How Hackathons Improve Your Product and Motivate Your Team
An interview with the winner of the 2017 Perfecto Hackathon
As a non-programmer working at a high-tech, programmer-heaving company, I wanted to learn more about these things called “Hackathons”. Turns out, hackathons are super popular and our R&D team here at Perfecto just ran one in March. I sat down with the winner, Dror Kedem, System Architect, to learn the ins and outs:
Lizzy: What is a Hackathon and how did Perfecto run theirs?
Dror: Hackathons are super cool. Basically, twice a year we get the opportunity to put aside our regular work and get one day to do any project we like. They are a free-for-all, timed event where you are given one goal to accomplish. This year’s hackathon happened on March 22nd and we only had one direction: “Build something that makes the Perfecto product better”. There were no rules, only that we had 24 hours to complete our idea.
Lizzy: Neat! What was your idea?
Dror: Our team identified a small problem in the visual analysis portion of our product that, if fixed, could make a big impact. Essentially, we had feature in the product that pulled data from a third party database every time someone executed a visual analysis test. The third party would charge us for every data pull, so if you included this type of testing in your daily regression runs, the costs added up quickly for Perfecto. We came up with a simple solution of adding caching results, that way if the same result happened, we wouldn't have to pull data from the third party.
Lizzy: Very cool, but how does this idea help Perfecto?
Dror: Our idea made a huge impact on Perfecto, but most importantly, it improved our customers’ experience. By caching this simple mechanism, we now produce test results faster and more efficiently for the customer which translates to Perfecto saving 60% in operating costs.
Lizzy: Wow! That’s enormous impact! What did you win?
Dror: This is the best part! On top of making a neat product improvement for my company, everyone on my team won an Amazon Echo!
Lizzy: So cool, how can other companies do a hackathon?
Dror: Hackathons are really easy to set up. Each and every one of us can think of a time when we thought, “Man, if only I had extra time, I’d create this awesome thing to make my job easier”. Employers should encourage employees to write those ideas down and every 6 months, host a hackathon. All your company needs to do is supply the space, food, and music, and the employees will do the rest! They are a lot of fun I’m proud that my team now feels like we made a massive impact.