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Developer Day — An opportunity to innovate at a time when nobody wants to take risks

By James Anderson and Marcus Ford

At Intelematics, we have found a way to innovate using the resources available to us. We believe that innovative ideas can come from anywhere, which is why we have planned to bring together our technical and non-technical staff for a Developer Hack Day, or Dev Day.

Intelematics is essentially a mobility data solutions provider, so keeping in mind our data resources and its many use cases, we are challenging our people to look at Intelematics’ mobility data and find new ways of using it. The point is not to sit down and ideate new products or features but provide our people with an opportunity where different ideas bubble up and overflow — not just from product managers or technical leads — but from everybody.

Dev days are also an excellent opportunity to upskill the team. For the technical staff, it’s an opportunity to boost their confidence by celebrating their achievements and showcasing it to the rest of the company.

For non-technical staff, it is an opportunity to get under the hood and get their hands dirty, if that’s what they want to do. They might even want to write some of their own code! Our Dev Days are very experimental, and the focus is on learning new things. We want people to explore the data space, deepen their understanding and celebrate what we’ve got. In short, it’s all about having fun, learning and innovation.

The plan

This year our Dev Day falls on October 16, 2020, run from 8 am to 6 pm. It will start with the participants finalising the ideas they want to work on — we’re not going to dictate who does what, it’ll be a case of people saying “I’m interested in working on this”. Possibly, we might end up with many people in one team if it’s a cool or fun idea, which is fine. The theme will be around data, but don’t want to lay down the specifics and limit the flow of ideas.

Later in the day, the teams will have to present to the rest of the staff the ideas they worked on. There is no structured template for how they present their idea and work to the rest. They can get as creative as they want as long as they can communicate and their idea effectively. End of the day, the most innovative, most geeky and most value-added ideas will receive awards.

The twist

The twist is that everybody is working from home! So how will that work? We will use the concept of break-out rooms in Microsoft Teams. We will have one meeting which runs through the day, like our virtual office, and we’ll have break-out rooms for each problem statement or team. For collaborating on code, we’ve got an internal Intelematics GitHub that we will get people to add their repositories to, and for documenting what they’ve done, we will use the Intelematics Wiki.

In the past

In the past, Dev Day events held at Intelematics have generated new product ideas and new ways of working. From advanced data visualisation to automated device testing. One Dev Day even spawned a whole new product team. Another exciting idea which was part of our previous Dev Day was an application which used a camera that would feed data up to an Image Recognition Service provided by AWS (Amazon Web Services) that can detect if there is a human in the frame. The application detects movement in front of the camera to turn on the automatic lighting; it could be human, a cat, dog or a car moving across. The application can be used to save electricity.

What follows?

A Dev Day does not have to be about creating a new product idea or improving on an existing idea. It’s an opportunity for people to look at things differently. It could be, that 6-months down the track we would say “ahh remember how we built that thing on Dev Day? This is perfect, and we’ve already got experience of doing it so we can do it now, we don’t have to get a third-party in.”

We plan to run regular Dev Days every six-weeks so that the team can let off some steam and have some fun.



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