The Smartbridge Virtual Hackathon

As a way to foster our innovative culture, we put on quarterly hackathons where our employees come together to solve problems and experiment with technology. Due to the 2020 health crisis, we had to turn our usual in-person event into a virtual hackathon.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many things like the way we work, collaborate, eat, and party. Now it has changed the way we hack. At Smartbridge, hackathons have been a standard quarterly event for the past several years. It is a time where all our employees come together and dedicate a large block of hours for collaborative innovation. Hackathons have significantly contributed to our core values of Thought Leadership and Entrepreneurial Spirit, not to mention, they are pretty fun and exciting. This is what a typical Smartbridge Hackathon was like in-person prior to 2020:

virtual hackathon
virtual hackathon

Due to the ongoing health crisis, there was no way we could get together like this to collaborate. However, we didn’t want the pandemic to affect our culture of continuous innovation and thought leadership, so we decided to hold our first-ever virtual hackathon.

Approximately 80% of our Digital Innovations and Enterprise Systems teams participated in this quarter’s hackathon. We identified five different topics and assigned a team to each amongst those participating. The preparation leading up to the hackathon was not too different, each of the five teams prepared, planned, and structured their resources to best allocate their time. However, due to the virtual nature of this hackathon, we had to plan the hackathon day carefully.

Hear our podcast episode about hackathons:

What a Virtual Hackathon Looks Like

The day was broken into 3 parts:

  • 8:30 am – Keynote & Kickoff

    Our Keynote meeting takes place on Zoom where our CEO kicks the day off with a message to the teams followed by each team lead talking about their topic and goals for the day.

  • 9am – 7pm – Team Breakout Sessions

    All five teams break out into individual groups to start work on their project. Each team has a dedicated Microsoft Teams session, but each session is open for others to come and go as needed.

  • 7pm – 8.30pm – Team Presentation

    We wrap up the day with demos and presentations from each team, showing off the work they produced in a 12-hour period.

Even though we missed sharing breakfast, lunch, and dinner together at the office, the virtual hackathon went very smoothly. Thanks to all the technology and some tech-savvy folks, video calls, screen sharing, digital whiteboards, and team files were used effectively to collaborate as they designed, developed, and demoed their solutions.

virtual hackathon
When things got really crazy and Danny wanted to stab his team, all the others had to do was to turn off their videos.
virtual hackathon
The best part was we did not have to drive back home in the Houston traffic after a 12-hour day.

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