Here at siroop, the Tech Department works closely with Business Units. Doing so means we have a better understanding of the requirements and features we need to implement on our online marketplace. We maintain an open and friendly culture that brings more value and a better shopping experience to our customers. But, we don’t just want routine. We want to fuel creative energy. To encourage innovative ideas and to think “out of the box”. Therefore, once a quarter our Tech, Business Development and Human Resources team hosts siroop.hack. These internal hack days (feel free to contact if you are interested to join) encourage employees from all departments to shoot their ideas on new products and services. It’s a chance for people to work on innovative and cool stuff that may not get prioritized otherwise.

Around a week before the “hack”, we get together and invite everyone to pitch their proposals to the whole team. This is a chance for them to talk through the idea and get others involved. Each team is then given two days to develop the ideas with the goal of having a presentable prototype in the end. Of course, where possible we are encouraged to make use of siroops public available API’s.

To date, I have participated in six siroop.hack’s. The most recent had 33 participants and 15 proposals. 11 made it to an actual project. Some of the ideas included “utilize blockchain”, “get a grip on AWS bills”, “dynamic personalised landing pages” and a “customer service chat bot”. Rather than joining a team I was asked to coach 19 rookies in the basics of html, css and python / django. Providing a glimpse of day to day life as a software developer. Needless to say, the free pizza and beer boosted creativeness and exchange of thoughts throughout the event.

The final presentations were held the following day. Each group were given 3 minutes to present their outcome with a further minute allowed for questions. We then take an open and public vote to select the winner. For the first time winners were chosen in two categories. Firstly, the “cool kid” — for the most innovative or crazy idea. Secondly, the “diamond” — for the idea that merited further investment. Both winners then indulge in ice cream and even more beer. The “diamond” is given another two days to further develop the idea and get it live. Indeed, many winning projects go on to become real products/features at siroop.

The most recent winners built a multi-platform mobile app that utilized Googles vision API to match a photo to products on siroop. The other built a webpage to set up instant queries on bought products at siroop by processing sales data. Guess who’s the cool kid and who’s the diamond?