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Exercising Our Bias To HACK

At the end of last quarter, the engineering team celebrated a really stupendous year for Pendo by hosting our first company hackathon: Bias To HACK.

It wasn’t your typical hackathon. No one locked us in the office with an endless supply of caffeine and pizza, like some code-fueled middle school lock-in. We didn’t stay up past midnight desperately cobbling together some half-baked demos and clever API mashups to show off our 1337 h4xx0r 5ki1z to one another. And we weren’t spending our time “cracking codes” to breach the Pentagon or something only Hollywood could misrepresent.

We did build some surprising new tools and features as a team and had a lot of fun doing it. And there might have been some pizza in there somewhere. And t-shirts, of course.

Now, Let’s Get to Work!

We ran the event a little like a Startup Weekend: individuals pitched ideas, teams formed around those ideas, and those teams presented their work at the end of the event. We had plenty of food catered in to keep brainpower fully fueled, but because we believe Pendo is a “startup for grownups,” we didn’t hijack anyone’s weekend or weeknights with all-nighter coding sessions.

Thursday morning, after a nice breakfast, everyone assembled on the bleachers to pitch ideas.

Some interesting themes emerged almost immediately. Many of the ideas targeted a piece of the codebase that needed to be improved or cleaned up. Others proposed interesting new features that would help the customer success or product personas obtain additional value from our product. Teams formed very quickly, and some pitches with overlap consolidated into a single project. We have really smart, self-organizing people at Pendo, and the project teams got to work very quickly.

By lunch, everyone was eager to share their progress over a meal, which got more ideas flowing. Teams worked through Thursday afternoon before breaking for an after-party in downtown Raleigh.

Breakfast on Friday morning recharged everyone’s brain batteries, and the teams got back to work. By that afternoon, each team had a demo prepped to show their projects, the progress they had made, and how those would benefit the company and our customers. Todd Olson (CEO), Erik Troan (CTO), and Shannon Bauman (VP of Products) deliberated and awarded cash prizes to three teams.

And the winners are…

The winners were divided into three categories: Best Customer Facing Project, Best Internally Facing Project, and The Most Unique Project Idea.

The Best Customer-Facing Project was awarded to the group “Magic Tables.” This team re-imagined and re-implemented our hand-rolled, in-app data tables with improved UI features and open-source components.

The Best Internally-Facing Project award went to “V2 for Vendetta” for extracting and reorganizing our CSS styles into an external style guide.

Finally, the winner of the Most Unique Project was “Pankbot” from the team “Bias to Slack”. Like the name, this project requires a slightly deeper explanation.

At Pendo, we are very proud of our core values. We not only have the seven core values prominently displayed on our office wall, we also hold a quarterly contest to reward those who display the values. When a Pendozer embodies a Core Value particularly well, others can award them a “Pank” – a custom poker chip corresponding to that Core Value. Panks are collected and counted at the end of the quarter with awards presented over team lunch.

Team Pankbot imagined a Slack-bot that Pendozers could use to hand out their Panks, track which Panks they had been given, and tally the results for the quarter.

Pankbot was an amazing success. After being presented during a company meeting, the entire office began using it. The Pank Awards for the next quarter were a cinch to tally, and everyone loved seeing their Panks publicly displayed. The Pankbot team celebrated with a special toast.

While the first Bias To HACK was very much an experiment, it proved a resounding success. Bias To HACK, vol 2 is planned for August 2017 with many more on the way. Stay tuned for a recap of future events, or join our engineering team and participate in the next one!


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