Last month we ran an internal Hackathon at Beacon’s office in London. As we hadn’t done one in a while, we thought it was time.
What is a Hackathon?
A Hackathon, or Hack Marathon is an opportunity for everyone to pause for a moment and consider the customer problems at hand from outside of the box again. Are there other problems we can solve to provide value to our customers? Are there innovative features, products and channels of communication we can build for an even better customer experience? Are there internal tools we can develop to make life easier for our colleagues?
Hackathons also give our technical team the chance to explore better ways of architecting systems to improve the way they work. In this forum, we are able to have a crack at something different even if it is risky. There are no consequences or downsides because it is deliberately not going to impact our planned product roadmap.
How we planned it
Sophia, one of our EMs, volunteered to plan the event. We decided to use themes to help the participants narrow down their ideas. Although it was not mandatory to stay within the theme,the downside of going out of the theme was less chance of winning the prize. The themes were:
Onboarding in a product led growth world
Alerting (not in the tech terms but as it relates to Beacon’s product proposition)
Coming into the office wasn’t mandatory, but most of us chose to. Having everyone in one place made it feel collaborative and it reminded us of how important it is to have some facetime with our colleagues.
How we prepared
Ideas poured in from members of our engineering, design, and product team. All ideas were pitched by their owners, and the successful ones formed teams.
Four teams shaped up. TONI, I Need It By, Web Notifications and Beacon Live. Some of our backend engineers decided to implement the frontend side of the project and vice versa to experience things differently. It was great learning about other technical challenges and what motivates other colleagues.
All teams and projects were finalised a week before the Hackathon so they could plan, consider the system design and document it etc.
A jury was formed to judge the projects. It included Beacon’s executives, our directors and our PMs. They were going to evaluate the project based on:
How well the problem was defined and how impactful the solution could be
How well the solution was designed and presented
How much progress had been made in the prototype build
How well the product’s long term vision was defined and the product’s potential
The day arrived, so did the t-shirts!
How it went
Together we had two vigorous and fun days designing, coding and coming up with quick solutions. As the problems Beacon is solving are quite vast, greenfield and unbounded, the freedom they presented was really fantastic.
The days went by (lots of coffee, snacks and pizza were involved) and of course, projects were built. Then, it was time to prepare the presentations. We made sure to keep a few days between the Hackathon and presenting.
Finally, when the presentation day arrived, our judges came armed with their sheets and notes. They had no prior view to the projects and everything was new to them. The engagement by the jury, especially our executives, was exemplary.
Everyone was super creative with their presentations. We had some good laughs during the session, internal team jokes and little pranks which made the days much more memorable.
The judges were really impressed with what we achieved in the two days.
Right after the last presentations, the judges went off to decide on a winner. There was a solid deep dive into each idea and how it could help our product roadmap. Scores were debated and at the end, the winning team, Beacon Live, was selected as the winner of our February 2023 Hackathon.
All four proposals were so innovative that we’ve decided to incorporate them all into our product backlog.
The day was such a success that we have agreed to run a Hackathon every six months. It was an amazing way to drum up some new perspectives and enthusiasm for the problems we are solving, whilst also building connections between teams and colleagues.