If you’ve visited our office here in Charleston, SC then you’ve likely seen first hand our layout of pods of teams throughout the two repurposed warehouses. As with any company, where you sit in the office is often correlated to what you hear and see. In our building, the sales & marketing sits in an open loft on the second floor, along with a few meeting spaces. If we didn’t consistently make an effort to do a lap every day, we wouldn’t get to see what awesome new features are being built. It helps that amenities, like cold brew and sodas, are situated deep within development territory.
Recently, I was walking through a central area of our main building and saw nearly thirty developers conversing furiously. I assumed it was an impending site launch or an innovative new feature being built. But, I soon learned this wasn’t client work but rather a hackathon. “A ‘what-athon’?” I asked sheepishly.
If you’re not familiar, a hackathon is defined as ‘any event of any duration where people come together to solve problems.’ Turns out, this wasn’t Blue Acorn’s first hackathon. In fact, in our early days, they were a regular occurrence. This resurgence was organized by our lead QA analyst, Jake Brawley. He said the idea for an internal hackathon started to encourage collaboration in solving internal challenges and improve our processes.
To enter the competition, teams of 2-5 developers submitted proposals on a problem or topic of their choosing. The proposals covered a wide range of internal processes such as documentation, events and HipChat integrations, developer experience and tooling improvements.
More than 20 employees participated in the hackathon meeting after hours and on weekends for over a month. Of course, pizza and beer were provided to help fuel creativity!
After an intense final presentation, two front-end developers were declared the winners, Josh Soileau and Tyler Craft. They created the ‘Magento 2 Boilerplate Module Generator,’ a tool that facilitates a quicker creation of modules and installs scripts. The tool also creates system configuration options, plugins, custom block classes, toggles the query logger, copies theme files into your custom theme. Talk about a time saver!
Although there only one team could win, two other projects from the hackathon are being incorporated into our process. Members of our Salesforce Commerce Cloud team created tools that allow them to leverage our Skel toolset. The tools enable the team to make updates to multiple projects at once and speed up development of the projects on Skel–another time and money saver for our clients. Another team worked on visualizing our internal data by logging events with our version control system and used tools to visualize the data and analyze it.
To me, this internal hackathon demonstrates our commitment to continually innovate for both our clients and our own processes. The winning project is already directly benefiting our clients by reducing our time and effort for development on Magento 2.
Our next hackathon hasn’t been scheduled yet, but I’ve already heard smack talk around the office, which isn’t too surprising given that one of our core values is ‘compete.’