Last Friday, we hosted our very first hackathon at OmniUpdate. It was incredible. Throughout the year, I’m constantly reminded of how smart and inventive my coworkers are, but when they were given an entire day left only to their own creativity, ambition, and hard work, I was truly in awe of their talent.
For those unfamiliar with the term, a hackathon is a collaborative event in which individuals come together to work on a software coding project. Regular work is set aside for a day of brainstorming and creation. At our hackathon, we had six teams made up of staff members with varying degrees of technical knowledge. Their mission was to create something that would improve OU Campus™ – whether that was a feature, a gadget, or some other functionality. Before getting started, the tools and rules for participating and winning were clearly explained. Teams could discuss projects, but no code could be written prior to 7:00 AM on Hackathon Day.
After working all day, the teams regrouped and presented their final products to a panel of judges. I was so impressed not only to see the range of coding projects, but also the depth of development that was able to get done in one day. From an analytic reporting tool, to an emergency notification feature, to a workflow gadget – each team had a stellar idea and produced high-quality work. After much deliberation, the judges chose the impressive “TCF Builder” as the winner, and we are already looking forward to implementing it.
Hackathon Winners: Jimmy Blocksom (left) and Chul Kim (right)
At the end of the day, everyone who participated was exhausted and elated. Here’s what a few had to say about their experience:
“Taking part in the 2015 OmniUpdate Hackathon, I learned that people can be more productive when they collaborate closely. With no prior discussion or planning, Jimmy and I were able, in less than six hours, to put together the beginnings of a feature that could become part of a future release of OU Campus and potentially make a difference for thousands of developers. My favorite parts of the hackathon were getting to see the cool and useful ideas the other teams had implemented and the resulting affirmation that I'm part of a team of really smart and talented people who are great fun to work with.”
Chul Kim, Senior Front End Web Developer
“It went way faster than I was anticipating. But it also gave me a great sense of what it takes to get projects done and the amount of hard work that our developers put in every day to keep OU Campus amazing.”
Nicole Conary, Project Manager - Development
“It was so nice to be able to do something different from the day-to-day job and to work on product development. The collaboration process was fun because I got to set the scope for the project and learn what it is like to work with one of our awesome developers! I think the biggest surprise is how little time there really was to get something from start to finish completed, and I had to scale down the scope of the project significantly to make sure we had a working, demonstrable project.”
James Blocksom, Customer Support Engineer
"In short, it was like having awesomesauce poured into my head, mixed with a golden lemon. My favorite part was moving from a period of focused attention to a workable prototype. It was fun to start with nothing and end with something.”
Juston Points, Quality Assurance Technician
“I was paired up with Nicole Conary for the Hackathon, so at first I was wondering what role she would play when she told me, ‘I am not a coder.’ I was pleasantly surprised to find such an invaluable teammate for the Hackathon, as she was able to come up with great ideas for our project and track down many external resources we could not have done without. Not only that, but she was able to create a clean, crisp-looking front end so I could concentrate my time on the back end coding. While the time went by amazingly quick, I found the hackathon to be a wonderful experience that I would be happy to repeat again in the future!”
Brian Laird, Web Developer
"It was a great opportunity to see just how talented my coworkers are, how dedicated everyone is to making our customers’ lives easier, and how well we all work together as a team.”
Zachary Kitt, Web Developer
“Being part of the hackathon was a great experience, even for someone like me with little to no coding skills. The creative process of pitching ideas, whittling functionality down to core basics, and predicting user behavior for the best UX were some of the best and most interesting parts of the day.”
Todd Spence, Proposal Manager
There was one thing missing from our first hackathon… Our wonderful customers! Well, we are hoping to take it to the next level by hosting a hackathon at the 2016 OmniUpdate User Training Conference. With OU Campus users, administrators, and developers working together, the end product can only be greatness.