John Merriam: So what exactly is “DayTwo2015”, and why do you feel it is important to do something like this?
Scott Rubenstein: DayTwo2015 is the name of our most recent hackathon here at RubensteinTech, so-named because we held it on the second day of the year (January 2, 2015). We try to have at least one hackathon a quarter, where we set client projects aside and our team works on internal RubensteinTech-focused projects. These projects typically involve emerging tech trends and/or improving internal workflows. Hackathons are important because it gives us a chance to gain fresh perspectives from one another. I always learn something unexpected!
JM: My impression was that this was a day to take a step back and revitalize or invigorate yourselves after a long work year; sort of like spring-cleaning for your home, or a tune up for your car?
SR: You’re right in that we do take a step back to try to get a clearer approach on our work. But, DayTwo was more like an upgrade than a tune up; the focus is on combining the efforts of our overachieving engineers in order to create a completely new process or solution that will serve us in the future.
JM: But how do you decide what to work on?
SR: We each come up with 3 ideas for improving "something" which ultimately become the projects of the day. Then, we use Trello to categorize and vote on the projects. Each team member gets 3 votes to use. The projects with the most votes win. Some projects were just for fun (food delivery crowdsourcing), other ideas created efficiencies in our day-to-day (Team Dashboard), and big game-changing projects that might get implemented over the course of several hackathons.
After the voting, we each choose which project we want to work on and create teams consisting of one project manager and a group of engineers. Like everything we do here at RubensteinTech, it was decided by meritocracy: the team member with the smartest argument wins.
JM: I see. So can any team do this?
SR: If you’re going to dedicate a whole workday to something like this, you need to have everyone on board. Moreover, if you’re going to do something outside-the-box like this it’s important for those involved to have strong chemistry and trust eachother enough to freely share ideas. We have that. The key checkpoint of the day is when each team presents what they've accomplished to the group. After each presentation, we talk about what works, what needs improvement, and what the next steps are. That’s the best part.
JM: Going in, what were you most excited about?
SR: The Team Dashboard update. *smiles* This was something I voted for, and worked on with the team that I led.
JM: Were there any unexpected obstacles or challenges?
SR: The big screen TV that was running the dashboard was damaged when it was shipped, and didn't show a picture on the bottom 1/3 of the screen.
JM: Ouch. And what was the end result?
SR: We needed to buy a new TV! *laughs* This particular project provides transparency by showing many different project/team metrics in our office bullpen where everyone can see them; ultimately making the team more aware, and efficient.
JM: Wow. So did you get as much done as you’d hoped or more than you expected?
SR: I think our eyes were bigger than our stomach, but we did manage to accomplish a few meaningful projects… most importantly, we kickstarted the new year with our team really showing their passion for technology and design, and our company-wide focus on innovation.
JM: Lastly, what will you be doing differently next hackathon?
SR: Our next hackathon is scheduled for April. This time we hope to vote, meet, and create project teams the day before the hackathon so we can hit the ground running!
Dedicating a day to innovation and improving internal processes can be a fun and productive way to kick off the New Year! Did your company switch anything up for the new year? If not, do you think something like this might be a good idea for you in 2016?