Serverless Hackathon @N26

Exploring serverless architecture in our first hackathon

N26 is constantly growing. A few months ago we were a much smaller engineering team. We now evolved into a setup with distributed engineering teams in Barcelona and New York. With such growth, we have to make sure we keep our culture of constant learning and improving. Based on this we wanted to create our first internal hackathon.

Teams getting into the hackathon spirit

We asked our engineers to group in teams of 5 people, preferably cross-functional (to encourage knowledge sharing) and they would have 2 days to focus. The main theme was around serverless architecture.

“Serverless computing allows you to build and run applications and services without thinking about servers. Serverless applications don’t require you to provision, scale, and manage any servers. You can build them for nearly any type of application or backend service, and everything required to run and scale your application with high availability is handled for you.” (source)

We had quite good participation, with around 35 people divided into 6 teams across 2 different locations: Berlin and Barcelona.

The teams had to come up with ideas to improve the N26 product using function as a service. They could be quite creative and build a whole end to end solution. At the end of the 2nd day they would present their ideas/findings and 3 winners would be announced and get a few cool prizes.

Participating teams

Goals

We wanted our teams to be as creative as possible. This means they would have to invest time from ideas conception, implementation and finally the final presentation. There were a few things in special that we were looking for:

  1. Product idea + Business case — How well can they present their idea?
  2. Deployment process — How can we integrate this into our CI/CD pipelines?
  3. Testing — How do we automate testing this in our infrastructure?
  4. Observability — How do we monitor this?

There were many great outcomes from all teams. We were quite impressed on what they could output in only 2 days. Let’s take a look at what the winners came up with.

3rd place: Team Bcrypt

Team Bcrpyt

Background: Every growing company goes through a recurrent problem in their office spaces: Finding a meeting room. We are no exception, even though we have a pretty organized meeting room system, we still sometimes struggle to find available ones.

Looking at this scenario the Bcrypt team thought about creating a slackbot called Roomful. It identifies if a meeting room is being underused. For instance, if you booked a meeting for 2 people in a room that can fit 6 people, the slackbot will notify you and ask you to move to another meeting room for 2 people. The bot will recommend a meeting room and if you accept it will automatically move your meeting to that one in the same office.

It was a really cool idea and solving a real problem that many companies go through.

2nd place: Team BR26

Team BR26

Background: That’s our Brazilian team (that’s why BR26). Their idea was to improve our money beam feature to make it easier to collect money from a group of people that need to split the bill. The solution was called FastBean.

Let’s say you went out with your friends and to make it easier to pay you decided that you would pay the whole bill with your N26 card. What the BR26 team decided to do is to create a way for managing group payments in an easy and secure way. This solution would speed things up when collecting money from a group, as it wouldn’t require any personal information to be shared.

A whole end to end solution was created, with backend, frontend and CI/CD pipelines. The team presented a live demo with all the available features.

1st place: Team Nameless

Team Nameless

And here are the winners. This is the Indian N26 team!

Background: What they came up with was automating our spaces functionality through smart assistants like Alexa or Google Home.

Nothing better than an example to understand it. Imagine that you have an N26 account (you really should, we are awesome!) and that you have a few spaces: main account, savings, and vacations. With their solution, you can automate a few things like saving 30% of your income salary in the savings space every month, or transfer money to another account and much more. And the best thing is that you can easily do that through your favorite voice assistant.

Alexa, save 20% of my income salary every month into the savings space

The team came up to the stage with an Alexa device and demo their solution in front of the audience where they could show the transfer happening in real time. They developed a whole solution with the backend, a mobile front-end and an Alexa integration.

Learnings

Our main goal in this Hackathon was to better understand the pros and cons of using serverless architecture. All teams that participated learned different things over the 2 days event. A few things worth noting:

  • Serverless is not a silver bullet and doesn’t fit in some scenarios. When planning your architecture think about what parts of the system you can improve with lambda
  • We can really speed things up when using serverless. The development overhead of creating a service is considerably bigger than creating a function and integrating it into our CI/CD pipelines
  • We better understand how to use our CI/CD pipelines to deploy serverless applications
  • Observability is not optional. when doing microservices and serverless is no different. Now we know a few frameworks that help us getting information into our monitoring tools

In the next years we want to keep hosting hackathons like this one to help us learn more about great technologies.


Interested in joining one of our teams as we grow?

If you’d like to join us on the journey of building the mobile bank the world loves to use have a look at some of the Tech roles we’re looking for here.


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