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What is a Hackathon?

In February, Pega held its 7th Hackathon – a 24-hour developer sprint where teams chose projects to improve our software and/or internal processes. You can read about it on pega.com, including our advice on how to run your own hackathon.

This event always stirs up interest, and so we want to use this space to answer some more of the questions we frequently get regarding hackathons.

Is it really 24-hours?

The Pega Hackathon is a 24-hour sprint (yes, it is overnight) that is completely directed and driven by the individuals who participate. Participants define a project and work on it for 24 uninterrupted hours with the intention of making Pega an even better place to work. The event is an excellent opportunity for staff across the organization to collaborate and embrace creativity and innovation. The business invests two full days for its employees to begin tackling interesting problems that they may have otherwise been unable to work on during the standard work day.

Is it true that a Pega hackathon includes a sleepover in the cafeteria?

In the cafeteria, under desks, in the hallways…wherever people fall. The party rages on all night and those who make it without sleeping get a few more hours to polish their work before the event deadline.

What are your Hackathon must-haves?

  • Rock-solid infrastructure and infrastructure support.
  • Lots and lots of food and drinks…and be sure to accommodate for all dietary restrictions.
  • An energetic global support team that excels at transparent communication, collaboration, coordination, and customer service.
  • Passionate participants and visibly supportive leaders/sponsors.
  • Fun, creative, inclusive branding that provides participants imagery to rally behind.
  • Creative and innovative business-relevant awards, so solutions come to life by telling participants what problems you’re looking to solve.
Various Pega Hackathon teams at the 7th iteration of the event.

 

What are the top three things to keep in mind during a Hackathon?

  • Remember why you are there. Hackathons are the perfect opportunity to innovate, be creative, meet new people, and learn new things. If you have the right attitude, it will be a day to remember!
  • Plan things out early. While you can’t start developing your project until the bell sounds at the start of the hackathon, you are encouraged to meet with your team and strategize. The best run projects we have seen have been discussed and storyboarded well before the event starts.
  • There is no such thing as failure. Even if your project doesn’t work out the way you wanted it to, the lessons you learn and how you learn them will be valuable to your entire organization. The hackathon is an incubator meant for trying something risky and new (small cost) with the chance of hitting a huge reward (big gain).

What have been some of the most impressive projects you have seen come out of a Pega Hackathon?

While there have been a ton of impressive projects to come out of the hackathon over the years, here are a few that changed the day-to-day operations for Pega, our clients, and our client’s customers:

  • Stage-Based Case Design: Presented at PegaWORLD 2013, Stage-Based Case Design has become the new standard for managing work with Pega. It allows you to manage not only the structured processes that are the province of traditional BPM, but also less structured, more collaborative work. It also allows you to link all of that work in a meaningful fashion, so that people or systems working on related pieces of work are not duplicating or contradicting each other’s efforts.
  • Live UI Editing: Offering true WYSIWYG editing, less technical users can make UI adjustments at runtime and publish or discard changes on the fly through automated rule management using a new runtime branch governance model.
  • Pega Dashboards: A user friendly tool for enabling personalized dashboards with clear, compelling visualizations for desktop and mobile Pega Platform applications.
  • Ok Peggy: Introduced the ability to control mobile applications with voice commands – customers, partners, and advocates of Pega were introduced to Peggy at PegaWORLD 2016.
  • Achievement System: This was the original proof of concept for an achievement-based system in the Pega Platform. Close five bugs? Boom – you now receive a pop-up showcasing your hard work to peers, colleagues, and management, directly from our product. This was our unique take on an achievement based gamification system.

So, let’s say I am thinking of joining next year but have some hesitations. What words of encouragement do you have for tentative hackathon participants?

We have never had anybody tell us that they had a bad time at the hackathon, but always have people asking us when the next one will be. Remember to be ambitious and creative, and extend beyond your comfort zone. Make new friends and learn new things. Your global coordination team will be there to help you find a team, in the event that you are struggling to do so.

Have questions about organizing or participating in a hackathon? Want to learn more about Pega’s Scrum teams? Say hello to our team in the PegaBuzz forum or read our team’s bios.