It’s been a hard year away from the friendly faces in our offices at The Climate Corporation (Climate). One of the things we have so looked forward to at the beginning of 2021 is to bring our teams back together after the new year and really add some wind in our sails with our annual hackathon.
Our roles in the hackathon are logistical; we assist in the execution of the week-long annual innovation competition each year, despite not being true scientists ourselves. Before coming to work at Climate, neither of us had ever taken part in a hackathon from the participant’s perspective!
But it didn’t take long to understand just how important this event is to Climate culture and to experiencing the diversity of workload, backgrounds, and passion of our teams.
What’s new with our hackathon is something we’re only beginning to work through, months after the hackathon ended. This year, all submitted projects directly address things that could add value to the platform in various ways. As such, we’re currently working toward formalizing a process for “productionizing” a few of our hackathon projects, to see if there are opportunities to take the innovation of our teams and integrate it into our products and solutions.
This year’s hackathon logo and theme, Hack Attack, pulling back to a world map that emphasizes how global the competition has become.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual hackathon has been a largely in-person effort held in our offices in San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, and Chicago, as well as with colleagues around the world. There was no question that we’d have to think outside the box this year since none of the in-person interaction we were used to would be possible. And no question that holding the hackathon was an absolute must for our teams. There’s no other event quite like it that challenges traditional product thinking and gets us excited for what the year brings.
Our teammate Maureen wrote a post about this topic a couple years ago that focused on how the hackathon for 2018 had reached global scope. This year, our teams submitted more than 35 projects for consideration, many of them cross-team, cross-site, and cross-continent! We’ve certainly found that the diversity of site and background really democratized the competition, enabling new relationships and adding to the quality of innovation.
This type of diversification opened up deep connections and learning opportunities for team members of different backgrounds, from our product design team to engineering to support and marketing. None of that is defined by Climate as part of our hackathon parameters, but instead emerges naturally based on the project and those looking to contribute.
Everybody gets one! Healthy snacks and provisions were both a source of energy and conversation, even though we were remote this year.
One of the biggest things we can do in organizing our annual hackathon is enable teams to talk and interact. And food brings people together! Typically, hackathon culminates in an in-person celebration with special treats and surprises. Realizing that we could not match that, we were tasked with trying to replace that experience and local flavor with something new, that would both stimulate conversation as well as innovation.
Our solution was a snack box, sent out to every member of Climate participating in the hackathon. This box was absolutely worth it! The snacks we sent actually generated quite a bit of conversation within our company Slack, as teams tried out new and healthy protein bites, nut mixes, and (of course) coffee.
We also sent a (moisture-wicking, for the sweat generated by innovation) t-shirt with the hack attack logo, which we fully consider business appropriate.
The winning projects (screenshots from their demo videos above) showed a real sensitivity to feedback we’ve gotten from our customers, and introspection into a number of ways we can add value to the FieldView platform.
This year’s hackathon didn’t end at the end of the demo video session, though, where each team presented its concepts in a video less than five minutes long. Three of the presentations were the standout winners in our Climate’s Choice voting - the members of these teams are awarded both bragging rights, and a nominal token recognition for their creativity and effort!
To me there’s almost no better way to enter a new year with your ship’s engines full of fuel than through collaboration like this. We can’t wait to see what comes from working through these new concepts! Now the only problem is having to wait another year for the next hackathon.