A Different Kind of Thanksgiving – Competing in a Hackathon as a Marketer

Two weeks ago, on American Thanksgiving, I woke with a spring in my step because it is one of my favorite holidays. A day for family to be together to feast, while being thankful and appreciative for what we have. Growing up in DC, this holiday is about inclusiveness, so I always love spending it with my family and feeling the inherent peace of the day. In a way, the Teamwork.com Hackathon was a fitting way to mark the day with my work family.

Hackathon 2017 at Teamwork.com

What is a Hackathon?

The premiss of a hackathon is still relatively new to the world and mostly centered within the tech industry, so I will explain what it is briefly. It grew from a software programmer and developer event to something greater and farther reaching. To learn more, read this Quora Q&A-style article. But the gist of it is…

A hackathon is a sprint-like event, typically lasting 24 hours to several days, in which a large number of people meet to engage in collaborative computer programming. The large group can be broken down into self-formed smaller teams or groups. The goal of a hackathon is to create usable software or some other result that did not previously exist. Hackathons tend to have a specific focus, and at the start a successful event or team would have their plan in place, whether it be focused on a programming language, operating system, application development, API, or something else.

Baby Got Hack

My team and I named ourselves Baby Got Hack because there are few ‘Churn’ puns we preferred (‘Churn Baby Churn, Disco Inferno’ seemed like low hanging fruit) had planned for a few weeks to figure out who would do what and the project timeline.As a non-developer, there are limitations to the impact of my hackathon project, but that did not deter our enthusiasm one bit. A few things were apparent from the beginning and those were:

  1. As non-developers, our presentation had to be dynamic because we did not have a coded product to demo.
  2. Even for our four-person team, what we wanted to accomplish would take the full 24 hours.
  3. We were doing this not to win, but to learn more about something, give it a try in a cross-functional team, and challenge ourselves to create something new in one day.

I won’t go into the specifics of our project, but our team comprised of Sarah in Sales, Paul in Support, Leanne in Support, and me in Marketing, so you can accurately surmise our focus was on customer advocacy.

Hackathon 2017 at Teamwork.com

Chronicling the Day

Throughout the day, I documented the experience through Instagram live stories, photos, and videos. We all used the hashtag #twhackathon17. This offered a glimpse behind the scenes into the lively world of Teamwork.com, but shared my enthusiasm of being part of a challenge like an organized hackathon.

I am sharing the videos with you here all together in one place so you can see the day. I’ll include little side comments and notes between the videos to offer context. Unfortunately, the embedding of the videos from Flickr and Instagram leave much to be desired, so I think you’ll need to click through to view each. Alternatively, read the post then visit the hashtag #twhackathon17 and watch all the related videos at once. That would be my choice if I were doing it.

Hackathon 2017 at Teamwork.com 

Hackathon 2017 at Teamwork.com

Time for dinner. The announcement that pizza was being delivered came mere minutes after my team ordered Deliveroo. I had pad Thai and fried calamari from Koto on Carey Lane.

Hackathon 2017 at Teamwork.com

After dinner, I posted another update when things got lively with beer pong and flip cup. Yes, at the office.

Hackathon 2017 at Teamwork.com

Hackathon 2017 at Teamwork.com Hackathon 2017 at Teamwork.com

Hackathon 2017 at Teamwork.com

And there were shots. In case you cannot tell, the ‘Work Hard, Play Hard’ philosophy is alive and well at Teamwork.com. This is a view of the main kitchen.

Hackathon 2017 at Teamwork.com

Hackathon 2017 at Teamwork.com Hackathon 2017 at Teamwork.com

Hackathon 2017 at Teamwork.com Hackathon 2017 at Teamwork.com

I enjoyed the social aspects then went back to work with Sarah.

Hackathon 2017 at Teamwork.com

We kept working away. It was challenging to post these video progress updates without divulging our actual project details. I think this about when Ciara saved us with her skills, even though she was not on our team she lent a hand in our moment of need. That’s what Teamwork.com strives for and we had it. I was thankful…on Thanksgiving.

Hackathon 2017 at Teamwork.com

Teamwork.com Campus One has many uniquely decorated rooms, my favorite of which is the Midcentury Modern sitting room on the top floor. This is from where I posted this update.

Hackathon 2017 at Teamwork.com

Having already changed into my flannel Nick & Nora pyjamas (between the gnomes and The Thin Man reference, these PJs are my faves), I was ready to keep working on my project in comfort. Not that the Lularoe I rocked all day wasn’t super cosy already.

Hackathon 2017 at Teamwork.com

Patrick here was a good sport being in my video when clearly he needed to focus on his own hackathon project.

Hackathon 2017 at Teamwork.com

Added Hackathon bonus was that I hacked the motion sensor lights in the office I commandeered as a bedroom for the night. I felt very MacGyver-like since I used a Post-It note and two pieces of clear sticky tape (Scotch tape).

Hackathon 2017 at Teamwork.com

Still Instagramming and working away until after 2am, Sarah and I were in it for the long haul.

Hackathon 2017 at Teamwork.com

Sarah left around 3am and I worked a little longer then I finally slept from 5-7am while Paul worked away. The entire night, Sarah, Paul, and I stayed in close touch via Teamwork Chat (of course). When we awoke, the first thing we did was check on Paul’s work to make sure he was set before the presentations at 10am. Not surprisingly, he had *just* finished his part and we could give him immediate feedback.

The Next Day

The presentations lasted a couple hours and were amazing. SO many creative projects and hacks that would make our business, community, or lives better. Such brilliant colleagues! The next morning, I donned my Teamwork.com swag for the presentations.

Hackathon 2017 at Teamwork.com

Though we did not win, we accomplished something great as a team and that was satisfying. Here, I am updating in the morning.

Hackathon 2017 at Teamwork.com

Aside from my two-hour nap in the night, I had been awake for about 30 hours when I filmed this final video. I was loopy and ready to go home to bed.

Hackathon 2017 at Teamwork.com

My Hackathon Experience

Really, the essence of the hackathon experience to me was creating something that did not exist before with a team made up of varied skills and expertise while strengthening interpersonal office relationships through fun, games, and collaboration. Nothing like spending 30 hours straight at the office to catch up with everyone on all three floors and all the departments/teams. Peter Coppinger, Founder, CEO, and Lead Developer, came up to me and chatted about life, family, and our shared enthusiasm for how we have the best customers. That kind of thing doesn’t happen in all companies, so I appreciated being able to be there for that. If you think this looks like the perfect place to work, you’re in luck because Teamwork.com is hiring in multiple departments.

What do you think? I had participated in two Teamwork.com Hackathons previously, but was off-site, so the on-site experience was far more memorable (and exhausting).

If you think this sounds fun and want to run your own hackathon,  Joshua Tauberer wrote a guide on ‘How to run a successful hackathon’.

What challenge did you rise to that was fun and also satisfying? I mean, parenthood is a given for me too, but anything else?

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