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6 Things We Learned From Our Hacking Days in Barcelona

This group were hacking the idea of an ‘iOS app to organise test devices’

Team events are important for every department, especially in such close-knit teams in our FREE NOW Barcelona tech hub.

This year we decided it was time for a change; the old concept of ‘Bridge Day’ needed a makeover so we created Hacking Days. Bridge Day used to be a one-day event that occurred twice a year between a bank holiday and a weekend. It gave us an opportunity to hack some ideas of the FREE NOW product or tech stack which allowed us to try out new ideas and ways to solve problems in a chilled environment. The goal of the Hacking Days would stay the same, just the format and setup would be different; we wanted to make it more structured and above all, more fun.

Barcelona Hacking Days 2019 in numbers

Planning your own Hacking Day? These numbers will offer a template from which to work with!

This year in Barcelona, we decided to join the two single day events into a yearly event called Hacking Days 2019. This year, participation was great! Forty four active participants out of the one hundred and five people in the tech hub worked on fifteen ideas. There were three criteria set in in order to win and the ideas had to be demo-able and releasable. Of the original fifteen ideas, five ideas fit into those boundaries, and at the end of the day, twenty four winners were announced!

1. ‘Work on something you believe in’

The idea behind the event changed as well. We wanted to foster innovation and to create better products as great ideas come from everyone and everywhere. All of this was possible because our company trusts us and wants to provide us with the means of learning, experimenting and also giving us an opportunity to bond with other teams or tribe members that we don’t have a chance to work with on our daily work life.

Taking that into account, we thought a longer format would allow us to pitch crazier ideas, We created three categories: product, tech and non-tech — a brand new category that would allow us to go beyond the usual work and hack the workplace or the process.

Promoting the agenda helped participants feel prepared ahead of the event

2. Event promotion

We wanted to turn Hacking Days into one of the most important and anticipated events of the year. In order to promote the event, we created posters, we advertised the event on Slack and during our local All-Hands meeting. We sent the two-day invitation to our Barcelona Tech Hub employees calendars and created a page on our intranet where the ideas could be submitted prior to the event.

3. Self-organization

The objective was for us to self-organize around the ideas. Once an idea was submitted, teams would independently organise how they would work to make the idea become reality. For each idea, we needed to follow a template with the following:

  • problem statement
  • hypothesis
  • proposed solution
  • how the impact will be measured
  • the skills necessary to solve them
  • people who want to collaborate
Visualising the idea is key on Hacking Days

The owner, who submitted the idea, was responsible for advertising their proposed solution, participants to create it and ensuring the idea went live. The only boundary was that all ideas worked on needed to be presented at the end of the event.

4. The Agenda

Our first day started with a breakfast, where the groups were formed. After breakfast, the Leads officially opened the event and everyone got started. On the second day, we used breakfast time as an opportunity to catch up, announce the three boundaries that needed to be met to win. Meeting over breakfast was also a good opportunity to discuss any doubts for the upcoming day and discuss how best to tackle them.

The main focus was for hacking. Working closely and collaboratively to get the solution live was key, however the result also needed to be presented. Following a presentation template, the teams presented the fifteen ideas at the end of the second day to the entire tech hub. After ranking the ideas, the winners were announced. They were gifted branded goodies and all of the winning ideas would be integrated into our production stack. This meant that Hacking Days was a productive way of creating new solutions and ideas that might not have organically transpired during a normal working day. Furthermore, it was a great chance to bond- we celebrated the success of the two days with some well deserved beer and pizza.

5. Why do Hacking Days? Our follow-up review

Afterwards, we wanted to review what the team had enjoyed and how we could improve the event. If you are not sure if you want to organise one for your team, here some good insights directly quoted from our colleagues!

  • “Freedom to work on any topic we want”;
  • “We all were in an innovative and motivated mood”;
  • “Working with different people than usual on different things than usual”;
  • “Very structured and organised and everything had to be around a problem”

6. The lessons learned

Of course, no event will run perfectly and especially as this was our first event, we knew that there would be room for improvement. Here’s what we learnt from our Hacking Day:

  • “There wasn’t just one winner in the end”
  • “Expectations for projects, winning rules and prizes should be clearly defined before starting.”
  • “Set a time-limit for the presentation of ideas, like 5 mins each”

Our two-day event is over and overall, it was a success. However, that’s not to say we are complacent; although it’s a good start, it’s still a work in progress. This was mainly due to our flexible competition requirements, which were that the idea needed to go live and be measured. Once the ideas have been fully integrated into our production stack will we be able to measure the true impact of Hacking Days on our everyday work, our product and tech.

Do you like the sound of Hacking Days at FREE NOW? Check out the opportunities that we have available across Europe here.




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Maria Chec

Maria Chec

Agile Coach and Content Creator at Agile State of Mind and Head of Agile Practice in Fyllo

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