On July 12th the Gilt Tech team kicked off a two-day internal hackathon with four goals:
1. Hack with people that you don’t usually work with.
2. Hack with people that you don’t usually work with.
3. Hack with people that you don’t usually work with.
4. Focus on building internal tools and cleaning up code.
Day One started with Yoni Goldberg keynoting event with a brief introduction and time allowance for pitching project ideas. A week prior to the event, engineers contributed a multitude of ideas for projects–some tongue-in-cheek grand aspirations while others were practical for the time allotment and would be of significant benefit to have. Anyone who hadn’t already committed to any projects quickly found teammates in groups up to five members, and everyone was off to the races.
The food was awesome; we kicked the day with pretzel-croissants from City Bakery (if you haven’t had one before, they are a must-try!) and a couple hours into our coding fest, we took a break to enjoy neatly-arranged rows of delicious steamed buns from the Baoery for lunch.
Some of us continued work after we dispersed on the first day, and since it wasn’t clear that we hadn’t planned on hosting an overnight stay, our intern, Lori, was left alone in the late evening wondering where everyone had gone.
Almost everyone was able to return for the second day to hole-up for the final stretch. A couple groups scrambled to put the finishing touches on their projects to ensure they were presentable (complete with ASCII art) in the minutes leading up to our presentation party while other groups started early on the celebratory beer and pizza.
Some of the projects that were born and presented at this hackathon included:
• A radial dependency graph of all of Gilt’s services
• Implementation of a predictive algorithm to estimate the resources required for a customer service project
• A UI A/B testing framework to share and manage the way too many active Gilt’s A/B tests
• Significant improvements to an internal UI mockup tool for non-specialists
• Various improvements to our version control workflow and application deployment process
The participants were really enthusiastic about having a block of uninterrupted coding time, having the freedom to explore languages/frameworks that they’re interested in, and having the opportunity to work in ad hoc teams.
Although Gilt occasionally hosts and participates in hackathons such as our recent public API hackathon, we’re really hoping this one focuses solely on internal tools will become a regular part of Gilt’s tech culture.
-Yoni Goldberg and Chris Cho