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blog Feb 16, 2017

Undigging the Hackathon

Author: Journalist Bear

People bustling madly, sleepovers at the office, and tables full of delicious pasta. This can only mean one thing – dinner time.  Oh, apparently it’s because Benevolent just hosted its first ever Hackathon?

Admittedly, I’m not really sure what a Hackathon is and, as it turns out, neither does my faithful crisp giving companion the Receptionist.  It looks like I can’t rely on her keen research skills for this one, so I’m forced to pad on to the front line and find out for myself.  Luckily, my buddy Jaime has very kindly agreed to be interviewed – and he’s the Senior Product Manager, so hopefully he knows what’s going on.

Bear: So Jaime, what actually is a Hackathon?

Jaime: It’s an event where we split into teams and they have 48 hours to “hack” together a prototype that showed value outside of what we do on a day-to-day basis. We formed teams which consisted of data scientists, bioinformaticians, engineers, designers, finance and legal experts, administrators, and even senior management.

B: Wow, sounds like it was all paws on deck! So, people from lots of different departments were working together to hack their way to a new idea – how did that work out in practice?

J: It was great to see how many of the participants immersed themselves entirely into the event, with colleagues from different departments who don’t always have the opportunity to rub shoulders with each other engaging in productive idea-sharing. Often, innovation comes from the different thinking platforms like a hackathon provides, which allows talented minds to think differently about a problem and its solution. This was proven the case at our hackathon, as some real insights were made in areas not an everyday focus at the company.

B: That all sounds interesting, but let’s get to the nitty-gritty here. I could smell a lot of food and wasn’t given any – what’s up with that?

J: Well, Italian food isn’t very good for dogs.

B: But there was more than enough for everybody. There were more pizzas than I could count on my paws. 37, according to Receptionist! And what about that breakfast spread each morning? Surely you could have spared me a croissant – I thought we were friends.

J: There are two issues with that, Bear. Firstly, dogs shouldn’t ingest that much butter; I’m sure it can’t be good for you. Secondly, they all went so quickly that I didn’t even get a look in. All I managed to grab was the end of a baguette.

B: That’s more than I got.

After a fun (and, once we hit the subject of food, heated) chat with Jaime, I feel I’ve really learned something today – Senior Product Managers may know their stuff when it comes to technology and hackathons and inter-departmental coordination, but they’re not so good at sharing a few crumbs with the lowly office dog. Shame.