Internal hackathons have become a common practice for tech companies these days. Here at SparkPost, we hold two hackathons a year and are happy to have made them a long standing tradition. So the question is, why do we hack? What value do we see in taking people away from their normal work and having them spend two days on completely different projects?
The first benefit of internal hackathons is the social aspect. During hackathons you get to work with people from other teams, people you’ve possibly never worked with before. There is a lot of value in forming new friendships and strengthening bonds by working toward a common goal together. Hackathons also let you see your coworkers in a new light. Maybe someone has a real talent for something and only during a hackathon do you get to see them excel in their area of expertise. Learning people’s hidden strengths makes them more valuable to the company and allows them to grow even further in areas that are of interest to them.
Creativity is a second important benefit. Hackathons allow people to unleash their creativity. Taking a break from your normal workload for a couple of days can help refresh and reset the mind allowing you to tackle your normal projects with renewed vigor when you get back to it on Monday. Engineers often encounter small problems during their normal work day but don’t have time to fix them. Or they see ways in which their project or product can be improved but don’t have the bandwidth to expand on those ideas. Hackathons provide a space for people to voice their ideas and get immediate proof of concept.
All of this leads to the third important benefit, hackathons encourage innovation which can be invaluable to a company. So many people have great ideas for ways to improve the product they’re working on and hackathons give them the opportunity to delve into that idea and potentially get it to production. At SparkPost several of our hackathon projects have made it to production including our Zapier integration, HEML, our A/B testing API, our internal customer service app, and more. In addition to producing customer facing products, hackathons also allow the time needed for people to improve architecture and problem solve.
All in all, hackathons are great for our company. At SparkPost, we highly encourage cross team and cross company camaraderie and teamwork. We highly value creativity and praise innovation. Hackathons allow people to look up from their computers and see what could be in the future. It gives them a chance to focus on the bigger picture and flex their inventive muscles. We’ve done ten hackathons so far and we can’t wait to see what cool projects come from the next one.
Check out this video from our most recent hackathon to learn about some of the exciting projects our engineers are working on!