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Microsoft Global Hackathon 2022

Define Possible!

Microsoft has a tradition of hosting a company-wide, week-long, hackathon championed by “The Garage” yearly. This event invites employees from all over the world to collaborate with colleagues across teams, organizations and/or disciplines to hack on ideas that inspire them.

I love hackathons! The journey from idea to MVP is a swift and thrilling adventure. It could take a couple hours or days but seeing an idea metamorphose into a functional product in a very short time span is just amazing! Last year, I participated passively but decided to drive 2 projects this year. The experience, though draining was eye opening, and it stirred up a renewed respect for Engineering managers and PMs.

A little background, I am an engineer, therefore have a strong bias for building things. I’ll rather start building something, anything (after preliminary research) and tweak it along the way to match expectation than spend long hours and countless meetings trying to figure out the perfect product to build.

PMs on the other have a bias for usable products. They are keen on building perfectly tailored solutions for a specific audience. Therefore, to bring balance to the projects I partnered with two PMs.

Pre-hackathon activities

Team formation

I reached out to 2 PMs, Bobby Nwokonneya and Doyinsola Olawuyi to get insight from a PM perspective and recruit their assistance in driving the projects and thankfully they agreed. Thanks! 🙌

I created the projects on the official hackathon site put out a call for hackers and set up group chats for communication.

Requirements gathering

First order of business was to interview key stakeholders, to get insight into their operations and how best we could solve their problems. This was a very important step because we didn’t want to end up building a state of the art, supersonic, luxurious and borderline sci-fi plane for someone who was about to go diving. I did not enjoy this part.

Each additional hour I had to sit in a meeting asking and answering questions, was one more torturous demand for the engineer within me. For me, it was a necessary evil. Thankfully, there were people onboard who enjoyed driving this.


The PM teams analyzed the feedback from the stakeholders, categorized them into meaningful chunks, highlighting opportunities and proposing possible solutions.

Engineers assessed the proposals from a technical perspective, (considering the timeline we had,) and an agreement was reached on what we should build.

Hackathon activities


The hackathon officially began on a Monday. We’d already spec’d out the MVP to build so next steps were to split up into sub teams, define responsibilities, milestones and start hacking.

As the project lead for two projects, my primary responsibilities were to generate energy, define priorities, provide clarity and keep the team morale high. Given the challenge at hand, I had to get good at telling inspiring stories, amplifying low voices and making room for everyone to speak. This was to make sure everyone felt included, heard and valued for their contribution.

My plan was to join an engineering sub team to work on the backend of both projects but after a whole day of exerting so much energy, I was super drained. I opened my IDE to write some code but just couldn’t, people management is no joke.

Realizing how mentally tasking it was to switch between managing the teams and writing code, I decided to focus on managing the teams and doing some DevOps/DB admin work. I set up daily syncs with the teams, managed the repositories and handled deploying the solutions to cloud servers.

By Wednesday, we started seeing outputs from different sub teams — mockups, contents, API endpoints and rough versions of the apps. From that point, we oscillated between building and reviewing until the final day of the hackathon.

Science fair

The Garage — West Africa, located in the Microsoft Lagos site hosted a science fair on Thursday of the hackathon week and invited all projects (hacking in the Lagos site) to come present to a live audience.

Up until this day, the hackathon was largely virtual (thanks to the hybrid world we now live in) but one of the beauties of a hackathon is having so many smart people in the same physical space brainstorming and building together, powered by drinks, snacks, fast foods, games and music. That kind of atmosphere can hardly be replicated in a virtual world.

At the science fair, each project had a booth, got a chance to present and the audience voted for the best project.

Following that was a session of games, drinks, snacks, fast food, karaoke, music and dancing. It was amazing having everyone around.

Project demo video

For the official submission, each project was meant to create a demo video, detailing the problem they addressed, their proposed solution, a demo of their prototype, technologies used, target audience and business prospects.

I worked closely with a couple people on this, and we all were proud of the work we did.

The main goal of the hackathon was to collaborate with colleagues from teams outside your team, work on something outside your regular work and identify, learn, and/or refine skills you would not usually need in your regular day to day.

For these projects, we had engineers and PMs working as managers, PMs working as designers, recruiters & support Engineers working as PMs and content folks so to a great extent, I’ll say this was mission accomplished!

With that, came the official end of the hackathon, the fun, frustration and everything in between.

Until this time next year, this was Hackathon 2022!



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I’m constantly contemplating purpose, morality, and ultimate justice | I work on Windows at Microsoft | Occasionally, music gets me high.