May the Best Hack Win!

 
Every 6 months, the Brisbane and Vietnam Product Development Teams come together to participate in a 3-day Hackathon in Skedulo’s Brisbane office. This bi-annual event is fast becoming a beloved tradition. The office was buzzing with energy and excitement as the teams gathered for the third time to present their best hacks at this year’s Hackathon. 

This year we polled the broader company, not just the product development team, for ideas and features that the go-to-market team would like to see come alive. We were so thrilled by the enthusiasm and creativity from the broader team — more than 50 different ideas from across the company were submitted! Sadly this was only a 3-day event, so we couldn’t bring all of these ideas to fruition, but the team was able to take 22 of them to a state where they could be demoed and judged. 

Our engineers were excited and motivated to work on these ideas. Over the course of the Hackathon we gave them the option to work in teams or as individuals, giving them a break from their normal duties, meetings, and day to day responsibilities. We brought in yummy catered lunches and dinners to keep their spirits high and fuel their bodies and minds, so they could put all their energy into bringing these hacks to life.

The judging committee is fairly laid back, comprising of Jonathan Hodge, COO at Skedulo and Jen Elkow, Director of Product Management at Skedulo, and of course, me – the Director of Engineering. As the judging process began, we did our best to maintain impartial for each of the hacks, but I will neither confirm nor deny that bribes were accepted by the judges at this year’s Hackathon. 

A total of 6 awards were given out at the end of the Hackathon, but there was so much that we wanted to recognize so we created award categories on the fly. Actually, the number of awards was really based on how many trophies were purchased for the event.

Best Hack and Awards

As the event is fairly laid back and fun, we like to keep the trophies and awards that we give out in a similar fashion. Each year, the Hackathon winners receive a themed trophy (the more random and dodgier the better). For example, the first Hackathon winners received a fishing themed trophy. The winners of the second year’s Hackathon received a basketball-themed trophy. And this year’s winners received martial arts themed trophies!

In no particular order, below are the various awards that we gave out at this year’s Hackathon! 

  • The Hacky McHacky Award – “Marv and Jenk the Screaming Bot Men” by Josh Hassum. A little background history on this hack and why it was so popular. The team has a Slack bot called Marvin that performs a number of automated jobs for us. This year, Josh had the brilliant idea of bringing Marvin into the real world, check out the short video below to watch Marvin in action. When he finished a job successfully his eyes would light up green, when a job failed his eyes would light up red, and he would mutter random comments under his breath. ** Check out the photo below **
  • Scheduler’s Best Friend – “Reschedule Job” by Zoe Stewart – This hack enables a Scheduler to re-schedule an entire day worth of jobs easily, which can be especially helpful if a job runs overtime and the whole day’s schedule needs to be adjusted.
  • Shipped It – “App Preferences for Time Formats and Distance Units” by Drew Taylor – This hack allows users to make modifications to time formats and distance units and stores their app preferences in the server. This was the most mature hack presented during the Hackathon as Drew raised a pull request during his demonstration.
  • Best Apple Watch App is Best – “Apple Watch App & Rich notifications” by Matthew Robbins & Clinton Rocksmith. Skedulo gets into wearables by creating the ability to accept or decline jobs and offers without having to open the mobile app. You can update a job status on the Apple Watch too!
  • Resource’s Best Friend – “Work Swap” by Gustavo Oliveira, Karina Appleby, Ned Mules & Leila Watson. This gives resources the ability to swap shifts or jobs without needing a scheduler. Just like our Work Offers feature, we’re always looking for ways to empower and engage mobile workers!
  • Oldest Feature Request – “Custom Form Builder” by Hung Le, Son Dieu & Huong Diep. This feature has been one that we’ve been discussing since 2015, back when Skedulo was still in a garage in West End in Brisbane. This hack enables non-developers to build simple custom forms via a user interface. Sometimes good things take time!

Next Steps: Putting the Hacks into Action

This was the best Hackathon ever, but I also say that about each Hackathon. The team always continues to improve and innovate while delivering incredible new hacks and features.

In the past, the Hackathon has been a time of team bonding and innovation, but admittedly we haven’t been the best in terms of shipping hacks to production. Our goal this year is to change that! This year, the team set an audacious goal to ship at least 5 of the 22 hacks that were demoed and bring them to production quality. And we want to do this while doing all of the other work that we’ve committed to shipping! 

So far, we are off to a great start! We have already shipped our first hack called ‘Server Metrics’ into production. This change introduces more in-depth metrics on how our backend services are performing and pushes the information into an open-source dashboarding tool. Before, we’ve used a proprietary tool to do this for us, but this tool has come at a significant cost per month. With this new hack now in production, we are no longer reliant on an outside tool and can begin using our new hack while also saving money for the company.

As we look forward to the next Hackathon, we’ve sent out a survey to all those who participated to get feedback on what worked well and what can be improved. We are excited for the next Hackathon event that is sure to be bigger and better than this past one, and for a new set of dodgy trophies to award!