Connecting a Virtual World
The Whitepages 2020 Hackathon
Hackathons or Hackdays are a cultural touchstone of tech organizations. Usually involving engineering students or new programmers, Hackathons are a fun and innovative 24 to 48-hour sprint where developers can stretch their creative muscles and work together to solve existing technological problems. It’s not uncommon for patents, new products, and large cash awards to come from Hackathon events.
Why did Whitepages do a Hackathon to help polish off 2020?
Hackathons are an outstanding opportunity for everyone within an organization to step out of their daily comfort zone, flex their creative muscles, and have fun while learning a lot about themselves and their teammates. After spending 13+ months with the entire company laser-focused on the development of the new Whitepages platform, this was an excellent opportunity to both celebrate and look toward the opportunities that lay ahead. While the theme of this Hackathon was broadly focused on ‘Connecting a Virtual World’, so much of what came out of it were prototypes of ideas and concepts that are extremely relevant to where Whitepages is going in 2021 and beyond.Bradley James, Whitepages VP of Engineering
Fortunately for us, the leadership team wanted to do things differently for our 2020 Hackathon. Everyone, from Finance to Quality Assurance was assigned to a team, outside the judging panel, the whole company participated. This was a new experience for many of us.
The two-days we all spent on projects went FAST. Working remotely was a new challenge that we adapted to, many teams had zoom rooms open all day so they could collaborate and chat on the fly. Slack channels were created so teams could keep their ideas moving and changing at all hours of the day. We all got to work with people we don’t typically collaborate with, a key part of building inclusivity in the workplace.
So, how successful was it? The key phrase from CEO Leigh McMillan, one of the judges, was “SHIP IT!”. Each idea from all eight teams brought something new to the table for Whitepages. With ideas from adding even more valuable info to our address pages, integration with different online tools, ways to ensure we’re providing the best data to our users, and incorporation of machine learning to optimize personalization, our Whitepages Hackathon was a roaring success!
Even though some folks went into this new experience a little skeptical of what they could bring to the table as non-engineers, we all got to explore things that weren’t part of our day-to-day jobs. I think we all will be looking forward to how these ideas manifest in 2021 and what new ones will come from our next Hackathon!