Google Home, Alexa and connecting employees at ABOUT YOU

Why our second hackathon was awesome:

We just had our second ever hackathon and you know what? It was great
– again! Not just because of the typical German ‘halbe belegte Brötchen‘! Read more about our culture and the projects we tackled.

At ABOUT YOU, we work in a unit-based manner and are quite focussed in our own departments. Because of this way of working, the hackathon at the ABOUT YOU offices is such a cool opportunity to meet and engage more with your colleagues from different units, to build something fun together and to ignite a synergy that supports your designated project for the day.

But these perks of a hackathon are no news to anyone, right? Since this was only our second hackathon, it’s still a new and exciting experience for us.

All developer got a special hackathon-shirt

Day One:

In preparation for the hackathon, the 24 participants were asked to think about a product they always wanted to create or something their team would really need but doesn’t have the time to build. And they did not disappoint! People came up with amazing ideas and the project list was full with really cool proposals. While having a good breakfast with cinnamon rolls, croissants and many many german-style “Halbe belegte Brötchen” on this first day of the hackathon, the teams discussed the different topics and agreed on the projects to work on for the next two days!

The Projects:

We tackled quite cool topics in our projects. Here’s an overview of what we took on during the two day sprint. Some projects were just for fun, others were work related!

  • Google Home Skill to get daily KPIs from ABOUT YOU — We created a skill for Google Home, which is able to give us some basic KPIs of the ABOUT YOU Shop on demand.
  • ABOUT FREETIME — a React Native app with allows you to see what cool freetime events other app users created and you can join it with one click. This is especially great for a company like ABOUT YOU, because we constantly hire from outside of Germany. An app like this enables our newbies to find colleagues for certain activities or just to hang out with after work.
ABOUT FREETIME
  • Alexa Skill and Chatbot to book rooms at ABOUT YOU — We also developed an Alexa skill to book a conference room at our headquarters or ask if the room you want to go in is free. If it is free — you can book it. ;)
  • ABOUT LUNCH — If you take part in what this cool tool has to offer, you will participate in a regular lottery game. Once a week you get to randomly have lunch with a different person from the company who also takes part in this game. This way you get to meet a lot of new colleagues!
ABOUT LUNCH
  • Automatize music genre recognizer — We used an existing database of 8000 tagged music tracks and some machine learning techniques to automatically tag music tracks with a specific genre for our developer Nursultan, who is from Kyrgyzstan where this kind of database did not exist yet!
  • Notifier for event tickets — The Basic idea: Java tool that monitors website of a football club and notifies a user when the tickets for a specified game are on sale.
    Includes: web UI to input which ticket to track, worker to check if the ticket is available, notifier to send notification.
  • Laravel update for a unit — Boring but necessary ;) The team needed it so we did it!

Everyone pitched their ideas to the whole group and afterwards everyone decided on which project to work on. Teams divided into the three cosy rooms, we had prepared. ABOUT YOU offices have great chill rooms, which were great just to hang out and work on the projects in a relaxed but enthusiastic atmosphere. Mind maps were scribbled, to do lists were flying around the room, all supporting units like design and UX where passionately discussing ideas and approaches.

Since we recently implemented a totally new organizational model called MOVE in our tech departments, it was fun to see how people were really interested in new languages and techniques they hadn’t worked with before and how they greeted other developer roles in different units with high interest and open-mindedness. MOVE allows all our developers to take on new roles, learn more, go after their interests and change teams more freely. If you want to know more about our new model MOVE, read this medium post where we talk about the implementation of MOVE in our tech teams.

As soon as the backlog was finally created, it was already time for a hackathon favorite: PIZZA! We ordered tons of huge pizzas by “L’Osteria” and munched away while further discussing the approaches and ideas.

PIZZA for everyone!

With a full stomach, we agreed on a tech stack to use and called it a day! The range of languages and tools that were used varied vastly:

The collaboration between members of all tech teams following their visions and working hand in hand was inspiring to witness.

Day two:

Fresh start on the 2nd day of our hackathon! While some were still full on pizza from the day before, most of us had another breakfast together and shared our progress with the other teams. The day went by super quickly while working on the projects. We ordered lunch and everyone prepared the presentations of what they had achieved in these two days.

We had taken on quite a load of projects, but the outcome was very cool and it was exciting to see that everyone was so enthusiastic and focused on achieving a great result!

One of our meeting rooms at the hackathon

Finally, the teams presented the results to the rest of the interested staff on monday during our weekly “Tech Talk” meeting where we share insights on inhouse tech topics on a regular basis, opening the door to further discussion and input.

Did we learn a lot? Yes. Was it exhausting? Yes. Would we do it again? YES!

Thanks so much for everyone’s enthusiastic participation and see you at our next hackathon at ABOUT YOU!

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About the Authors: Solveig Petersen and Florian Schmidt work as Lean Project Managers at ABOUT YOU.