At RevX, we are solving complex problems in data-driven, programmatic mobile advertising domain. Building a great technology company requires building a culture of innovation and encouraging its employees to take risk, and Hackathons are great way to do that.
RevX organized a 24-hour coding event on Oct 29th that culminated into teams hacking awesome projects in mobile and commerce advertising domain. The energy was phenomenal to say the least. The “tech spirit” was so high that even account management team wrote PIG scripts to crunch data to build an analytics tool.
We took risk, learned new technologies
Hackathons are great way to build something innovative under time pressure and experiment with the new technologies. RevX has a fairly complex technology stack and we are constantly experimenting with new technologies to improve the platform. Teams participating in Hackathon challenged themselves by learning something new, whether it’s ANGULARS and PLAY FRAMEWORK for data engineers, or front-end engineering team dabbling into core real-time bidding stack. We saw some brave souls picking up Android app development with no prior experience. At the end, every team stretched out of their comfort zone, picked up new technologies, and built creative hacks under pressure of delivering in 24-hours.
We thrived on hacks, and aspire to keep hacking
It may surprise some folks to know that one of the significant modules of our platform– the dynamic product ad engine was a 24-hour hack project. What started out as a hack project became core part of our technology stack, and we have continued to invest in building a world-class dynamic ad engine. Since then, every hackathon has resulted into some ideas which have become the core part of the product.
While we keep the Hackathon fairly open ended, it generally results into the ideas that are so unique and creative that we prioritize them into the product road map, and give the Hackathon team time to build the production-ready version of the project. Confidence gathered from a successful hack is so phenomenal that the teams continue to evolve the projects into RevX platform with the same level of energy and enthusiasm. We encourage them to break the rules, take risk, and reward them for turning hacks into real product features.
Hackthons are part of RevX culture. It encourages employees to build something innovative that ultimately becomes part of the product and delights our customers.
Hack-culture = collaboration = key to success
We feel that it gets significantly easier for a company to have impactful hack days if the “hack-culture” is already embedded in its DNA. By hack-culture, we not only mean that people in a company are experienced hackers, but that the people also know the art of collaborating – professionally and personally. Hackathon is team sport, at least at RevX, and collaboration seems to be playing a major role in impactful hacks. We observed that people from different “molecules” of RevX formed as one team, but what would be more surprising to know is that we witnessed some collaboration even between two or more competing teams on the hack day itself!
Passion, fun, TT breaks, RedBulls, cakes, photographs, and non-stop coding are some words one would use to describe the day, we saw a near 100% turnout for the event. Generally, hackathons are associated with engineering but we saw participation from all functions including Account Management, Marketing, HR & Sales. Did we say that the Account Managers’ team wrote PIG scripts to crunch Hadoop data and built a campaign analytics tool, and engineers helped them learn and troubleshoot code issues? That’s competing with collaboration.
Hackers at work
Timeout – midnight birthday celebration and group photo
The 24-hour coding marathon culiminated into each team presenting the idea, the challenge, the approach and demonstrating a working product. The projects were evaluated on the basis of relevance to RevX business, complexity, and completeness.
The top two projects walked away with awesome prizes, and building something that will delight our customers.
The 2nd prize winners:
Data Scientist coding up the back end, and back end Engineer coding up the front end – sitting separately for most of the day, they communicated via API calls. “Optimization, algorithms, and APIs” is what we would like to describe it as at this point. Their hack is selected to be productionized and would cater to some of the new requirements of our e-commerce customers.
The 1st prize winners :
This team of three managed to code up and demonstrate an admirable android app which thrives on a potentially viral idea. 18 hours into the hack, they could not run their app, and we saw them getting disappointed many times. With an optimistic mindset, they kept trying, and finally could see the first run of their first major app around 7 AM on the day of demonstration! The demonstration they gave was more of an enjoyable play rather than a usual tech talk, they earned the hearts and minds of the audience and judges and we were all sold!