Friday, April 20th, 2012

What Hackathons Mean at Box

By

Most people think of a hackathon as an event where engineers work feverishly to build a cool new project or tool in a short amount of time. Here, it’s much more than that; it’s both a tradition and a challenge that engineers as well as the rest of the company – including recruiting, HR, sales and client services – look forward to. And at the end of it all, I’m always amazed by the amount of imagination and talent on our team.

The flurry of activity going on throughout the night – whether it’s a major breakthrough mid-coding or the rush to get in line for pizza (which no hackathon is complete without) – is matched only by Boxers excitedly viewing the entries in the morning, as everyone wants to see what projects and ideas our fierce teams came up with. Oh, and did I mention the prizes? Winning teams this year earned trips to London and New York, iPads, spa packages, fancy dinners and more.

Our fourth hackathon took place at Box HQ last Thursday and Friday. Longer than ever before, the coding challenge began at 2:30pm on Thursday and lasted until 9:30am the next morning. Yup, that’s right – over 50 teams of up to 4 people each stayed up all night at our new HQ. This 19-hour coding fest resulted in some of the most innovative projects our company has seen all year. Keep in mind that teams aren’t just presenting concepts; every submission needs to be a demo-able product that can be presented during Friday lunch. The top prize – a trip to Le Web, the largest tech conference in Europe – went to a team of two that created a really cool feature for mobile devices. For now, the results of this year’s hackathon will remain top secret :)

What I like most about the hackathon is that it’s a chance for individual contributors to show everyone at the company what features they think are important. Creativity really skyrockets when people collaborate together – especially when it’s fueled by competition, motivation and of course, lots of caffeine. At Box, we truly believe our epic ideas are possible and achievable, as evidenced by the fact that many of the winning hackathon projects are actually finished, tested and implemented into our product! That’s one of the things I love most about Box – anyone can make a difference and voice their opinion about what the company ought focus on, as long as they can back it up with reasonable evidence and data.

So while the all-nighter resulted in bleary-eyed engineers chowing down on fresh breakfast items from the waffle truck and spending the majority of Friday catching up on much needed sleep, everyone left the hackathon feeling proud and accomplished. I’m already thinking up ideas for our next hackathon – I can’t wait!