team, they should be taken out for a Team Lunch, which would improve their team bonding further. The runners-up team was awarded with T-shirts.

The Hack Day

On the day of the event, everyone arrived on time with full enthusiasm. Each team was greeted with a box of chocolates, as a welcoming gesture.

Everyone was busy hacking like crazy. Some creating designs for the product, some brainstorming on deciding meeting room names, some discussing with CXO’s about the milestones achieved for the company timeline. A few of us, myself included, served as advisors and hopped around from team to team offering advice and assistance with debugging.

Food was provided well on time so that no one had to worry about their hunger and they can keep hacking.

During a fun-filled demo session, the products presented were all so good that it was difficult to pick a winner.

Finally based on the votes received, we decided team Starks as the winners and team ImLi as the runners-up. We also got following amazing products at the end of Rockeathon.

What Worked

Overall, out first hackathon Rockeathon was a huge success and everyone enjoyed the chance to build something new with teammates they don’t normally work with.

I sent out a survey afterwards to get feedback on the event. Some of the notable responses are

I like that the teams are developing useful applications with lot of fun altogether.

The cross functional nature of the work. Working on something other than my daily routine. Working with different people.

Everyone’s idea and dedication

Everyone’s innovative ideas. Was fun working with people we normally don’t work with. Got to learn new tools.

Knowing my colleagues

The enthusiasm, team building as well as the outcome. All of it was phenomenal.

Dedication shown by everyone throughout the event

What Didn’t Work

In the feedback, I got some feedback on things that didn’t work well.

First, there were several requests to bring about more participation from non-technical people with a bit of pre-planning.

Secondly, we had several requests to offer better food choices during the event.

Overall Impressions

Rockeathon v1.0 was a resounding success.

Through the event, we had everyone team up, spend a lot of quality time hacking on code and getting to know each other and their work better. Some of the projects will actually make it into the product as features in the near future.