The First Localytics Hackathon: Bridging the Non-Technical with the Technical

The First Localytics Hackathon #LocalyticsHack took place Feb 25th-27th at Localytics Headquarters in Boston, MA. It was a lot of fun, a lot of work, and showcased what can happen when bright and motivated people get together to work on projects that enrich culture and improve the products we deliver to customers.

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I’m proud to say the hackathon was definitely a success, but we didn’t get there by accident and we know that there are many ways to improve for future hackathons. So how did we create such a collaborative, productive, and fun first hackathon? We looked at hacking best practices from leading tech organizations. Out of these learnings we created our own rules of operation because we know that while hackathons are largely organic, some structure needs to be there to ensure peoples’ efforts are directed in the right places. The right structure also has to be adapted for every organization because one size does not fit all. Some things that worked for us included:

  • A XFN hack team: We created a cross-functional hackathon team and gave ourselves ample time (~2 months) to plan. From this we were able to garner cross-functional alignment, gather a diverse set of ideas, and take on more without over-burdening one person. We all have day jobs.

  • Defined goals: Let’s be honest. You can’t change the entire world in just 48 hours. Creating clear goals and setting rules ensured everyone knew what the purpose of the hackathon was and that the 48 hours would be used wisely.

  • Defined awards: Our awards were centered around cross-team collaboration as well as recognizing those projects and people that may not have worked on some elaborate and sexy idea, and instead spent hours combing through bugs and making our systems run smoothly.

Now there is often the idea that a “hackathon” involves only technical projects led by engineers, data analysts, product managers, etc. We wanted to change this definition so that everyone, not just our great developer team, felt comfortable hacking. To this end, several meaningful projects came out of the hackathon that didn’t involve any technical expertise. This was key for us as we mature because as a fast-growing company, we need to address culture needs head on.

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Our hack projects - both technical and non-technical - embodied genuine vision and heart. It was great to see technical teams including team members from marketing, sales, operations and customer success to help with pitching, the creation of marketing materials and go-to-market strategies, testing and more. The organic power of people coming together to work on something they're passionate about was inspiring. Give people the freedom to create and problem solve, and you can produce some pretty amazing things. Overall, there were a total of 27 hack projects. Here are just a few examples of the impressive projects that were created:

  • Sales Content Asset Finder: Our growing sales team needs information quickly. Finding the right content can be hard. One of our marketing managers hacked together an asset content finder that allows people to click through the different needs they have and then spits out the content they'd need to address key customer questions.
  • Localytics Cares: We want to be the type of company that not only focuses on business goals, but also the community around us. A group of engineers, sales, and marketing folks got together to create a corporate social responsibility program that enables employees to give back and volunteer for the causes they care about most.
  • Office Spiffication: Creating an environment that people are proud to be a part of is key to productivity. A crew of marketers, designers, and engineers cleaned up the office and prettied up the walls.
  • Geofencing: Mobile customers are on-the-go and engaging mobile users based on where they are is key to a successful mobile strategy. We need to create location-aware experiences. A team of engineers, sales and marketers created an advanced geo-fencing marketing experience directly from the Localytics Dashboard.
  • Localytics Chat Server: Communication can be complicated and lots of different options exist across the company. What if we created an intelligent and automated communication tool? Enter Lolo, a tool that automates room reservations, group chat, and much more.

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This is definitely not the last hackathon for Localytics. For the next #LocalyticsHack we want to do a better job of integrating our remote offices in SF and London. We also want to look into ways we can involve more non-Localytics employees because...spoiler alert (but, not really) - hackathons are a great recruiting tool!

Aside from the projects that came out of the hackathon, most importantly we spread the Localytics love and created better products and a better place to work. Thanks to everyone who participated and made it a memorable moment for Localytics.

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